How to make Shabby Chic Furniture with print –
transfer of print onto furniture or wood, part 1

So you want to transfer some fancy print onto your beloved table? Make it shabby chic or even more vintage – looking? Or perhaps you want to make shabby chic wooden plaque with printed theme on it? This tutorial is for you then.


I will show how to make Shabby Chic furniture with transferring a print onto it.
Most of the techniques of transfer any print onto flat and hard surface are covered on Graphics Fairy website. I however, would like to show you the way I mastered the most – an inkjet print on water decal. I do not say it is the only way, I do not say it is the best way of doing it either. All I say is, you can achieve quite amazing results with this technique, and I will try to explain you HOW TO DO IT, to achieve a results similar to this you can admire on Shabby Chic Nest of Tables of mine.

On the picture below you can see a final effect of this tutotorial:



What is water decal? Well, quoting almighty Wikipedia:

…it is a plastic layer that has printed on it an image that can be moved to another surface upon contact, with the aid of water.

The word is short for ‘decalcomania’, which is the English version of the French word ‘décalcomanie’. The technique was invented by Simon François Ravenet, a French engraver who later moved to England and perfected the process he called “decalquer” (which means to copy by tracing); it became widespread during the decal craze of the late 19th century.

Water slide decals are thinner than many other decorative techniques (such as vinyl stickers) and as they are printed, they can be produced to a very high level of detail.

What is good about it – you can use it on any flat surface regardless its protection, you can transfer decal even on thick layer of polished wax.


1. The things you need to transer a print.

All you need (in order of appearance) is:

1. Water decal paper sheets (made in China, bought on eBay).

Two things to remember – you want it to be inkjet printable (unless you want to use a laser printer) and you want to buy the one with transparent (not white) background.

2. Spray varnish in can (polyurethane)

This one is very important. It was hard to me to find a properly clear varnish. Most of them is slightly yellow-ish and have tendency to get even more yellow during the time. You do not want this, you want a clear, 100% transparent protective coat over your decal and, the most important, over an inkjet print, which is extremely vulnerable to water. The one I use is Rust-Oleum’s ‘Crystal Clear’.

3. Scissors

Just regular sharp scissors, fancy enough to precisely cut a paper.

4. Flat tray with a water

I use regular kitchen equipment. You need one big enough to fit you printed decal in it.

5. Paper tissue or towel

You need it to dry the water up form the surface.

6. Ruler, pencil and rubber (optional)

I use the ruler to position a template of the print on the surface, and the pencil, to mark it on the table. Then role of rubber is obvious – to erase these marks.
However, if you do not do symmetrical alignment, you can easily skip this point.

7. Acrylic varnish (optional)

Last step after transferring the print is to protect it. I use Colron’s ‘Interior Lacquer’, the best for me due to its high clear transparency. It does not yellow over the time. I paint using a brush, but a roller will do a job as well.

You can use any other medium of your choice: polyurethane or wax. Bear in mind however – if your surface was waxed before, you cannot use a varnish on it, you must protect it by putting another wax layer.



water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_06 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_02 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_04 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_07 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_05 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_07d water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture_touch-the-wood_03


2. Printing your design

If you have your image already printed, you may want to skip this part of tutorial.

Read this if you need to print a graphic to transfer on your piece.

For the print itself I chose my favourite Graphics Fairy’s French advert. Now you want to set the quality of print (for the best), colour, and choose a paper you will make print on.

1. Open your file in your defult image viewer. Mine is Windows Live Photo Gallery on Windows 8, but if you use other one the layout may differ. Basic rules remains the same though.

In top bar select Print and then, in selection window Print… again.



water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture-print_touch-the-wood_02 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture-print_touch-the-wood_03 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture-print_touch-the-wood_04 water-decal-transfer-print-onto-wood-furniture-print_touch-the-wood_05


2. This will get you to the print settings (a window called Print Pictures), (leave all default) where you click on Options in bottom right corner.

3. In the Printer Settings window select Printer Properties…

4. This will lead you to Document Properties managed by your printer. Make sure you in Paper/Quality tab.

First choose right paper – from drop-down menu for Media select Other Speciality Papers.

Then select Best for Quality Settings.

If you are going to print colour image you can finish your set up right now. However, if you are printing black and white image you want to make sure that your printer will use only black ink. To do it go for Advanced settings.

5. Now find Print in Grayscale: command, usually it is set on Off, so click it and then from drop-down menu choose Black Ink Only

Job done.

Click OK to close Advanced Settings, then again OK to close Document Properties and then you are ready to print your image. Just before you do this, make sure your water decal sits in the printer facing shiny (printable) side down.




3. Preparing your decal – spray

Before you cut your decal out, you must spray it with polyurethane varnish. There are two reasons to do it. First is protecting the print itself, without this ink would dissolve in water. Second – you strengthen this thin plastic layer which will be transferred onto the furniture.

The best idea to do it outside your living area, this things are both smelly and toxic. Shake the botel vigourisly and spray from 20-30cm distance coverig your sheet evenly. Let it dry in a warm place, it usualy takes around 1 hour.




This is end of first part of tutorial on transferring a print onto wood or furniture.

To find the final steps go to How to make Shabby Chic Furniture with print – transfer of print onto furniture or wood, part 2



  1. chetan soni

    Hello sir I want to buy this type of products to print on tile if you have so please help me about this product…

  2. martina walters

    Hi, thank you for a great tutorial. I have been working on some photo blocks following your instructions. I spray the photo with 2 coats of varnish (same varnish as yours) but when I transfer the decal onto the wood, in some cases small green dots begin to appear on the photo.
    I can’t work out why this is happening, the only thing I can think of is that I have not covered the photo enough and there may be small holes in the protective layer where the water gets through. But I have sprayed 2 quite heavy layers which should be enough?
    Do you have any ideas why this is happening?
    Many thanks

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