How to Transfer a Recipe onto Wood

Have you ever wondered how to transfer a recipe or special saying onto a piece of wood? In light of all recommended social distancing right now, this might be something for which you already have the materials. My friend had a special request for a unique gift she could give her mother-in-law that incorporates a hand-written recipe. What better background for this than one of our cutting board cookbook holder backgrounds from our January 2020 BOXED UP subscription box! This week, I’m going to take you through the steps of how to do this on something similar. Here is the paper with which we started. There was really nothing much to eliminate in the background and the lines are considered like text or writing to the scanner.

Use an app to create as clean of a background as possible.

Darcey, my assistant, found an app called CamScanner that allows her to scan an image or document and create a whiter background. For instance, if the recipe was on an actual recipe index card, she could remove say, a floral pattern on the background.

Print your recipe as the “mirror image” and on a laser printer. 

You’ll need to place your paper facing down on the wood, so you’ll need it to be printed in the mirror image so that, when you lay it down face down, it looks “normal.” mirror image copy of a recipeI do not have a laser printer, nor do I have the ability to print in mirror image, so I took the scanned recipe to Staples and had them print for me. You’ll also want to print on 20lb paper which (so I’m told) is the lightest weight paper available. Make sure your paper is cut exactly to what you want to show on the wood. If you have any marks in the margins that you don’t want to be on the wood, make sure to cut those out. mirror image of a recipe that has been cut to size

Apply a medium layer of Mod Podge to the wood. 

I forgot to take a photo of this step when I was doing the actual cutting board project. So, instead, I grabbed a piece of scrap wood that was already stained and am showing you on that. (By the way, I did stain my cutting board prior to doing anything else.) Don’t apply too little of the Mod Podge and not too much. Too much could cause your paper to rip once you apply it. But, too little could cause it not to stick enough.person applying mod podge to wood

mod podge applied to wood

Lay your paper onto the wood over the Mod Podge.

Lay the paper writing side down onto the wood and press it down with your hands and a credit card or squeegee. Make sure to smooth out all bubbles. Anywhere that there is a bubble means that the design will be missing in that spot once you do the upcoming step.person using squeegee to apply paper to a piece of mod podged wood

person using squeegee to get air bubbles out of decoupage project

person working air bubbles out of decoupage project with finger

Allow your paper to dry on the Mod Podge for 24-72 hours. I let mine dry for two and a half days. Here is where I remembered to start taking photos…

paper applied to a wood cutting board with mod podge

Dampen a rag thouroughly and ring it out (almost completely). 

You need it to be wet but not soaking. Working in one section at a time, allow the damp rag to wet the section enough that you can start rubbing away the paper gently with your finger. You want it to be wet enought that it peels away in layers.person using a wet washcloth to dampen paper

using a wet rag to remove paper in a wooden paper transfer project

person using finger to peel away paper in an image transfer

peeling paper in a decoupage project

If it’s not wet enough, you could pull the paper off in full chunks which could pull the writing off as well. That happened to me in a few spots, like on the very last word (which was supposed to be “rack”).  I didn’t panic. It was just a reminder that I needed dampen it a little more and slow down.peeling away paper while transferring a recipe onto wood recipe after being transferred onto wood cutting board

It took almost two full hours for me to remove the paper from the wood! Once I got to the bottom, I went back up with a slightly more damp rag and went over it all again, gently. It will be worth it for my friend who thinks the recipient will love it. And the mistakes kind of add to the charm and vintage appeal… at least I think so!

Finally, I did add 2-3 coats of Mod Podge (the same one I used to adhere the paper at the beginning) as a sealer. I brushed on thin coats and allowed dry time in between. You could also use something like Minwax’s Polycrylic (available at lots of big box stores). It comes in several sheens. The higher the sheen, the more wipeable the finish is for cleaning.

Do you have a recipe or special note with which you’d like to try this? Have you done this before? Let me know – I’d love to see the final result!

recipe after being transferred onto a wooden cutting board






59 thoughts on “How to Transfer a Recipe onto Wood”

    1. I have tried this 6 times on different cutting boards and wood. The ink comes off every time. New printer ink and paper too. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. I left the paper on for different times too 24 hrs, 48 hrs and 72 hrs

      1. Hi Carrie. I’m so sorry you are having so much trouble! It’s so hard to know what the cause might be. Do the cutting boards have a sealer or special protectant on them or are they raw wood? I can say – it is definitely a project that requires a lot of time. I did have a couple of spots where the ink came off when I rubbed a little too hard. I wish I had some sure fire advice but unfortunately it could just be a combination of things. And you were using the lightest paper, too?

    1. Thanks, Michele! This was the background for our January Boxed Up project – someone local now makes a lot of our project backgrounds for us now so that we have more options for projects since I don’t have all the equipment (nor the time)! I’m sure you could try it on a pre-made cutting board as well.

    1. Yes! I don’t think I had done that step when I wrote the post so I forgot to mention that. I will edit to make sure I say that in there! Thanks for asking!

  1. I’m am thrilled to see this post! I’ve held in my possession a recipe from my late aunt. I don’t want to give it away, but want to share it with her son and daughter in law. Now finally I know how that can be done and be a true keepsake! Thank you for solving my dilemma!

    1. Yes, I need to update the post to say that. When I wrote the post, I had basically just finished the previous step and the next day I did add a layer of mod podge again over top. Thank for asking!

  2. Love this! Does this need to be made on an untreated piece of wood or will a store bought cutting board work?

    1. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if the treatments will cause any kind of difference in the process. I’m sorry!

  3. How well does it hold up to cleaning? I don’t mean dishwasher cleaning, but how durable is it? Maybe a clear coat of something permanent .
    Love this, thank you

    1. Hi Marina!
      I have not had to clean one yet since I did this for a friend to give as a gift but I did add a coat of Matte Mod Podge when done. I wrote this blog post prior to doing that and never went back to edit – I will be sure to do that since you are not the only one who has asked that question. You could do the Mod Podge or any water based Poly sealer!

    1. I cannot speak to an inkjet printer since I have not tried that. My research prior to doing mine lead me towards the laser printer. If you could test it on a sample piece of wood that is similar to what you’d be using, that’s what I would do first!

  4. Great project! Other similar projects use an inkjet printer. I just want to make sure you really used a laser printer- which is what I have and would save me a ton of hassle. But, I only have one piece of wood and 3 days until I need it so I only get one shot at it! Could I stain it afterward to bring out more the natural color of the wood? Thanks.

    1. I own an HP Envy 5530 which according to online is an inkjet printer which is why I went to Staples and asked for a laser printed copy. I have not done any project with an inkjet printer that I know of! I did stain my wood but I stained it a fairly natural color to begin with. I would think you could stain after but just be careful that it does not take the stain so much that it causes your writing to blend in. If you have any kind of similar wood you could try on a sample piece, I would recommend that first! Good luck! I’ll be rooting for it to go well!

    1. I did and I just updated the post to say that (thank you). I used a Gel Stain that I had on hand that was requested by my friend for this project. I think I used Prairie Wheat by General Finishes. But I am thinking something like Minwax Early American would look nice as well and be light enough to still see black lettering.

  5. Can you share what you used to seal it. I know you mentioned you were going to update your post but I am hoping to purchase the product all together. Thanks for the great idea and easy to follow instructions

    1. Honestly, I just used the same mod podge (2-3 thin coats, with dry time in between) for this. That will be the most inexpensive most likely! But you could also use Minwax Polycrylic in whatever sheen you’d like. I hope this helps and I hope it goes well!

  6. Do you know if it will work on a painted piece of wood?
    Thanks. Love how it turned out but want to use a painted piece for a project for my mom.

    1. Hi Nina! While I don’t know as I’ve never tried it, I would suggest having an extra copy to test out on a similar painted piece first. I wish I could tell you for sure! Honestly, I never thought I would get so many views or comments on this project! I just did another one for my sister for Christmas but did it on a slightly darker stain than the one in this post. Completely forgot to take a photo, too. I think even if you just try out a small piece of what you want to transfer on the back or another piece just to test it you’ll get a good idea if it will work. Good luck! I’d love to know if it works for you!

    1. Hi Patricia! Mine was not meant for food as this is a cookbook holder. I have not attempted this on something that would be needed for food. I would do something like this more for just decoration – to hang on a wall, off of a mug rack hook, leaned agains the backsplash, on a floating shelf, etc.

  7. Can you do this with type print. I have a 1000 word short story I want to put on a box for my mom for Christmas. I can blow the print up to make it work well.

    1. Yes! The type of print doesn’t matter – just the paper and type of printer are all that I know of that would make a difference. Good luck!

  8. Laura – Have you tried copying onto clear copy plastic made for printers? You can save the Staples step by just turning it around to read backwards and then copying it again. Have done this for inserts in various things, and it works well.

    1. Hi Lori! It is definitely something that can be tricky – it happened to me in a couple of spots but you just have to go REALLY slowly and gently, one layer at a time. It took me several hours to do that one cutting board. Good luck!

  9. Hi, I did to boards. I let them sit for a week before I could get to them. After several trys, it is still very cloudy. Any tips? Or, should I start new? This is a very special Birthday gift for my daughter. The board was made by her grandfather and the recipe was her grandmother’s. They both past on recently. My daughter was very very close to them and I know how much these would mean to her. Hope you can help. Thank you, Sandy

    1. Hi Sandra, I’ve had this happen before also. I never really figured out what caused me so many problems on one project that I did exactly like a previous project that turned out perfectly. What a sweet gift to give. I did another one for my sister last Christmas with my dad’s (who passed in 2018) pizza recipe on it. She said it was the best gift she has ever received which made the time and effort so worth it. But I have had other boards that just gave me such a hard time. If you think you can keep trying the wet rag to get more off, I would try that rather than having to start fresh. What’s hard for me is that there are several variables – type of printer used, type of wood species and finish, etc and how all of those play off of each other to either work well or not. I wish I could give you a definite answer on that so I’m sorry!

        1. Hi Terrie!
          You want it to be wet when you place the paper on as it needs to stick. Carefully rub out all of the bubbles from the center out as you do. Hope it works out well for you!

    1. I believe you should be able to with a photo as well using the same type of paper and printer. You might want to try on a scrap piece first to be sure! I know there are lots of pins about using a photo that might be helpful as well. Good luck!

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