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Acrylic Transfers for Perfect Letters

Using Acrylic Gel

Have you ever tried to paint letters on something such as a sign or a plaque?

Did you ever try to buy vinyl letters to use only to find that nobody had the style or size you wanted? If you were lucky enough to find some, there were never enough of certain letters to enable you to complete what you were trying to spell.

Here's the Solution
Make Your Own with Acrylic Gel

Here is how to use acrylic transfers that you make yourself to get the exact letters you want. They are great for eliminating the torturous and tedious painting of letters. I use them for painting plaques to sell and give as gifts. I still hand paint the picture on them, but no longer struggle with the letters.

Here is a plaque that I have made. It has hand painted letters that took almost as long to paint as the painting of the daisy's

Here is a plaque I made using letters made from acrylic gel transfers.

This was my first time using the process. I made the mistake of not sealing the wood before I applied the letters with acrylic gel.

As a result, the wood got sealed around the letters making an obvious light area around them. It resulted in an uneven finish when I started applying the acrylic polyurethane coats over the finished plaque. Fortunately, the more layers I added, the less visible the difference was. Also, the raise of the letters became almost indistinguishable.

You can be sure I won't make that mistake again.

So How Do You Make Your Own Acrylic Transfers?


Design the letters and words you want on the computer. Try to use a program that gives you nice, clean edges on your letters. Size them according to what you plan to put them on.

Print the letters out on a piece of white paper. Trim to size so you have a 1/4 to 1/2 inch extra around the edges.




Place the printed sheet on a piece of glass which will be you work surface. Have the printed side UP.

Spread a thin, even coat of Golden soft gel gloss medium over the letters and let it dry. I find that a cake icing spatula works really well.




The acrylic gel will be cloudy at first and then clear once it is dry in about 1 to 2 hours.

Add 3 to 7 layers depending on how thick you make each layer.

You want the finished sheet to be sturdy enough to peal off the glass without tearing.



When the acrylic transfer is dry, trim off some of the excess

Turn it over and wet the paper back thoroughly.

For smaller pieces, I like to take it directly to the sink and really saturate the paper.




Once it is really wet, gently rub the paper off with a fine scrubby.

Keep re-wetting it as you go.






When you get almost all the paper off, I like to use my finger to gently rub the rest of the paper off.

You can feel if there is still more, and it is easier to control the pressure.




Once you are satisfied that there is no more paper, blot it dry and lay it flat on a piece of wax paper to dry.
(I was out of wax paper)

If it is a large piece, be sure to not allow it to touch itself, because it will stick together.

If you need to fold it because of it's size, be sure to put wax paper in between the layers so they don't stick together. They will be almost impossible to separate without damage otherwise.



When it is all dry, trim it as much as you want.

Separate the words if you want.

Get it ready to be put on what you want.





I like to use a clear ruler to help me place the letters evenly.

To adhere it to the surface you have chosen, spread a thin coat of the gel medium on the back of the words. I like to use a small paint brush to apply the medium.



Place the acrylic transfer on the surface and gently rub out from the middle to flatten the letters and make them adhere.

In this case I placed the letters on first before the painting, but you could also do the painting first like I did with the cabin plaque and then added the letters.

It depends on what the painting is and if it is to interact with the letters.


I prepared the wood in two different ways.


In the plaque with the cabin on it, as I mentioned above, this was my first attempt. The painting was done with acrylics so I didn't prepare the wood at all.

This was a mistake. You can see where the gel medium sealed the wood giving it an uneven finish when I started applying the acrylic polyurethane coats over the finished plaque.




I used soft pastel pencils to sketch in the cabin. They dissolve into the acrylic paint or can be wiped off easily if you want to change something.





I chose to paint the cabin first because I felt it would be easier to place the letters afterward.

I did make sure that I had the letters printed out before hand to be sure they would fit and still leave enough room for the picture.

I waited for about 2 days before applying several coats of acrylic polyurethane to the finished plaque.



This other one was sealed with 2 coats of Liquitex Clear Gesso before painting.

It was painted with WS Oils as an experiment to see how well the paint would adhere to the wood. Without being sealed, I'm sure the wood would have soaked up the paint and given fuzzy borders.

The paint adhered beautifully to the toothy finish of the clear gesso. It blended easily and did not lift at all as I painted over areas.

Also having sealed the wood, there was no problem with the acrylic gel medium sealing the wood around the letters like in the other example.


I sketched the paintings using Neocolor II water soluble wax pastels. They don't smudge but can be washed off if you want to make changes.

They also dissolve into the WS Oils as you paint over them.

The only problem now is waiting for the WS Oils to dry sufficiently so I can seal the whole thing in an oil friendly varnish.

Having done this, I would not hesitate to do a full painting in WS Oils on good wood such as baltic birch plywood, as long as I did not want any of the wood to show.

For plaques, I'll stick with acrylics for the painting and acrylic transfers using acrylic gel for the letters, but I will be sure to seal the wood first.



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