Instructions for Transferring a Photograph Onto a Ceramic Tile

Updated November 21, 2016

Custom photo coasters sell for a pretty penny in art boutiques throughout the world. While the process may seem foreign to many, it is not difficult to make your own custom photo tiles at home. These tiles can be used as custom coasters or as decorative tiles for any number of craft projects. While this project may take some practice to perfect, it is a creative and interesting way to preserve family photos and create homemade gifts.

Paint a thin layer of tile primer over an unfinished white tile. Tile primer helps prepare the surface and makes photo adhesion more likely. Set the tile aside to dry.

Use a photocopier to make mirror image copies of the photos that will be used for this project. Many copiers have a mirror image feature built in. For symmetrical photos where there is no "right side," a mirror image copy is not necessary.

Paint a layer of gel medium product or linseed oil over the photocopied photo. The oil in the gel medium helps transfer ink from the paper to the tile.

Place the photocopy face down on the tile. Center the photo on the first try in order to prevent the ink from smudging.

Allow the photocopy to sit on the tile for at least 24 hours. This helps the oil-based inks separate from the water-based paper. The photo transfer process works on the principle that oil and water do not mix and will always separate, according to craft expert Ruth Williams.

Dip a sponge into a bowl of water and gently dab the water onto the back of the photo paper. Continue until the entire piece of paper is wet.

Rub a craft brayer over the tile to gently remove the photo paper, revealing the transferred image. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until all of the paper is removed. Allow the tile to dry.

Use a small paintbrush to paint a coat of clear polyurethane over the top of the newly decorated tile. This will help protect the image from damage. Allow the tile to dry completely.

Place the finished tile on a piece of craft felt, face up. Use a craft knife to cut around the edges of the tile.

Turn the tile over and place a line of craft glue along the edges of the tile's bottom. Place a dab of glue in the centre.

Press the felt backing on to the glue. Turn the tile back over and trim off any excess felt with scissors.


Purchase a few extra tiles and make a few extra copies. This will allow you to do a few practice rounds, especially when creating photo tiles for gifts. Steps 9 through 11 are necessary for photo tiles that will be used as coasters.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfinished white tiles
  • Tile primer
  • 2 small paintbrushes
  • Photocopier
  • Photos
  • Gel medium or linseed oil
  • Craft brayer
  • Sponge
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Polyurethane
  • Felt
  • Craft knife
  • Craft glue
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