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Tan wood cabinet with green ivy and white flowers using Decor Transfers Rub on Furniture Transfers



Rub on furniture transfers on green dresser

Rub on Transfers can Dress up your Furniture

Rub on furniture transfers from Redesign with Prima are a great way to apply images and to add color to upcycled furniture. Furniture Décor Decals are perfect for people that are not necessarily artists but would like to get the look of hand painted Décor Art on their furniture. If you are looking for examples of transfer decal art, please visit our inspiration page. You can also find a large selection of Redesign with Prima rub on transfers here.

Transfers can literally go on any flat surface such as: un-painted or painted wood, glass, mirrors, canvas, tile, plastic, metal, leather, tin, fabrics, cardstock, and even paper bags.

Painted storage jars over laid with Rub on Transfers to upcycle furniutre

Rub on Transfers add a Touch of Elegance to Everyday items

Rub on transfers can also be applied to fabric but they need to be sealed with a fabric sealer. Decals can be applied to literally anything that is flat and does not have a resistant coating on it like oil-based products, waxes or top coats.

How do you apply Rub on Transfers to Furniture?

There are 5 basic steps to applying rub on furniture transfers. They are listed below. However, there is a little preparation that needs to be done before you begin the project. Make sure the surface is clean. If you are using old, distressed wood or old glass, clean off any grit or grime.  Impurities can keep the transfer from seating well and cause bubbling.  Also make sure you remove any topcoats or waxes if you are upcycling old furniture. Clean the surface as if you were going to repaint the object by using mineral spirits or other products that can remove old varnish or waxes. Be sure to use water-based products, as oil-based products can damage the transfers.


Tubes of Rub on Transers from Redesign with Prima

Large Rub on Transfers Tubes from Redesign with Prima

To get started, open the transfer tube or package. The larger rub on transfer paper come in a roll and will slide out of the tube. Just remove the included burnishing stick and instruction sheet and put them aside. Take a moment to look at the back of the tube. It will show you the design on the paper with the dimensions. This will help you determine if the transfer will fit onto the surface of the project.

A Decor Transfer image will have multiple elements which can be used on one project or they can be spread over multiple pieces. Sometimes the images may be a whole design on one sheet. At other times, the images are split over multiple sheets depending on its size. If the images straddle multiple sheets, then the edges of the designs will line up with each other. Simply lay them out on the surface of the project to determine the positioning of each sheet.  


Rub on Transfers for furniture or crafts on wax paper with white backing sheet

Rub on Transfers are Printed on Wax paper with a White Backing Sheet


The rub on transfer is printed on the clear sheet of sticky wax paper. It is affixed to a white paper backing sheet for easy transport. When you eventually peel off the wax paper from the backing sheet do not touch the underside of the sheet. It is very sticky, and you can damage the transfer images.

Tips for working with rub on transfers

Storage: Decor Transfers need to be stored in a temperature controlled environment. Do not store the tubes outside, in a garage, cellar, attic or in overly warm places. Keep them out of the sun.

For the Inexperienced: If you are doing a transfer for the first time, do not start with a big transfer. Use a smaller one or one that can be divided into smaller sections to apply. 

Tips for working with Transfers: If you live in a hot or humid environment and the transfer tubes have been left in a warm place, try putting the tubes in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. This will make it easier to remove the backing paper without the transfer decals sticking to it. When the decals are warm, they can tend to stick to the white backing paper. Cooling them down makes them release a lot easier. 

Alternatively, if the decals are not releasing from the wax paper when you are affixing them to the surface, you can place a towel over the wax paper and lightly rub a slightly warm iron over the area. This will heat up the decal and help it release from the wax paper. Important: Do not overheat the area as it can damage the decal. Just apply enough heat to warm the area and try burnishing or rubbing again as described below. 


The Five Steps to Applying Rub on Furniture Transfers

1.)  Cut out the pieces of the transfers that you are going to use. 

Cutting Rub on Transfer Paper with scissors to apply to Furniture of Crafts for Upcycling

Rub on Transfers can be cut to fit your Projects

One of the nice parts about using rub on transfers is that you can choose to only use the parts you like on any given project. You can keep the remaining parts of the pattern to be used later. Just roll up the unused patterns and store them back in the tube. You can also keep the included burnishing stick to have as a spare in the future.

Make sure that you keep the transfer on the backing sheet paper before you apply it. You will want to position it a few test times before actually peeling off the backing sheet. Also, you may want to cut out or trim pieces at this time to help things fit your project just right. It really helps to have a pair of very sharp scissors when cutting rub on transfers.

2.)  Placing the Transfer Decals

Laying out Rub on Transfer on Craft project to fit the design

Do a Test Layout of your Rub on Transfer before Applying

Surface Preparations: Remember to remove any existing wax with mineral spirits and rinsing, just like you would if you were repainting furniture, before you apply rub on transfers. When you are ready to apply the transfer, make sure the surface is clear of debris from cutting or dust.   

Decal Placement: Before you peel off the backing paper, test your decal placement. If you are a perfectionist, you can use measuring devices to precisely place each section, or you can just eyeball it. The point is to test it out and think about it before applying it to furniture. Once you place it on, it is very hard to remove. More likely than not you will harm the decal if you try to take it off and move it again. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once.

Hint: If you are putting the transfer decal over a curved surface or something with a ridge or crack in it like a piece of furniture, the decal may crack or split. That is ok. You can fill it later with a little paint or distress the rest of the piece to match the style. This is about having fun and making beautiful art pieces. Enjoy what you are working with! It does not have to be perfect.

Pulling of backing from Rub on Transfer to apply to Furniture or crafts for Upcycling

Pulling away the Wax Paper from the Rub on Transfer 

Application: Start by peeling the transfer off the white backing paper. Be very careful not to touch the back of the wax paper. The backside of the wax paper with the transfer on it, is very sticky and will adhere to your skin. Just make sure not to touch underneath the transfer with your fingers. 

Large Pieces: When working with a larger piece, carefully align the corner of the transfer to the surface. Then gently begin to push down on the transfer while you are pulling the wax paper from underneath. This will help it from forming bubbles or getting stuck. After you apply the transfer, use your hands to flatten it out. Remember once you place the transfer it is very difficult to move it. 

Small Pieces: If you are working with a smaller piece, you can remove the backing paper entirely and then place it flat onto your surface.

3.)  Rub the transfer onto the surface

Rubbing out Rub on Transfer decal with burnishing tool on to furniture or crafts for upcycling décor art projects

Use included Burnishing Tool to Rub over the Transfer Decal

Using your Burnishing Tool:  After the transfer is in place you now can transfer it to the furniture by rubbing it out or “burnishing”. You can start by using the included burnishing tool to rub over the transfer. This will affix it to the surface. While rubbing, you will see the color change on the wax paper when the decal has been securely affixed. You will need to go over every piece of the decal and ensure that it has properly adhered to the surface.

If you’d prefer a larger burnishing tool with a comfortable handle, visit here: We sell these in our store.


Transfers versus Vinyl Decals: The Décor Transfers are like a vinyl decal in the way you apply them. However, they are much thinner than your typical "decal". Once they are applied, they give the appearance of being painted on the surface. Whereas a vinyl decal has a pronounced feeling of a bump when you touch over the edges, a rub on transfer has very faint edges. Your friends and family will be calling you an amazing artist! While burnishing, make sure you rub over the whole surface and pay special attention to the edges. This can be very therapeutic. You can rub out your irritations while you are applying the transfers.  

4.)  Burnish all over the image

Burnishing Rub on Transfers on to furniture or crafts for upcycling Décor projects

Thoroughly Burnish over the entire Transfer

Releasing the pattern: After you’ve finished rubbing over everything, pick a corner of the wax paper and very slowly pull it off. Do not go fast, as you may tear the transfer. As you are peeling, watch to see if the paper is fully releasing from the transfer. If it is not releasing, use the burnishing tool to rub some more to get it to release. Usually, little images or words with thin areas are the most difficult to set.  Keep burnishing as you gently pull, to ensure it attaches. Also, if you are having issues with the decal releasing remember the tip above about the iron.

peeling the wax paper off of Rub on transfer for furniture upcycle or craft art décor  project

Slowly pull off the Wax Paper from the Transfer Decals

Patterns in two pieces: If you are using a furniture decal pattern that is split over 2 pieces, trim the connecting piece so that when you place it next to the first image there is no spacing. After trimming, align the pieces together and do the rubbing process for the entire piece. After you peel off the wax paper you can take your finger and rub it over the joining parts to smooth them out. It is worth taking extra time to burnish the entire image again. You want to make sure that there are absolutely no bubbles or wrinkles in the image. This is where you make or break the project. 

burnishing rub on transfers with burnishing tool to affix decal to furniture or craft Art Décor Projects

Just take your time and burnish, burnish, burnish!

5.)  Seal the Rub on Transfer

Transfers adhere best to a flat finish, and it is typically best to seal your piece after the transfer application. You do not have to seal furniture transfers if the art piece is going to be hung on a wall or displayed like on a window or a mirror. However, if it is going to be attached to a piece of furniture that gets a lot of use like a table or shelf, you should definitely seal it. 

Best sealants: You can seal the project with a good furniture sealer or furniture wax. Do not use an oil-based sealant on your transfer, as it may cause the transfer to deteriorate. Any water-based sealer including a polyacrylic from your favorite paint line will do.  

Softening the edges: Putting furniture wax on the transfer will also help to soften any of the very faint lines that may be felt when touching the rub on’s edges. The wax will make them disappear and it will look like you hand painted it. If you are seriously crafty you can soften the edges of the decals or distress the entire project by softly using a high grit sand paper such as with 220 grit. However this is an optional technique.


Sanding rub on transfers to create a distressed look on furniture or craft art Décor projects

Optional Sanding to Distress the look of the Transfer


You can overlap furniture transfers

Rub on transfers are very thin and can be overlapped for various effects. However, be aware that because they are very thin, the back image may bleed through a bit. There are times that layering can provide you with a very nice effect. For example, you may want to put some wording on an image to give it more meaning. Alternatively, you might want to put a beautiful image over some flowing script. That is the beauty of rub on transfer decals.  They can give you endless creativity and inspiration.

Rub on Transfer Décor Art on white country style dresser

Now go forth and make art!