DIY: Transfer motifs onto table tops

Transferring a trendy motif onto the top of an old table is as simple as making a photocopy. Upcycling pro Sacha Olivier shows you how


Upcycling a table


Select a copyright-free image that you’d like to use as a motif to give your table one-of-a-kind character. Have it photocopied onto bond paper; laser copies or the old magnetic powder copies are the best. Don’t use fancy inkjet or photo quality paper.

If your motif contains letters or numerals, you’ll need to mirror the image so that the wording comes out the right way round once it’s been transferred onto the table. Most copiers have a setting that includes the option to reverse the image or flip it horizontally.

You can transfer a photocopied image onto raw, untreated timber or furniture that’s been painted with Acrylic PVA paint only. I painted my table top white for a trendy two-tone look.

Don’t try this technique on furniture that’s been painted with enamel paint or that has a Duco finish; the lacquer thinners used to transfer the image may damage the paint.


  • Place the photocopy of your motif face down on the table top. Secure it with masking tape, using just enough tape to stop it from sliding around.
  • Wet an old towel with lacquer thinners and gently rub the back of the photocopy until you can see the motif appearing. Take care not to soak the paper as this will spoil the definition of the transferred image.
  • Using an old spatula rub firmly over the back of the motif; rubbing with the grain of the wood if the surface of the table top is not perfectly smooth.
  • Lift one corner of the photocopy to see how well the motif has transferred; it’s meant to have an aged, vintage look, so it shouldn’t be too perfect. If you’re happy with it, gently peel off the photocopy.
  • Should you wish to, you can now touch up any areas of the motif that didn’t transfer well, or enhance certain details, using a soft 2B or HB grade graphite pencil.
  • To protect the motif, give the table top a few coats of Artist’s Fixative (available from arts and crafts shops) or wax it with a floor wax.