How to easily transfer a design onto wood

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

I’ve been meaning to post this tutorial for transferring a design onto wood for a long time! Before I ever learned how to use vinyl for transferring my designs onto wood (which I used to make this DIY wood sign), I used a super easy pencil tracing method all the time.  Here is one of my favorite signs from my wedding, our honey favors sign, where I used this easy pencil tracing method:

How to trace a design onto wood
Rachel Smith Photography

For this tutorial, I decided I wanted to make a mini, wood framed sign that will eventually be part of a gallery wall I am planning.

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. For more information see my disclosures here.

How to easily transfer a design onto wood – pencil tracing method:

Supplies Needed:

  • Blank wood sign or piece of wood – I built a 9″x9″ wood sign (using this tutorial with different size cuts), but you can buy similar pre-made, blank wood signs here and here.
  • Pencil
  • Printed Design
  • Paint Marker or Permanent Marker (Make sure to use a fine point tip if your design is small like mine or medium tip if you have a larger design)
  • Masking tape

Tutorial:

1. Print out your design at the appropriate size needed for your wood. Then, cut the excess white paper off around your design. I used this 8″ x 10″ Home Sweet Home printable which is available in the shop and it was a perfect fit after I cut off the excess white paper!

P.S. Sorry for the dark photos, I did this project at night!

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

 

2. Turn your paper over so the printed out design is facing down. Then, use a regular pencil and heavily shade over the outline of the design showing through the back. Note, if your ink is fresh like mine was, put a scrap piece of paper underneath so no ink transfers onto your work surface. Also, you can use chalk on the back instead of a pencil if your wood surface is really dark.

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

 

3.  Flip your design back over and secure it into place on top of your wood using masking tape. Then, start tracing over the design with your pencil, heavily pressing down the pencil as you trace.

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

 

4. Now the magic part! Remove your paper and the outline of your design has been transferred onto your wood!

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

 

5. Complete the transfer by tracing over the pencil outline with a  paint marker, permanent marker, or even a paint brush and paint (although a paint brush may be harder to trace).  I used a black Sharpie fine point marker. If your design is small like mine, make sure to use a fine tip marker, but if it’s a larger design, a medium or large tip marker would work better.

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

And that’s it! A very simple and easy way to transfer a design onto wood! Here is the final result:

How to easily transfer a design onto wood

Do you have any good, easy tracing methods you like to use?! Feel free to share in the comments! Follow along on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest for my latest projects, fun updates, and sneak peeks!

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25 thoughts on “How to easily transfer a design onto wood

  1. The same thing can be accomplished using graphite tracing paper which is super cheap and can be reused dozens of times. Less mess than the pencil although this works very well too.

  2. I painted my graduation cap, it was black, with a multi colored butterfly. I used chalk instead of pencil lead. Worked perfect.

    1. What a cool idea! I’m so glad to hear it worked with chalk on your graduation cap! Good to know it works on more fabric type materials too!

  3. If you were using a piece of wood that was painted with chalk paint would you do the wax or whatever sealant you choose before or after you do the transfer?

    1. That’s a great question Marilyn! I would think it’d be best to do the transfer before you do the wax or other sealant. To be sure though, I’d test it out on a scrap piece of wood both ways to see which works best with the actual sealant that I’m using. Hope that helps!

  4. Hi! This is an awesome idea…I’ve been wanting to make a couple of these wooden signs for my home! I’m just curious why do you have to flip the image over with the image facing down & scribbling over the back of the image if you’re just gonna flip it over & trace the actual image? Couldn’t you skip that step and just trace the actual image onto the wood? Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Shonda! I flip it over to add the pencil shading so that when the design gets traced onto the wood a small outline (from the pencil shading) will be left on the wood for the design transfer to work best. If that part was skipped and you just traced from the front onto the wood, it wouldn’t leave much of an outline on the wood, unless you pressed really hard and it made more of an indentation in the wood…which works too if you don’t mind the indentation! I just prefer the pencil shaded outline instead. Hope that helps!!!

  5. Hi! Great project! I’m a total newbie when it comes to projects like this….did you have to prepare you wood first like sand or but a primer on it before you did anything?

      1. I did a similar project this weekend. I chalk painted wood and did the pencil technique you used. My problem came when I used a sharpie to fillin my letters. I think the chalk paint dried up the marker or something because the (brand new) marker wouldn’t work after one letter. I had to scribble on a blank piece of paper for a bit to get the ink to work again. I think next time I will seal it first.

        1. Thanks for sharing Tera! That is so strange the brand new marker dried up after one letter! I will definitely remember that if I plan on using chalk paint for a similar project.

  6. I tried this once on almost raw wood and my sharpie bled – feathered – on every edge :(. Guess I def need to seal surface?? Or use a paint pen instead. Hate when you finish a project you have to re-do it instead of go hang it up!

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