DIY Wintergreen Oil and Solvent Image Transfers

You can use oil and solvent to loosen the toner from photocopied images. Once you’ve released the ink, you can transfer the image to another surface. This kind of transfer is a great way to place photographic images onto materials that can’t go through a printer, to give photographs a painterly effect, and to collage images. This video walks you through the process of transferring an image with oil.
Created by University of Michigan School of Art & Design faculty Rebekah Modrak in conjunction with her new book, Reframing Photography:

The wintergreen oil we use in this demo is a compound that’s commonly found in health food stores and is used in very diluted forms for massage. The oil contains methyl salicylate (the main ingredient in aspirin), but in very concentrated quantities, so the oil should NOT be ingested or applied topically.

The image transfer process does not involve eating or touching the oil. As demonstrated in the tutorial, use the cotton swab to apply so that you do not get the oil on your skin.

In terms of safety, the oil is certainly preferable to solvents such as acetone and turpentine. But as with any chemical, prevent the vapor from being an irritant by keeping the bottle capped and by using the oil in a well-ventilated area or using a respirator if in confined spaces. If you need additional information, the Material Safety Data Sheet is online.

Correction: The work shown at the end of this demo is by Pierre Gour.


  1. Ape on May 15, 2021 at 3:01 am

    Does this work on woodblock?

  2. CaspHer on May 15, 2021 at 3:01 am

    Youcan also use tea tree oil

  3. Novella Style on May 15, 2021 at 3:03 am

    will it work if i uses rubbing alcohol???

  4. Sage on May 15, 2021 at 3:10 am

    My grade 10 art teacher showed me this technique years ago, but she used orange extract? I remember it working alright but the best part was how nice it smelled for a very long time

  5. AliBurger2007 on May 15, 2021 at 3:16 am

    Does this work on color printed photos? It is really annoying to only see tutorials for black and white

  6. cking960 on May 15, 2021 at 3:21 am

    i loved this i was wondering if i did that can you use it on ceramics with out it burning up and disinigrateing ?

  7. Alita Hogge on May 15, 2021 at 3:22 am

    Can you use nail polish to transfer image on glass

  8. NFC Radio on May 15, 2021 at 3:26 am

    Hi it is possible to mix toner with solvent and use as Screen printing ink ?

  9. Nessa K (losergoescrazy) on May 15, 2021 at 3:35 am

    I just did this with fingernail polish remover and I wanted to say thannnnkkkk you for doing this tutorial. =)

  10. norm1961 on May 15, 2021 at 3:48 am

    thanks! this is so helpful

  11. Janet Varga Berry on May 15, 2021 at 3:51 am

    wintergreen oil is toxic if absorbed through your skin or if ingested. One teaspoon could kill a toddler. Please take precautions, the vapor is also hazardous.

  12. mercedes maduka on May 15, 2021 at 3:54 am

    Just found this video! Even though it was uploaded ages ago, I’m hoping someone could answer my question. Curious if you can transfer a photograph on to a dried oil painted background? Mostly see people do it over a clear/ white surface…

  13. TheBubbles069 on May 15, 2021 at 3:55 am

    can i do this on glass

  14. cking960 on May 15, 2021 at 3:56 am

    i tryed that it only works on zeroked copyes

  15. Sharee Jones on May 15, 2021 at 3:59 am

    very well done. Thank you!

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