Yuletide gift tags: a blender pen tutorial

Hello! Becka here again with a quick festive tutorial for you all!

I was first introduced to the blender pen by my husband, who used one to illustrate a small book for me for our first Valentines Day together. I had stamped a Muji passport with various different meaningful words, song lyrics, etc and when I came back from a trip to the states he had filled it with whimsical illustrations of old sail ships, vintage etchings and the like. I was amazed at how easy it was to transfer and manipulate images using the pen, and it quickly became a craft supply staple! This year I have used it to create some simple gift tags, and I really love the simplicity of the black lettering with brown paper and string wrapped presents.
A blender pen traditionally does just that, blends. It is a pen filled with a clear ink that artists use to blend their pens, chalk, coloured pencil, etc and give it a water colour type look. However, the clear ink also reacts with toner ink (photocopied, laser printed or magazine images work) causing the ink to lift of the image and can then be transferred onto a new surface. You can use a blender pen to transfer images onto paper products, fabric, lino (we use it for preparing block prints) or even wood. Here's how....
You will need...
- 1 Blender pen (you can find these at most craft stores, and some stationary stores)
- Photocopied, laser printed or magazine images for transfer (keep in mind the image will 'flip' and create a mirror image so make sure to flip any text you have before printing)
- A burnishing tool, we use a small spoon or the handles of some scissors.
Step One: Loosening
Cut out your image, and place it face down on the surface you wish to transfer it onto. If you are transferring onto regular paper (especially in a book), be aware that the ink can bleed through a bit. While holding the image in place (I recommend leaving a decent amount of white space when cutting out the image, so you have space to hold it still), take your blender pen and apply even strokes across the image until the paper is almost translucent. Do not move the paper (not even between step one and step two). You have now loosened the ink to be transferred.

Step two: Burnishing
Now, how soon you move onto step two will depend slightly on your blender pen. If you are using a brand spankin' new pen it is likely that quite a lot of ink will come out, and this can cause your image to be over saturated or to bleed. To prevent this from happening, wait a minute after step one before burnishing to let it dry a little. This is also a good reason to do a few practice runs!

Burnishing is the step that actually transfers the loosened ink onto it's new surface. To do this, take a small spoon, scissor handles, etc and rub it all over the back of your image in small motions. You want to make sure you get all of the image, and don't be afraid to press hard, you won't tear the paper. Still don't move the paper (I mean it).

Step three: Check While holding your image in place with one hand, carefully peel up the paper to check that it has transferred successfully. Now, carefully switch sides and check the rest of the image. If it is still a bit faded or patchy, then repeat step two. Or, if you're into faded and/or patchy then leave it at that!

Once you're happy with your image, slowly and carefully peel off the paper being careful not to smudge. The ink will still be a little wet so maybe leave it to dry for a couple minutes.
Voila! Lovely personalised gift tags ready to use for all your Christmas goodies.

Merry Christmas!
Becka
xo

Jan Halvarson

20 comments:

Lizzy said...

Thanks for the tip! I love the look of the tags, perfect for adorning presents!

Emily said...

Wonderful! Since I'm basically self-taught with most of what I do, it's this kind of stuff I don't know about--but it sure will make transferring to linoleum so much easier!!!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this post! I hate using my blender - a requirement for an illustration class. What a great alternative use :)

VidaModa said...

This is a great idea!! I will be going out to buy one today!!

Love your gift tags!!

In Honor Of Design said...

This is fantastic. thanks for sharing this!

Anna

amy said...

If you don't want to buy a blender pen, or if such things are not readily available in your neck of the woods, you actually only need a solvent/oil/heat + a burnisher to make photocopy transfers.
Googleing "photocopy transfer technique" will net you a lot of different options.
This is one of the best step-by-steps of the technique that I've seen, though.

handmade romance said...

awesome! love this idea. great tut too. thanks for sharing xx

my name is lauren. said...

i am absolutely 100% in love with this idea. seriously... this makes my day...and probably even my week...except for christmas...this will probably get beat out by christmas...but other than that...this is genius and i'm totally going to get a blending pen.

jodi of the creative JAR said...

great tutorial - thanks for sharing!

Nicole said...

AMAZING! I need a blender pen!!! Thanks for posting this!

mayaluna said...

I'm off to get a blender pen today!! Thanks!

Amy's Stocking Stuffers said...

Terrific idea! Thanks so much for this. Wow, a craft idea that needs a tool I actually own! ;-) (My craft supplies are limited -- but I do have a blender pen!)

Annette said...

I love this. In college twen::COUGH::ty years ago. I was an art major. my teacher had something called end roller cleaner. very evil stuff. but you could use it to transfer photocopied images. She told me it was used to clean the machines used to print newpapers. (at the time) it smelled to high heaven but it worked just like this....

alegnaavlis said...

SAFETY WARNING - blender pens contain xylene and are highly toxic to breathe. Use outdoors or wear a mask - be safe! Note that you can use xylene or acetone (hardware store) in a fine spray bottle or mister, or cotton balls for larger images. I teach image transfer workshops

Elizabeth said...

wintergreen essential oil does the same thing as the pen too! and you don't have to wear a mask...

witchmountain said...

At college we used something called "screen wash" which had very toxic fumes, these pens sound better. I love this blog and just thought I'd mention that I have a "Giveaway" at the moment on Witchmountain...Happy New Year

Ricardo Amado said...

Jan, thanks for the tutorial!
I've tried it a lot of times, but it didn't work. I did exactly as you said, but the final image is really light, hard to see. I'm using a "Pro Marker LetraSet" Blender Pen. What do you think might be the problem?
Apreciate your help.
Thank you!
Rich (Lisbon, Portugal)
PS: Love ur blog!

becka said...

Hey Rich! Becka here, I wrote the tutorial. I'm sorry you're having trouble with it working! Are you using photocopied images or laser printed images? I find that laser printed images can be a bit tricky as each printer is different and uses a different amount of ink. We've had some laser printed images work well and some not well at all so his might be why you're having trouble, there not being enough ink. However I've never had problems with a photocopied image as you can usually guarantee a whole lot of ink is used in each copy.

I've never used the type of pen you're using, and I'm sure they're all pretty similar but if you're interested we use a 'Chartpak Blender Marker' ( https://store.opusframing.com/sagro/storefront/store.php?mode=browsecategory&category=1863 ) which works really well. I hope this helps, please feel free to contact me over on my blog if you need anymore help!

ninapicnic said...

Becka, thank you so much for such an attentive answer!
I actually tried the technique with many different images. Laser prints, photocopies and magazines. I think the problem is really in my Blender Pen. The one you sugested is really hard to find in Europe, so I'll keep looking for it. Anyway, I tried the same technique using nail polish remover instead of the blender, and it worked just fine for laser prints and photocopies! id doesn't work for magazine images though.
Thanks for your attention once again!
Best regards,
Rich

rebecca said...

i used this technique in a bookmaking class a while back. works great. the pens do seem to run out quickly - the xylene is super volatile and evaporates fast. however, if you're willing to deal with the stuff in bulk you can pick up a can of xylene and refill your pen w/o having to buy new ones. i'll be looking into the less toxic wintergreen oil in the future... as long as i don't mind my work smelling like toothpaste!

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