Photo Transfer for Sandblasting

I do LOVE my garden- my hens, the flowers, the fruit trees, the mason bees and all the birds that show up to participate in the daily party. Now I have a way of capturing a moment and turning it into a piece of glass art. It’s called phototransfer. It’s like silk screening, but for glass…

Here is an example of the photos of my little darlings, now represented in glass coasters, reminding us constantly how cute they are.

So, How DOES that happen? Let’s take a look, but first a few more images of using a photo transfer method on glass, using my garden as backdrop:

So how does this magic happen? It is a labor of love, with several steps, that for someone like me who has her origins in the operating room, is filled with technical equipment. I consider it my own bit of glass “cosmetic surgery.” Less risk than surgery, though, because the worst case scenario is that if the image doesn’t turn out, I can just blast the glass clean and start again. (It’s not a cheap endeavor though- the materials are expensive!)

Let’s start at the beginning. First I collect my photos on my digital camera. It’s essential to have full resolution photos to begin. Below you will see the sample photos of daffodils, periwinkle, plum blossom and hellebore.

The next step is to run the photos through Photoshop, sizing the image to just shy of the size of the glass I will put it on, then create a stamp image.

Now that the stamp image is done, I print the photos onto a piece of vellum, so that I can develop the image onto a very special product called Rayzist. Rayzist is a UV sensitive film that can withstand the sandblasting, and therefore will serve as the masking agent when I blast. The Rayzist film is placed in my UV light box, pressed against the vellum image, and is processed for 20 seconds. This is a photo of my Letralite UV light box. The vellum image is pressed against the Rayzist under this black rubber piece, that prevents ambient light from entering while it processes.

Letralite UV Exposure Unit

Now I remove my processed Rayzist from the UV light box. The printed vellum image (the black ink) blocks the UV passage of light, and therefore does not “process”on the Rayzist film you see below. This unprocessed part of the Rayzist will wash away, leaving my image “positive.” At first the Rayzist just looks like its usual blue self, but see what happens after some power washing? Once the image is washed and I have my images, the film must be hung to dry.

It takes a couple hours, I have found, to get the film to dry. The side that will adhere to the glass is sticky, and is applied to the glass carefully, burnishing along the way to get all the bubbles out. All edges are sealed. I use electrical tape, to keep the sandblaster from etching where I don’t want it.

Rayzist applied, ready to blast

Now that I have sandblasted the piece, I remove the Rayzist. The glass is etched and now can receive a backfill of enamel. Yay! This is where the work shows real results. Below you see the coaster just after blasting, after removing the Rayzist, and then as I make the lovely mess of backfilling with the enamel paste.

Now that the enamel is pulled through the image, I let the paste dry, clean up the glass, and re fire to “sinter” the enamel, to make it a permanent part of the glass. Voila! (Whew!)