Mobile Photography Tips: Printing on Tissue Paper


What I’d like to talk about today is my personal exploration into the field of printing A3 size images onto tissue paper.  I have tried various methods of digital transfer printing with abysmal results.  I have Bonny Lhotka’s book “Digital Alchemy” which is a beautiful book packed with with glorious examples of inspiring images; I borrowed from my library Bonny’s second book “The Last Layer”, which explains even more printing and transfer methods.  However, I must confess I found it difficult to follow Bonny as she talks about using a Super Sauce and DASS products which are impossible to get over here in Australia (without spending hundreds of dollars, that is).  Acting on Bonny’s advice, I got some Purell hand sanitizer (one of the cheaper options suggested by her) and tried digital transfer printing using that, but all I got was a muddy, jellified mess (and very clean hands!). Bonny talks about inkjet vs laser printers, and inks vs dyes, and after a few pages of that my eyes glazed over.  I’m sure if you follow her advice and instructions carefully, and if you are lucky enough to have the type of printers she has, and access to all the “ingredients” required, following Bonny’s methods will give you the same great results she consistently gets, and may catapult your art into the same high realm as her.  For more info about Bonny Lhotka’s prioneering work on printing and digital transfer techniques, click on this link:

For me, however, it proved to be too complicated, so I moved on to developing my own low-tech printing methods.

I wanted to print bigger than the standard A4 household printer size.  After some online research, I settled for the Epson Artisan 1430 printer, which prints up to A3. Please note, this is just a printer, with no fax, scan or copying functions.  The inks used are Light Cyan, Cyan, Light Magenta, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  My first foray into printing was onto canvas paper, which I wasn’t particularly enamoured of, as it tended to suck the inks in and the images looked too flat and matte.  Ditto printing onto canvas fabric.  I had some fabric samples lying around (hoarder that I am), so I decided to gesso over some and print directly onto that.  The problem with that was, the prints tended to smudge, and getting the fabric to feed through the printer smoothly was a nightmare.

My local K-Mart was selling A3 canvasses at 2 for $5, which was a great bargain, so I snagged myself 10 of those.  My problem then was how to get my images onto the canvasses.  after trying different methods I was just about to give up when I decided to give printing onto tissue paper one last try.  I had a bundle of paper left over from our last move, the sort used for wrapping glasses and fragile items.  So I cut one to A3 and taped it to a carrier sheet, which was simply an A3 piece of canvas paper. The print came out beautifully, but then I hit another snag…because the tissue had been taped to the carrier sheet, I had to then cut out the parts where the tape had been, hence the end result was smaller than A3, and left a border to be filled in somehow.

Repositionable glue sticks to the rescue.  I found that if I drew some horizontal and vertical lines of glue onto the carrier sheet, then placed the tissue paper over that, I could not only print easily onto the tissue, I was also able to remove it from the carrier sheet afterwards.  Needless to say, I was pleased with the results, as the tissue paper not only took the inks beautifully, I could then Mod Podge it to my A3 canvas really easily afterwards.  And, the little creases and folds that resulted from sticking the tissue paper to the A3 canvas only added to the illusion that it was a piece of painted art and not a photographic image.

And then I ran out of tissue paper.  And printer ink.  The Epson Artisan 1430 inks were easily obtainable, however proved to be expensive – to replace all 6 cartridges cost me AUD$140 :-(.  The tissue paper however, proved to be yet another nightmare.  I never knew there were so many different grades or types of tissue paper available – archival, craft, museum, etc!  I got some samples from a removals company, but they tore upon peeling off the carrier sheet.  I got a packet of craft tissue paper from K-Mart, but not only did it also tear, it jammed up the printer.  A packet that I got from eBay was equally bad, no, worse, as the paper itself was grey and had holes in it and was therefore useless. Yes, there were tears (in the paper),  tears (down my face) and temper tantrums.

And then I found the Holy Grail of tissue papers. Quite simply, I had run out of baking parchment while baking a cake, so I nipped out to the supermarket and bought a roll of baking paper.  Which turned out to be the exact width for A3, and all I had to do was gluestick the carrier sheet, roll out the baking paper onto it, and cut off the end. Et voila! Beautifully printed images, which peeled off with no tearing whatsoever, and a joy to use.

Oh, and a postscript: after 2 expensive ink refills of the Epson Artisan 1430, I decided to try out the CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System). I got mine from good old eBay, for AUD$140 plus $10 postage. It was simple enough to install (hubby did it hehe), and there’s about 10 times as much ink in the bottles as in a normal cartridge, plus it’s refillable, which makes it an attractive option indeed.  So I should be okay for ink now, til next year at least!  Anyone looking for a cheaper alternative to ink cartridges should look into CISS. These are the guys I got mine from

I was working on my Madhatter’s Teaparty Series then, and to date have completed over 20 A3 canvas pieces, with a view towards getting 50 in total. Here are some of the canvasses, so you can see what the end results look like (after sealing, varnishing).






2 thoughts on “Mobile Photography Tips: Printing on Tissue Paper

  1. Hello Thanks for sharing your explanation on transfer, but I do not quite understand: do you glue the printed baking paper onto your canvas or do you transfer the ink to your canvas? I am looking for an alternative of Dass super sauce as it is too expensive for Europe too. Thanks

    1. Hi Monik, mh technique is not a transfer per se, as in I don’t transfer the ink. What I do is print my image directly onto tissue paper, then adhere the tissue to canvas or wood.

      The tissue needs to be first taped or lightly glued to a carrier sheet before it can be put through the printer, as it’s very thin and tears easily. After printing, I peel the tissue off its carrier sheet, then stick it on to my canvas frame or wood panel.

      I’ve tried different transfers and direct printing methods, but my tissue paper technique works for me. DASS is just too expensive to get over here.

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