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Capture favorite photos in clay pendants

Capture memories in the form of a brooch or pendant, using the photocopy image transfer technique and polymer clay.  

This direct image-transfer technique is easy to master and does not require special papers or transfer gels. This versatile method can be used to transfer copies of drawings, copyright-free images, text, and original color or black-and-white photographs. Using a high-contrast black-and-white photocopy of an image, you can personalize your jewelry without damaging the cherished original. To complete this project, you’ll learn to use simple cold-connection techniques to mount your polymer piece in a sterling silver frame.


  • Polymer clay
    • White or pearl, 2 oz. (56g)
    • Contrasting color, 2 oz. (56g)
  • Bail (optional)
  • Sterling silver sheet: 22-gauge (0.6mm), half-hard, 2 x 2 in. (51 x 51mm)
  • Pin stem: 1 1⁄2 in. (38mm)
  • Photocopies: black-and-white, carbon-based toner
  • Acrylic roller or pasta machine*
  • Nonstick work surface
  • Tissue blade: rigid and/or flexible; or craft knife
  • Cotton swabs
  • Astringent: low alcohol content, cosmetic liquid
  • Parchment paper
  • Stationery burnisher
  • Texture plate or rubber stamp (optional)
  • Paintbrush: fine-tip
  • Liquid polymer clay
  • Oven*
  • Glue stick
  • Jeweler’s saw, 2/0 blade
  • Center punch
  • Flex shaft, 0.5mm drill bit
  • Chainnose pliers
  • Flatnose pliers (optional)
  • Finishing items (choose from): needle files, sanding stick, abrasive rubber wheel

*Dedicated to nonfood use.



Make photocopies

Gather photographs, line drawings, captions of text, or copyright-free artworks that appeal to you. It is important that these images still look good when reduced in size to 1 1⁄8 in. (29mm) or smaller. Rectangular compositions work well, and for this project, the longest sides of my reduced image will be 1 1⁄8 in. (29mm). The original images can be either black-and-white or color, but you must make a black-and-white photocopy on a photocopier that uses carbon-based toner. Fresh photocopies work best, so make a few extra photocopies to practice with while you get the knack for achieving a successful transfer.

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1. Trim the photocopied image. Cut the photocopy, leaving a 1⁄4-in. (6.5mm) border of plain paper around the image.
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2. Condition the polymer clay, and position the photocopy. Condition light-colored polymer clay, and roll it out to 1⁄8 in. (3mm) thick, or run it through the second-thickest setting of a pasta machine. Use a craft knife or tissue blade to cut a shape out of the clay that is slightly larger than the trimmed photocopy. Lay the photocopy image-side down on the clay.

Apply astringent and burnish the paper

Moisten a cotton swab with a low-alcohol-content astringent. Rub the back of the photocopy with the moistened swab, being careful to moisten the entire image.

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3. Roll the dry end of the swab over the paper to absorb any excess astringent. 
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4. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the photocopy, and use a stationery burnisher to burnish the paper for 30 seconds. 

When the astringent has evaporated, repeat steps 3 and 4 twice. 

Since there are variations in astringents, papers, and photocopy toners, you may need to experiment. Altering how many times you moisten the paper, how long the paper dries between applications of astringent, or how much pressure you use while burnishing may improve your results. 


Remove the paper and crop your image

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5. Very lightly remoisten the paper one last time with astringent, and dry it with a clean swab. While the paper is just barely damp, grip it at one corner and peel the paper from the clay in one steady motion. The astringent should have transferred the toner from the photocopy to the clay to create your image panel. 
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6. Remove the image panel from the work surface. Gently slide a tissue blade under the image panel to lift the image panel from your work surface. Be careful not to stretch the clay, or the image will distort. 

Use a craft knife or tissue blade to crop the image panel to the desired shape for your brooch or pendant. 


Here are some frequently asked questions about photocopies.

What size should I make the final photocopied image?

If you want to retain a lot of detail in the reproduced image, start with an original photo that is 3 x 5 in. (76 x 127mm) or smaller. Reduce the original image to approximately 1 1⁄8 x 1 1⁄8 in. (29 x 29mm) for a jewelry-sized project. If you use original images that are 4 x 7 in. (10.2 x 17.8cm) or larger, make a reduced copy, and then reduce that copy again. Alternatively, you could reduce the image in Adobe Photoshop prior to making your photocopy or focus on a smaller detail of the image.

What kind of photos should I choose?

For best results, select images that are in sharp focus and that have a fair amount of contrast — distinct dark and light areas. Avoid photos that are made up entirely of gray tones. If you must select a photo with gray tones, use Adobe Photoshop to increase the contrast.

Is it okay to make black-and-white copies from a color original?

Sure, but make sure there’s enough contrast.

What kind of photocopier should I use?

This process requires black-and-white photocopies made from a copier that uses carbon-based toner. Do not use ink-jet copies.

Can I make good copies at my local copy shop?

Absolutely. Many copiers today have programmable settings to sharpen, adjust contrast, and make a mirror image. All of these settings can help when making a copy of your original.

Hey, he wasn’t left-handed in the original photo!

The photocopy must be made as a mirror image of the original photo in order for the transferred image to have the same orientation as the original. This is especially important if you have text in your photograph, and this is where the programmable copier at a copy shop would come in handy.

What happens to my original photo?

Nothing. This process uses a photocopy, not your original photo, to transfer the image to the clay.

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