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Photo-transfer projects make easy handmade gifts

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
This undated photo provided by Martha Stewart Living shows a tote bag with a photo transfer applied to it, which is perfect for a holiday gift. (AP Photo)

Busy lives may require sacrifices, but forgoing handmade gifts for the holidays doesn't have to be one of them. We only need to plan well to have our crafts and give them away, too.

Photo-transfer projects are perfect for this: They're generally fast, easy and inexpensive. Yes, you could order a tote bag printed with your pooch's photo, but why not make it yourself?

With products now on the market and some ingenuity, you can customise coffee cups, canvases and wood scraps.

"For our audience - the parents of young children - these are the kinds of gifts that grandparents and other family members love to get," says Laura Fenton, lifestyle director for Parents magazine. "It's a very affordable (way) to personalise gifts."

Nearly any surface can receive a photo transfer, according to Tracy Chou, a designer for Martha Stewart Crafts.

"There's nothing, really, that can't handle a transfer, and it's a great way for memory-keeping," says Chou, who has experimented with fabric, wood, glass, plastic, ceramics and metal.

Martha Stewart Crafts sells several dÈcoupage products to help, but there are as many ways to transfer a photo as there are surfaces for adhering.

Karen Watson of Frederick, Maryland, assembled a dozen methods at her blog, The Graphics Fairy. She also provides hundreds of vintage images for downloading and suggests other do-it-yourself ways to use them.

You can download photos from Instagram, Flickr and other photo-sharing websites to personalise gifts for friends and relatives. Use a photo-editing feature - found on smartphones and on computer programmes such as Photoshop - to give photos a vintage or dreamy look, suggests Hannah Milman, editorial director of crafts for Martha Stewart Living. Then print them on an ink-jet printer.

One of the simplest projects is using iron-on transfer paper, available at craft stores. Print a digital photo to the transfer paper and then iron it on to a fabric. Muslin or canvas bags are popular options, says Fenton, who suggests washing, drying and ironing the fabric before transferring a photo.

Other ways to transfer images to fabric include the Mod Podge method (cover the printing side of card stock with craft glue, allow it to dry, print the image and position it atop Mod Podge thinly brushed on to the fabric). That method also works on wood and ceramics, says Watson.

Or use wax paper to transfer images to fabric or wood. Martha Stewart Crafts' dÈcoupage products include a Phototransfer Clear Finish for transferring an image to glass.