How to Transfer Design onto Gourd (#2 in series)

How do you get a flat design onto a curved gourd? It seems like it would be fairly easy. But you don’t realize just how curved and 3-dimensional a gourd is until you actually try to lay that design on the gourd. The design becomes crooked, wrinkly and ends up in the wrong spot. Have no fear, there is a way. In fact, there are several ways to get through this step successfully. I’ll quickly mention some of the various techniques and then I’ll delve a little deeper into a few of them.

  • tape carbon or graphite paper to your gourd and then tape the design over that. Go over design with pencil or stylus.
  • use glue stick to stick your design onto gourd and burn or trace the outline right through the paper.
  • trace design onto clear plastic wrap, stretch wrap over gourd and burn through the plastic (with a mask!)
  • use rub-on designs
  • free-hand draw your design right onto the gourd
  • photocopy your design onto pyrography paper, tape paper onto gourd and burn through it
  • photocopy your design onto clear adhesive paper, peel back off, stick to gourd and burn your design
  • use pre printed designs on sticky back sheets, stick to gourd and burn design
Gourd design transfer
design transfer using carbon paper, copied design, and lots of tape – awkward!

I think most people who are new to gourding use the graphite or carbon paper method first. I started out using old carbon paper scraps I found in a closet. I carefully taped them to the gourd and then tried to figure out how to correctly place my design on top. I couldn’t see the gourd at this point because I was using a full sheet of carbon paper. Then I taped the design to the carbon paper which was taped to the gourd. I carefully traced the design lines with a pencil. When I thought I was finished, I would carefully peel all the tape off so I could re-use the carbon paper. Taa daa, there’s my design…. wait, where is it? This is where I would realize I had the carbon paper turned backwards. Humph. Very frustrating. All I can do is start over again. I made this mistake many times. I finally learned to peek after tracing a couple lines just to make sure I had it right. Graphite paper works much better than carbon paper. So if this is your chosen method, use graphite.

I know many people use  the clear plastic wrap method, but personally, I don’t get it. I’ve never tried it. Go for it, if you choose. If you are going to wood burn through the plastic wrap, I would advise you to wear a mask as this will create some nasty fumes.

The method using glue stick smeared onto the back of the design actually sounds like it could work, although I haven’t tried it. I actually had never heard of this technique until I was doing research for this blog. I’m going to file this tidbit into my brain and if I have a small simple design element I need to add, I will try this technique.

The next technique I started using after I graduated from carbon and graphite paper, was pyrography paper. I actually accidentally purchased the paper thinking it was something else. Being the super frugal person that I am, I didn’t want to waste it, so I changed my ways and tried it. So much easier than graphite!! I would photocopy my design onto the pyrography paper using a photocopy  machine, cut around the design and tape it to the gourd. I then wood burn right through it. Your design will be so much more accurately reproduced if you burn right along the design lines in this technique as opposed to tracing them through graphite and then wood burning. You loose a lot of details that way. I’ve never used graphite or carbon paper since discovering this pyrography paper. If you use this method, keep in mind you will need to burn your design starting from the center or else your design might fall off if you wood burn a section that doesn’t have tape attached.

Wood burned gourd design transfer
Adhesive back design sheets allow for endless layout possibilities

Because I like lots of detail and try to find the easiest, most accurate way to transfer my designs, I soon found another product. Adhesive backed plastic or vinyl sheets. It’s kind of like shelf liner paper we and our mothers used to use to stick into drawers and onto shelves to line them. You can purchase them in packages with pre-printed designs on them. I LOVE these! I purchase mine from Welburn Gourd Farm. You can also purchase packages of blank sheets. I use both pre-printed and blank. On the blank ones, I collect all my designs for various projects and carefully cram all of them onto a plain sheet of regular paper and tape them down in a few places. I fill every nook and cranny. Then I put it into the copy machine and copy the designs onto the adhesive back paper. I have never had any problems with the sheets getting stuck in the copier. These sheets may be a tad bit pricey, but sooooooo worth it. I can’t even imagine a better technique to use for design transfer. I use these sheets for nearly every single gourd I create.

Gourd Design Transfer
Removing pre-printed Stick ‘n Burn after wood burning design onto gourd

After copying my designs onto the sticky back paper, I carefully cut around the design I want to use. Because it is fairly see-through, I can easily position it onto my gourd and if necessary, lift it up to re-position. When I am satisfied, I smooth it out starting from the center. Smooth out most of the bubbles and wrinkles. Clip the corner curves and make slits where necessary so it fits the curve of the gourd. Don’t worry about a few wrinkles. You can wood burn right through these sheets right onto the gourd, getting every detail. It really can’t get any easier than this. When finished, peel up the sticky paper and wipe the area with baby wipes. I use generic baby wipes from the Dollar Store. Click on this link (here) to learn more about Welburn Gourd Farm’s pre-printed designs (Stick ‘n Burn) and plain sticky back sheets.

One of the greatest things about the adhesive back sheets is that you can adjust your design to fit your gourd. For example, if you are placing a flower design onto a gourd and you feel the stem is too long, just snip part of it out on the adhesive sheet and piece it together on the gourd with a shorter stem. Or if you want more curvature on the flower stem, just cut the stem on the sticky sheet, place the flower where you want it and draw in a curvy line with a pencil. If I have a design of a flowery vine but I want more flowers, I make extra copies of just the flowers on the adhesive paper and then just cut them out, and place them wherever I want them. I then just sketch in the stems. So easy.

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