How to Transfer Type to Wood Furniture

Today I am happy to bring you a project that takes me back to my blogging roots. Do you remember when DIY home decorating blogs were all about thrifty makeovers?  Do you remember when fonts were huge and we could not get enough of them?

Well today’s posts is bringing both of these back to you along with how to transfer typography to wood furniture.

One thing that my living room has been lacking, even in my previous house was side tables. I really didn’t want anything too heavy or expensive, plus I wanted to be able to move the tables around where and when needed easily.  I wanted tables that would be multi-use.

How to paint wood furniture with chalk paint

I found this set of wood tray tables and a stand for $26. They were in perfect shape, but brown.

Furniture painting ideas using fonts and lettering

I didn’t have a clue on how to transform them until I saw this window at a little bistro near where one of my daughters lives.

Many of you often ask me, “Where I get my ideas from?”  I look and see inspiration all around me. When I saw the words “EAT” in this window in the bistro, I knew what I wanted to do to my thrift store tables.

Keeping the design simple and making something my own that we will use everyday is the best reason to make the effort to transform something with good bones to something you will love and enjoy for years.

I chose to use black paint for the lettering because every room needs a little black. In my living room I have a black TV, black screen door, black clock numerals and black fireplace screen amongst all my color pops. The touches of black around the room ground everything. Makes you want to pull up a chair and stay awhile.

Since I got the idea on how to paint the tables from a bistro, I decided instead of calling them TV tray tables or just tray tables. I am calling them my Bistro Tables. Sounds more hip, don’t you think?

AFTER: My Bistro Tray Tables

Thrift store furniture makeover using paint. Wood TV tray tables become chic bistro tables that can be used in many ways. Check out the awesome tutorial and free printables for each word on the tables so you can do this yourself. | In My Own Style

I used DIY chalk paint in white and black. I made it using a new ingredient, one that does not lighten black or deep colors of paint. I want to test it out more before I write up a post on it.

How to paint a TV tray and add lettering
How to transfer typography and lettering to furniture
Free printables for TV tray tables
Hwo to paint thrift store wood furniture and then transfer typography from a computer printout onto the surface. | In My Own Style

How to Paint Wood Furniture That Has a Previous Finish

supplies needed:

  • Chalk paint – I made my own. Find the recipe here —-> DIY Chalk Paint Recipe
  • High quality paint brush – I like using Purdy angled brushes. Either 1-1/2″ or 2″ wide
  • 100 grit sandpaper on a sanding block
  • Damp towel and tack cloth
How to paint wood furniture
  1. Sand all surfaces to be painted. You just need to go over the surface to provide some “tooth” so the paint has something to grab onto. A quick 5-minute going over will be enough.
  2. Clean off all sanding grit with a damp rag or tack cloth. Let dry.
how to paint wood furniture with chalk paint

3. Apply 2 – 3 thin coats of chalk paint. Let each one dry before applying the next coat. When using chalk paint, no primer is needed.

How to Transfer Typography to Furniture

There are many ways to transfer an image to a surface. For my tables, I used the wax paper method. I like it the best since it gives you an exact copy of your image. With other transfer methods, you trace over the image using a pencil. These work, but if your hand is unsteady, your image will look off.

When transferring images using the wax paper method, you need to make a mirrored or reverse copy of your image. This is easily done using photo editing software like Photoshop Elements or Pic Monkey. I have included free printable .pdf’s of both the regular and mirror image of each of the words I used for my tables so if you want to use them you can do so with any transfer method. Links are at the end of the post.

If you would like to see another way to transfer an image that does not require a printer, see this post or this one. 

supplies needed: 

  • typography or an image file on computer
  • wax paper
  • ink jet printer
  • craft knife or scissors
  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of printer paper
  • piece of cardboard or credit card
  1. Use a piece of printer paper as a template to cut wax paper to the size needed to fit into your printer. Using a craft knife on a self-sealing cutting mat makes this easy.

Tip: Fold over a length of wax paper a few times so you can cut a few pieces at once.  


2. Once you have printed out a test print of your image on printer paper, load the cut 8-1/2″ x 11″ piece of wax paper into your printer and print out your image.


3. The ink will be on the top side of the wax paper coming out of the printer, which since you used a mirrored/reverse image is the correct side. This is the side you will want to place down on your surface so the ink will transfer. Carefully remove the print-out. The ink will be wet and will smear easily. It does not have to be transferred right away. Within a few minutes is good, so don’t feel you have to rush.

How to Center Image on Furniture

How to center an image transfer on furniture
  1. Using the test print out on regular computer paper,  fold it in half, then in half again.

2. Open it up and make a small hole where the folds meet in the center. This is the center of your image.  Note: This centering method only works if the image is centered on the printer paper. 


3. Find the center on the surface you will be transferring your image. Make a small mark with a pencil.


4. Look at where the center is on your folded piece of paper and then find it on the wax paper print out. Mark it and then match the mark on the printout to the mark you made earlier on your surface. Use the edge of a credit card or piece of cardboard to lightly go over the image to transfer the ink to the surface.

How to transfer typography images to wood furniture

5. Carefully remove the wax paper.  Depending on your surface or the sheen of paint, the ink may transfer differently. This transfer is light in some areas, but as long as you can see the outline of the letters, you will be able to follow them to paint over. If transferring to bare wood and you are after a distressed look, you don’t even have to paint the image if the ink is dark enough.

How to Paint a Transferred Image On Furniture

When using the wax paper transfer method on painted pieces, you may need to go over each letter with paint. This is what I did.

supplies needed:

  • 3 sizes of small tipped paint brushes. Wide, small tip, and very tiny tip
  • Paint

I made up a batch of black chalk paint using a new recipe!  So far I am loving it. It has no clumps of white and does not lighten black and dark paint colors like chalk paint powders can sometimes do. After some more testing, I will share it with you.

  1. After you transfer your image, let it dry. If there are any smudges, use a wet Q-Tip and damp paper towel to remove them before the ink dries. If your image has smeared, you have a few minutes before it dries so that you can remove it from the surface with a wet soapy rag.

2. Use the wide paint brush first to fill in the larger areas of your image. Use the smaller tips for tight and thinner lines. Make sure you brush over the edge of every line of paint after each brushstroke so you don’t create too many brushstroke ridges in the paint. You want to keep the paint as flat as possible.

3. Keep a paper towel nearby to wipe paint build-up off your brushes. This will help you paint sharp lines.

How To Protect Your Transferred and Painted Image

supplies needed:

  • Furniture wax
  • Soft, lint free cloths

Once paint is completely dry:

  1. Using a clean lint free cloth, wipe a thin layer of wax over the entire surface. Wait a few minutes, then use a second soft cloth to buff the wax to a subtle shine. Repeat process to build up protection. 2- 3 layers will be sufficient for most surfaces.
What is the best wax to use over chalk painted furniture

I have used many waxes and like Fiddes and Sons Clear wax the best. It is medium priced, doesn’t smell too bad, and buffs to a nice shine easily. The wax I do not recommend using over painted pieces is Briwax. It will remove some of the paint.

How do you apply wax over chalk paint?

I find cut-up, old, well-washed t-shirts work well for applying wax. White and well-washed fleece works well for buffing.

  • To buff, go over the entire waxed surface using circular motions until the cloth slides over the surface easily. When you first start buffing, the cloth will drag. Use a little elbow grease to get it going and in a minute or so the cloth will begin to slide easily across the waxed surface.
How to transfer typography and lettering to furniture
Valspar Antiquing Glaze

I used Valspar Antiquing Glaze in Asphaltum 98278 around each table’s edges. Then I wiped the excess away to accent the shape of the tables.  You can find this at Lowe’s.

After this dried, I added another layer of wax over the table tops and buffed them to create a subtle shine.

How to makeover furniture with typography image transfers.

I am using one of the tables as I write this post. It is the perfect height for my laptop while I sit on one of my living room chairs.

Craig's List and Thrift store find blog hop

How to Use a Tray Table Besides Using It to Eat from While Watching TV

  • Since the tables are portable, set one up next to your dining room table as an extra surface to hold food that will not fit on the table but you need nearby.
  • Create a party bar on one.
  • Use one as a night table.
  • Use one as a small desk for a child. Personalize it with their name and favorite colors.
  • Instead of putting small items on the floor to paint,cover one with a drop cloth and use as a surface to paint small items.

Transfer typography: Fonts I used –

EAT: Treehouse | SIP: EcuyerDAX |  SAVOR: Pottery Barn | NOSH: Ballerina Script

Free Printable .pdf’s of each word I used for my tables:

Bistro tray table words for painting on furniture


Mirrored/reversed:  SIP | EAT | NOSH | SAVOR

Painted wood furniture makeover. Click to see what you can use from your kitchen to transfer typography or images to furniture and more. It is simple and an easy way to add personality to your furniture makeovers. | In My Own Style

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  1. Love these tables! Is there something with more durability as far instead of wax to use???
    I can’t wait to make these but grandchildren make messes. 😊

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Debbie – You can always use water-based polyurethane like Minwax Polcrylic in a semi-gloss or satin finish.

      Have you ever used a soft wax on chalk painted pieces? I like it much better than poly since if the surface of the furniture gets damaged you can simply sand lightly, chalk paint over it and wax again. Fix is hidden. This is not so when you seal with poly. You sand and touch up with paint and seal with poly, the fix will be raised on the surface and you will see it.

      I waxed my tables 5 + years ago when I posted about them. We use the tables every day and I have not had to do anything to them. :-)

  2. Sandra Willis says:

    Thank you for taking your time to do this for us diy’ers. You’re difinately appreciated! I was wondering if after you chalk paint your piece of furniture, should you sand it before you transfer the graphic?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sandra – I don’t sand before transferring a graphic to a just painted piece of furniture, but you can. It will not hurt and can help with adhesion. I would use 220 grit and go over the area very lightly as you don’t want to remove any paint. Clean off the grit and then transfer and paint the image. Once the paint is dry, then apply a wax or sealer over it.

  3. How do you keep wax paper from jamming in the printer? No matter what I do, the ends curl up on it. I like this idea and I tried the wax paper but had to spend a half hour unjamming it. I bought a 4×8 sheet of tempered hardboard amd trim board for a frame at the lumberyard, making a 2ftx4ft farmhouse sign for my living room with a scripture on it. But do you have any ideas on how to keep wax paper from wodding up in the printer?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Daniel –

      Some printer’s are fussy with different weights of paper. One thing that you can try is to cut a piece of wax paper the exact size of a piece of printer paper. Use tape to attach the two pieces together on the top and bottom. Run your fingers over the tape to make it really smooth. Place the taped together sheets in the printer so that the wax paper side gets printed on. On my printer, I would place the wax paper face down, but your printer may be different. This should work. Once it is printed, remove the printer paper from the wax paper.

      Also check to see if your printer paper weight can be changed in the settings. Some printers have this option. Changing it may help the printer know that what you are placing in is different than normal printer paper.

      I hope you can get it to work.

  4. Sheila Allen says:

    Did you already share your new chalk paint recipe? I have missed it if you did.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sheila – I haven’t written about it as it is an expensive ingredient. It was liquid CCP. If I can find it cheaper I will post about it. Calcium Carbonate powder is still what I use. I have also found that when I want to paint something with black or white chalk paint, I use Waverly Inspirations Chalk paint from Walmart. It is really nice and inexpensive. Cheaper than making my own, at least for smaller projects.

      1. Sheila Allen says:

        Ok, thank you so much! I have really enjoyed reading about your painting projects and was delighted to stumble upon the one about painting upholstery. I have been wanting to do that for a while now but was not use how to get started. I used to make my own chalk paint also but used Behr paint that had primer in it and just used plaster of paris and water and was very pleased with the results, however, I tried the same with Valspar and it was a gunky mess! So it was interesting to see about the CCP! Eager to try it! Thank you again! And I have used the Waverly from Wal-Mart for smaller décor projects. I love them!

  5. Love this idea ! I want to try this . Hope you feel better .

  6. Just wanted to stop and leave a comment because this is by far the most helpful and informative post I’ve read when it comes to transferring images to wood. So thank you … SO MUCH! I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of your posts.

  7. Have a question can you do this wooden trays without the chalk paint!?

    Thank you
    Carolyn Quick!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carolyn – Yes you can use the transfer method over any paint, except ones with a high gloss finish.

  8. Thank you for sharing all these steps! Your tutorial was the most detailed and it was exactly what I needed!
    Will be back for more projects :-)

  9. Does it matter what type of printer? Mine is a laser printer. I really would like to start using this method. Love the tables.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Judy – Yes, it does matter what type of printer you use to make the wax paper design transfer. It should be an ink jet printer. I do not think a laser printer will work since they don’t deposit ink onto the paper the same way an ink jet does.

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  11. Just loved the idea! I must try to make them!!

  12. Debbie @ Refresh Restyle says:

    Can’t wait to try this! Love them!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Debbie – I have had the tables for about a year now, I was so happy to finally be able to transform them. I have been using the daily ever since. :-)

  13. These little tables are adorable! I’ll have to try this transfer method too. xx

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Danielle –

      Thanks. I used to use graphite transfer paper that you can buy at the craft store to transfer images, but the printer/wax paper way is so much more accurate. The hardest part is having to cut the wax paper to fit into your printer. I cut a lot all at once to save time and then store it for the next project.

  14. Great job!! They look so elegant. =) Though I must confess… “Do you remember when DIY home decorating blogs were all about thrifty makeovers? Do you remember when fonts were huge and we could not get enough of them?”
    So THAT’s why I love reading DIY blog archives, but am bored to tears with them nowadays!! It all makes sense now…

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Zovesta – I fondly remember those days and am trying to get back to doing more projects the way it used to be. :-) It is hard though since there are so many blogs and everything has been done hundreds of times. Our own unique voice and style is what will set us apart so we can stay true to our blogging roots.


  15. I love this! What a fantastic way to spruce up the tray tables and such a great tutorial. Thanks for joining in the hop!

  16. Love the ‘bistro tables’ :)
    For protection, couldn’t you also use a clear poly instead of wax?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Linda – Yes. you can use water-based poly instead of wax. 2 – 3 light coats will do it. Minwax Polycrylic is a good brand to use.

  17. Nosh! great word, cute project. I want Bistro tables too!

  18. Jamie | anderson + grant says:

    What a fantastic project! These tables are so useful to have around but aren’t normally anything special to look at. You’re so creative!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jamie – Thanks so much. I bought the tables at a thrift shop last summer, but then when we decided to move, I put them in the basement to makeover someday. Thanks to the Thrifty Blog Hop. I had a reason to get them done. :-)

  19. Stephanie says:

    Ummmm – I think we see a hint of a finished project in that background. Nice!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Stephanie – :-) You are right. You can see a little peek at how I transformed the brick fireplace wall. I am hoping that I get to reveal it on Monday. The project is going to be part of a DIY contest that I have had to keep under wraps.

  20. Love this project and so many of the other projects in this blog hop! Btw, I painted an old dresser with your DIY chalk paint. I love it so much! I used an old athletic sock to paste wax the dresser. Worked like a charm.

  21. I LOVE this tip! Thank you so much for sharing. I will be one the lookout for “bistro tables” (great name!) And that wax paper technique is the bomb!

  22. I love the trays!! I think we may have a set or two around here that could use a little sprucing up. You did an amazing job!

  23. You are amazing!!! I love these side tables! What a great find !!
    Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous weather !

  24. Donna Dickey says:

    Great post! I have wooden tray tables also. Plan to use this.