An apparatus and method are described for applying an intermediate transfer surface, in the form of a liquid layer, on a support surface as may be used in a phase change ink printing system. The apparatus includes an applicator assembly for distributing the liquid layer onto the support surface to produce the intermediate transfer surface and an apparatus for metering the liquid layer uniformly on the support surface. The applicator assembly has a contact medium for removing foreign matter from and delivering the liquid onto the support surface. Preferably the contact medium is a liquid impregnated web that is periodically incremented to present a clean web surface in contact with the support surface. The metering apparatus is a hydrodynamic blade that uniformly distributes the liquid intermediate transfer layer over the support surface. The apparatus provides for sequencing of the applicator, then the applicator and the blade together, and finally the blade only to ensure proper application of the intermediate transfer layer and cleaning of the support surface.