There are at least three ways you can transfer an image onto polymer clay. I've tried the first two and will be trialling the third as soon as I get my supplies in the post.
Method 1: Laser printout of image + water
This is by far the easiest image transfer method: all you need is a laser printout (or photocopy) of your image and some water. You place the image face down on a sheet of unbaked clay and then gently remove the paper by rubbing it with wet fingers. No medium is necessary! The polymer particles in the clay bond with the toner particles on your printout. This method will not work with an inkjet printout, unfortunately, but you can always make a photocopy of it.
When all the paper has been removed, bake as per manufacturer's instructions. Apply some varnish when it has cooled down. I used matte mod podge and it worked really well. You can also use a glossy or satin varnish or resin.
Below are two of my attempts - one of my digitalized gelli prints and a famous image off the internet courtesy of National Geographics. They are both pendant size clay pieces, so the images had to be reduced accordingly. It's best to use white or light coloured clay for this technique, otherwise the dark background will show through.
|Gelli print transfer on polymer clay with water|
|Image transfer on polymer clay with water|
This method works on the same principle as above but instead of water use some rubbing alcohol applied with a piece of cotton wool. Do not rub the paper off, but rather burnish the back of the image until it is transferred and gently peel off the paper. You can use the back of a spoon to help you, just be careful not to distort the clay. You may have to leave your image attached for 10-15 minutes and apply the alcohol soaked cotton wool several times before the image is transferred. I almost gave up, but it worked in the end. You get a more distressed look with this technique than with the water transfer.
Here's my result using an image of Mona Lisa (thanks Leo!).
|Image transfer on polymer clay with alcohol|
Method 3: Heat transfer paper + liquid clay
I haven't tried this method yet but it involves printing your image on heat transfer paper and then coating the printed side with liquid clay and baking it. The heat transfers the image onto the clay film, which you can then stick on your project. I will be trialling this method soon and posting my results.
Please let me know if you have tried any other image transfer methods on clay in the comments below! Have fun playing and creating!