How to Transfer Type to Wood Furniture

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

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

    1. 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. :-)

    1. 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.