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Grafix Rub-onz: “Create Your Own Rub-On Transfers”

April 2, 2011

Rubonz
Above: Example of transfer made with "Rub-onz" from a scan of one of my colored pencil sketches. Read below for more details and info on what the letters A-E are calling out.

Over a year ago a friend gave me a product called Rub-onz from Grafix. I never got around to using it until I started working in this year's fake journal. I have the following to say about the product.

1. If you would like to see the original colored pencil sketch it is the SECOND turkey sketch in the post I'm linking here.

Note: Some of the difference in color and brightness is from my haste to not color correct exactly the transfer scan, but most of the difference is due to the fact that the transfer is plastic and reflects the scanner's light—you really need to have artwork using this product shot by a photographer who can compensate for this.

2. The product works in this way. You stamp (with rubberstamps) or print (with your color printer) on a special paper on its rough side. Next you cover the printed side with an additional sheet, this one is sticky and the sticky side goes face down onto the printed side of the other sheet. You burnish the sticky paper into the other. Then you pull away the sticky sheet's backing to expose another sticky surface. You place that surface sticky side down onto your page/artwork, etc., and burnish. Then you peel away the carrier sheet's protective sheet that is now on top. In this process you have trapped the ink from your printing between the carrier sheet and the page you're putting it on. As you can see if you compare my original scan from the link with today's image, you get a reversed image (unless of course you want to pre-reverse your image because it has writing etc., but you get the idea).

3. When you work with this process you essentially get something that is like a decal, i.e., it is not like rub on or transfer lettering where only the transfer image transfers, but the entire area is like a sticker. That means you have a plastic surface on the top when you're finished. You can see this in my photo today at A and C and E, where the edges of the transfer show because of the glare from the scanning process (A and E) or where the underlying paper changes levels, as at C and you see more glare as the "sticker" steps up to the higher level of paper beneath it. (I had no place in my journal that was open to transfer this image and so I did it over a note that was stuck on the inside back cover. Some of the note is obscured to protect a friend's privacy.)

4. The process doesn't print white, so what you see as white in your original is going to be clear in the final. Hence the text you see through the image overlay in my sample is UNDER the transfer.

5. At B there is some odd bubbling that occurred in the transfer process.

6. Printing was simple and straightforward on an Epson Photo R2880. I ganged (grouped) several images on the 8.5 x 11 inch sheet so as to not waste any of the material.

7. Applying the sticky backing is VERY tricky. It may be that the material should be used before one year, but then there should be an expiration date as we all know products sit in stores. The edges of the sticky sheet didn't pull off easily, instead the sticky film caught at the backing's edge and stretched. Any deformation there makes that area useless—i.e., reduces your useable space and amount of product.

8. Burnishing and getting the air bubbles out is tricky. Roll the sticky backing sheet down a couple inches at a time, burnishing as you go, for best results. (If the sticky film came off its backing easier then this process would be more straightforward.)

9. What is simple is cutting around your images at the level of detail you want to complete—it does take time however, so this is a fussy technique.

10. Pulling off the backing sheet and applying it to your art paper is fairly simple. I transferred on to relatively smooth drawing paper with best results. I transferred on to a slightly cold-press like textured paper with less satisfactory results because of the tooth of the paper—you couldn't get complete adhesion of the "decal."

11. Rectangular pieces, when printed at the edge of the sheet are problematic because the edges of the sheet easily spoil and then your transfer is spoiled. Oddly shaped images which you can cut around in a non-retangular way can hide this type of damage and inconsistency.

Final Thoughts
I thought that the color richness and depth was great with this product, but I was also using a great printer.

I found the technique fussy and prone to waste, if you aren't very careful.

I have not tried to paint over the transfers to see what happens when they get wet.

I don't like the plastic of the final result. I don't like the feel and I also don't like the visual aspect of that reflective plastic staring back at me. The decal never really disappears completely, if you have clear vision. Does it disappear enough? That's for you to decide if you use it.

If you are creating journal pages or artwork where you want to place your artwork over your writing or another image this might be something with which to play. Transfers made in this way are certainly more crisp, colorful, and exact than acrylic transfers (where the paper you printed on and embedded in acrylic medium has to be scrubbed away), but unlike those transfers you always have that plastic remaining. In an acrylic transfer the acrylic layer over your image is easily blended with acrylics into the body of your painting.

It's acid free but there is no comment in the packaging on how long the adhesive might last. I would be concerned about permanency.

I will say that is was fun to work with the product and it might be an interesting item to have at a child's birthday party if you have the equipment to scan and print artwork. The children could create artwork, you could scan it and print it and then supervise the making of "decals" which they could use in additional artwork, or take home for future play.

Current price? A mystery to me. I think the sticker says $9.95 for a package of four 8.5 x 11 inch sheets (the sticker is partly obscured). That's a bit pricey for constant and extensive use, but it just might be worthwhile having a pack in your supply kit.

Personally, I would rather keep the money, do all my overlapping and composing in Photoshop, and print out a final print that didn't have any of this plastic on it. I'll file the rest of the sheets in case a use pops into my mind.

Like any creative product, however, sometimes we come upon a use for it unexpectedly. That's why I'm writing about it today. You might have already thought up 10 creative uses that would fit seamlessly with the way you make art or journal! Let me know if you do.

  1. Reply

    whoa…what a procedure..I think after that you could go perform brain surgery:) THanks for all the info on this sheet. I went rummaging in my stash and I actually found some…but I will save the time and effort and paint something instead:)

  2. Reply

    I have had these for a couple of years, and frankly, I find these rub-ons to be quite disappointing. The first time I used them, the sticky sheet stuck sideways to the sheet with the printing, and the whole thing was ruined. The company replaced it, but I really don’t like that plastic-y feeling you mentioned.
    Back to the old drawing board.

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