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Transfer Variables

by SL Savarick
I know that the subject of photocopy transfers onto polymer is the one technique that I truly believe has as many successfully methods as there are people doing them. There are so many variables that even when one finds a method that they believe is foolproof, they can find that their favorite method does not work for them on a particular day. And, then they may try it again and find it works great!

And then there are slight differences in the results. I have found that I can get much crisper blacks using a solvent such as gin, but then I have also found that I can get blurry results from using a solvent if I use too much or the studio is warmer than usual. I think the trick is to master as many photocopy transfer techniques as possible that work for you and that you like doing. Then, if on any given day you find you're not getting the results you are satisfied with from one technique you can try another.

One thing I have done in experimenting is to break down the variables to help me solve the problems quickly. Once you find how the variables interact and how you interact with them, it becomes quite easy to get the results you want no - matter what they are.

Here is how I break down the Variables - it may seem like a lot, but it's really not. Not every variable has the same level of importance for every method used. For example, the weight of the paper used to make the photocopy is not as important in a dry transfer method as it is in a wet one. Another example - the temperature of the clay at time of first contact with copy is not as important in a baked transfer as it is in a dry transfer, but it becomes VERY important in a Tear Away Transfer than in a straight toner to clay dry transfer.


  • Age, make and model of photocopy machine (even the specific machine used)
  • Settings on copier, such as Darkness, Original, Type, Zoom percentage, etc...
  • Toner used - Brand, Batch Ingredients (I find ones that use a higher Graphite content seem to work better with dry transfers)
  • Temperature that the toner fuses to the paper
  • Paper used - weight, finish (smooth,cold or hot press, etc..) fiber content,
  • Length of time copy has been stored ( 1 day, a week , 6 months ...)
  • Brand of clay used. Batch clay came from. Color of clay used.
  • Age of clay used
  • Thickness of sheet of clay used
  • Temperature
  • Temperature of clay at time of first contact with copy
  • Temperature of clay during transfer
  • Temperature of clay at time copy is pulled from clay
  • How copy is placed on clay (borders, overlap, proximity of edges of copy to edges of clay)
  • Method used to apply copy to clay ( how copy is burnished. Pressure, length of time, tools used, direction ect.. )
  • Dry or wet transfer (see Solvent VBariables below)
  • Length of time copy is in contact with clay
  • Number of times copy is burnished to clay (as well as how, Pressure, length of time tools used etc... )
  • How transfer is pulled from clay ( speed, direction, angle of pull)
  • Temperature of studio
  • Humidity in the air
  • Solvent Used - Gin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Wintergreen oil, Lacquer Thinner, etc..
  • Temperature of solvent at time of transfer.
  • Amount of solvent used.
  • How solvent is applied - brushed, pounced with cotton ball, etc...
  • Number of times and the time between each application of solvent.

  • How many copy machines have you damaged in your present and past lives
  • How many copies did you steal from the office copier for your kids
  • How many Kinkos Employees you have told off.
<G> OK, it's just a joke, just in case you think I'm too serious...

ANYWAY, all these variables may seem like a lot, but each one will play a role in the results of a transfer. Once you understand them, and how they each interact, you will be able to get perfect result every time, no matter what your needs are or the circumstances.

©2003-SL Savarick

Thank you, SL. You can Email SL at .

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