Vodka Transfer

Less is more. I have proof. And it involves vodka. My sister-in-law recently returned from a trip to Australia and posted her pictures to Flickr so we all could share. Some of the pictures were amazing, and I had an urge to surprise her with a series of bookmarks with the pictures on them. This is commonly done by printing the pictures to the right size, spraying them with alcohol, and placing them face down on the bookmark. You then rub them with a bone folder and presto! the image transfers.
I haven’t done it in a while, so I decided to experiment to make sure I had the method down right. I swung past the bathroom, grabbed the alcohol and headed into the studio. The first transfer was muddy and messy. Huh. Must be the 140-lb. cold-press watercolor paper, which might have not been smooth enough.

I changed the paper to a hot-press watercolor paper, which is smoother. No luck. What was I doing wrong? Must be the spray in the nozzle. I didn’t have another small bottle, but I had a tiny perfume sample with a spray. The perfume sample was a scrubber, so I took a deep breath and sprayed. It worked. Well, except for the fact that the studio now smelled like a perfume I don’t like. And there was a grease spot on the transfer because perfumes contain oils.
But the solution seemed at hand–the problem was that the original alcohol had too high an alcohol content. The perfume alcohol content was lower, which allowed the transfer. Well, except for the smell and the oil. I ran through the contents of the house of items I had that had a high alcohol content. Vanilla extract. Too expensive for spraying. And then I’d have vanilla bookmarks. Vodka. Hmm. I checked the label. 40 percent alcohol. Perfect. I filled the spray bottle with the vodka and sure enough, it worked.

Less IS more. Less alcohol worked better than the super-concentrated alcohol. Sure the Absolut Vodka isn’t as cheap as isopropyl alcohol, but it worked perfectly. Now I’ll have to try a cheaper Vodka, too.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist who makes notecards, journals and paper vessels. See her work at Quinn All photos above by Eva Maria Clamann.

5 thoughts on “Vodka Transfer

  1. What type of picture are you using to transfer? Ink Jet copy, Laser copy, magazine photo? I tried vodka with a photocopy and newspaper but it didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?

    • Sorry I didn’t see this until now. I’ve had varying luck with vodka transfers, but I must admit the best transfers I get with the cheapest vodka! I use Ink jet copies on good quality copy paper. You do have to try various papers, even different copiers. There are people who swear by laser copies, but I always use ink jet.

  2. I think a lot of people came up with this around the same time. The first person to claim it wins, or something. I was shocked when I was visiting Germany in my youth, and found out that all those American “discoveries” had been claimed by Germans, too!

  3. I’ve actually heard that the cheapest gin works best of all! It’s the solvent of choice for transferring toner pictures to polymer clay. Two women in Texas were the ones who discovered this little trick, but their names escape me right now.

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