Backing material for the tiles (cork, foam, felt…)
Polyurethane, brush & brush cleaner
Razor for trimming paper & backing material
White craft glue
Crop and size your image for printing. You should size it to cover the tile’s top surface and the four sides.
Print on the image transfer paper (following the paper manufacturer’s instructions; easy with Lazertran)
Apply the image (a decal), again following the transfer paper instructions. Be prepared to spend a little time (and wasted transfer paper) on your first attempt. Getting the transfer on the tile smoothly – without bubbles & tears – takes a little practice & care (but it’s not really that hard). I find that the corner edges are the most difficult part.
Once the decal has dried (keep following the manufacturer’s instructions) apply 3-4 coats of polyurethane (with appropriate drying and sanding between coats).
Apply a protective backing to the tile’s bottom to guard against scratching tables. Depending on your choice of material (self adhesive or not) white glue works well.
The coasters shown were from my “practice” time where I experimented both with how to apply the image transfer to the tile and what types of images show up best in this application.
There are alternatives to Lazertran but I’ve not tried them. Shop around because the prices vary quite a bit.
Read & follow the instructions for your transfer paper carefully.
I like tile with a little “character” (surface not perfectly smooth and with rough edges) and not shower stall-like subway tile. Dealer’s choice.
You may have some loose edges after applying the transfer paper to the tile and letting it dry. Don’t despair. Dab on a little white glue or wait until applying the first coat of polyurethane which will soften the decal and allow you to press it down on the tile – and the problem will be mostly solved. Past that point, after you apply the first coat of polyurethane and it dries you can smooth all of the small imperfections (usually on the edges at the bottom of the tile and corners) during your sanding. After the 2nd coat and sanding things should be as smooth as a baby’s butt.
Bottom protective surface. Trim as you see fit. In my early tries (below) I went all of the way to the edge, but later allowed about 1/8″ space from the edge – no big deal.
These do a good job of protecting your furniture from hot drinks.
A single tile will take about 10 minutes (cumulative time across printing, transferring, varnishing, finishing, etc.) spread over at least two days. It is most efficient to make these in batches (I do 20 at a time) because the brush clean up and tile drying time between coats of polyurethane will take forever if you’re making several and do them separately.
I wouldn’t put one in a dish washer 😉
Suggestions for similar gifts –
Use a larger tile and make a trivet. You can buy wood and metal tile frames and make a really unique gift.
Print an image in sections across several tiles (say a 3-by-2 six tile grid) and mount these on stiff backing for a really unique photo (to be framed or not).