How to Transfer Images to Stone or Metal

By Contributor

Three-dimensional surfaces can take on a new look with the right image superimposed on them, and with the right preparation and knowledge it's possible to transfer almost anything onto almost anything else. Here's how to get started.

Make a Plan

Assess your equipment. You can transfer almost anything onto anything - but some techniques require more preparation, training, and hardware than others. Accept certain limitations. If you don't have a darkroom, it's almost impossible to use a conventional photograph - but you can use a Polaroid. Similarly, if you don't have a silk screen shop set up, that's probably not the best technique for you.

Select the image you wish to transfer. You can use almost anything, including a high-quality photocopy, a Polaroid print, a photograph, or an image from a newspaper or magazine.

Consider whether there's a way to "transform" your image. For example, if you are set on using a particular photograph, but don't have a darkroom, take a Polaroid of it (and refer to "How to Transfer an Image to Stone or Metal Using Polaroid Transfer Technique") or photocopy it (and follow the directions for transferring an image with acrylic matte medium or Xerox roll-up).

Prepare the Surface

Choose your stone or piece of metal. Keep in mind that an image will show up better on a light, smooth surface.

Wash or wipe it down, scrubbing if necessary to remove loose particles.

Degrease it if necessary (with rubbing alcohol).

Coat a metal surface with two coats of spray polyurethane and allow it to dry fully (to seal the surface and prevent it from rusting).

Coat a stone surface or sealed metal surface with two coats of acrylic matte medium and allow it to dry completely.

Transfer the Image

Transfer the image to the stone or metal using the appropriate technique.

Allow to dry fully.

Coat with acrylic matte medium or spray polyurethane to protect and seal the image.


If you're set on a particular stone or piece of metal and it's very dark or very rough, consider using a few coats of gesso on the area where you want to apply the image. This will give you a white, smooth patch to work on.