Friday, September 9, 2011

Techniques For Printing On Fabric

You may remember this How To: Print On Fabric tutorial from last year.  Well, it has been getting a lot of traffic lately there have been quite a few questions.  I decided to do a little experimenting and hopefully get everyone the answers they are looking for.

First up, the most frequently asked question: 
Can you wash printed fabric? 
Yes, you can!  Of course, different washing techniques will affect the brightness and longevity of your print.  Below, are a few of the options that I tried out.  Before starting any of them I washed my fabric to remove any chemicals that it had already been treated with and to prevent future shrinking.
I had heard a lot about Bubble Jet Set 2000 recently so I decided to give it a try.  First, you pre-treat the fabric with Bubble Jet Set 2000 by soaking it in the solution for 5 minutes then letting it dry before printing. When I was done soaking my fabric I poured the remaining solution back in the bottle to use later. I also tried the Bubble Jet Rinse for washing. 
I washed all of my fabrics in cold water using the different methods as you can see above.  You can't tell the differences in these photos very well. Although you can see a noticeable difference if you look at the very top photo of this post with the non-pretreated/machine washed next to the pre-treated/bubble jet rinse washed.  I only had time to put them all through two washes so I'm sure that the difference would be even more noticeable long term.
Bottom line, you can wash your printed fabric any way you want.  If you don't pre-treat and then machine wash it, your print will eventually fade.  Pre-treating with Bubble Jet 2000 will make your print stay bright longer.  The Bubble Jet rinse may help some but I didn't notice a big enough difference to justify the cost.  I think regular hand washing works just as well.
Preparing Your Fabric For Printing:
Once your fabric is dry you will need to attach it to something to strengthen it so that you can feed it through your printer.
In my original post I used spray adhesive.  You just spray a piece of cardstock with it and lay your fabric on top of it with the print side on top.  Trim down the fabric edges to the same size as the cardstock.  
Pro:  It attaches well and gives your fabric a lot of strength; both of which prevent printer jams.  
Con:  You have to spray your cardstock outside to prevent coating everything with a sticky over spray.

You can also attach the fabric using freezer paper.  I took a piece of cardstock and laid it on the dull side of the freezer paper.  Then I traced around it to get it the right size.  You could also measure it out but this was easier for me.  Lay your fabric on an ironing board with the side you want printed facing down.  Place your freezer paper on top of the fabric with the shiny side down and iron it until the freezer paper is stuck to your fabric.  Trim away the excess fabric and iron the paper again, paying close attention to the edges.  Every time you move your fabric the bond between it and the freezer paper loosens so try to handle it as little as possible.

Pros:  Not as messy.
Cons:  The hold isn't as good so the fabric may come loose and cause a printer jam.

You can also use Heat N Bond if you want to be able to stick your printed fabric onto another piece of fabric.  Just cut it down to paper size like the freezer paper, peel one side off and stick it to the back side of your fabric.  Trim away the excess fabric and print.  Then peel off the other side of the paper and stick it to your other fabric.

Other Frequently Asked Questions:

Does the fabric get sticky?
Nope.  The adhesive and freezer paper both peel away without leaving any residue behind.  Make sure you spray the adhesive onto the paper not the fabric though.

Does the fabric bunch up while printing?
I never had a problem with bunching when using the adhesive.  However, with the freezer paper it jammed my printer twice.  That is why I suggest ironing the edges twice and handling it as little as possible.  Lighter weight fabrics are more likely to jam using the freezer paper method.

Does this work with a laser printer?
I don't have a laser printer so I haven't been able to test this myself but I did some searching and found this page that had some pretty useful information (scroll down to the very bottom answer).  According to them you can print with a laser printer but the fabric may end up stiff, with a funny smell and crack when washed.

Will it work on any fabric (particularly burlap)?
Yes.  Results will vary depending on the type of fabric.  Cotton fabrics with a thread count of 200 or higher will give you the best quality printing.  Burlap can easily be printed on (you will find a great example here) but because of the rough texture your picture or writing may not print evenly.

Will this hurt my printer?
I've printed a lot of fabric and have never had any trouble with my printer but results could always vary with different makes and models.  If you are concerned about damaging your printer you might want to consider picking up a cheap outdated model and use it strictly for fabric printing purposes.

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Stacey said...

These are fabulous tips, Megan. Thanks so much for posting about this. I've done a few things with varying results. I can't wait to give the Bubble Jet a try.

Pattie @ On Hollyhock Farm said...

Thanks for the tips. I am just afraid to mess up my printer, not that it's an expensive one. Thanks for sharing. 8^)

Jenny said...

Oooh, thank you for this! I have been wanting to try it and now I think I will!

Faith, Trust, and a Little Pixie Dust said...

This is so helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I've always wanted to try it, but didn't feel that I knew enough. You've given me the courage!

Warmly, MIchelle

Karima said...

What a great tutorial! Saw you on linky party and now google following you, Karima :)

Brittany said...

Every time I found one of these that I want to try they never say if they are washable after made. Thanks you for covering that! :) Now I can craft and not question if it will last.

Ann @ makethebestofthings said...

Good information and well written. I would love to master printing on fabric, so this goes on my big to do list. Thanks!

Hobbyaholic (April) said...

Thanks for revisiting this one.

Angie K. said...

Thanks for sharing...great tutorial!

June Scott said...

I haven't tried this yet, but have seen a couple tutorials about it. Thanks for posting such great tips, Megan!

Twigs and Twirls said...

I have been wanting to try this in the worse way and after I read your Tutorial I gave it a shot and I am so impressed with the results !!!! Thank you. Its alot easier than I thought.

Gwen@theboldabode said...

That is crazy! I have NEVER heard, seen or thought about printing fabric. Thanks for the tutorial!

kocouture said...

Oooh, I'm excited! I can't wait to try this out. Thanks so much for the tutorial!

sandi said...

I have also printed on fabric using freezer paper as the stiffner. 2 additional hints from trial and error.
Freezer paper has a grain and should be used so the grain is the same as printer paper. The 8.5 inch side of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper should be along the long edge of the freezer paper ( at least on the brand i have) as it comes off the role. I found this solved the paper jam problems I was having.
I cut my fabric and freezer paper slightly larger than 8.5 x 11 inches and trim it back to the correct size just before I use it. Gives nice sharp edges with no loose threads. I have not tried Bubble Jet Set but I think I would if I was making something that would be washed frequently. Thanks for the tutorial.

missmandie said...

Thank you!!!! This info is a HUGE help!

lilmama said...

so, to pre-treat you wash it with the bubble jet? and then hand wash with...laundry soap?

The Reader said...

If I understand it correctly, using a laser printer, the image will adhere while washing. However, using an ink jet it is important to pre-treat with bubble jet. I have an ink jet and have been experimenting with printing on fabric - without the treatment, the image will run and it will fade, if not disappear, when washed. There are recipes online for homemade bubble jet. I am experimenting with it as I type.

Tru Leigh said...

I've printed on untreated muslin by tacking it onto a piece of printer paper with a glue stick and just printing. It works best for small images and I haven't tried washing it. I'm going to try your method, though.

010101 said...

Hello, I,m a woman from the Netherlands, and have several times printed on fabric.
At first I wash the fabric in my washing machine on 40 degrees with my usual washing product.
After that I use some freezer paper witch I get as a gift from a friend (we don't have it in Holland)
After printing I peel it off and putt it in vinegar for about 10 min. after that I let it dry naturally (not in the dryer)and then iron it.
I've made pillow covers this way and you could wash it on 30 or 40 degrees.
It might become a little lighter but I like the vintage look of that.
This method works only will using black ink, the 1 time I used a colored image I actually saw the blue ink drifting up on the surface of the bowl.
If any have a good tip for colored prints mail me please,

Brenda said...

I have used full sheet stickers to adhere to fabric to feed it through the printer and it works beautifully! You can reuse the sheets several times too. It is by far the easiest method, I think. Also, Epson inkjet ink is permanent (Durabrite Ink).

Susan Lynn said...

To get it to print with less jamming. cut the fabric about 1 inch longer than the cardstock and fold to the back and tape to hold. Feed the card stock so that the wrapped edge goes into the printer first. I used this to print the words on a roadsign quilt I made and it worked great.

Tiffany said...

Have you had any trouble printing with color? I've tried printing on fabric and my blacks always come out fine, but my reds tend to turn yellow. :(

Auntiepatch said...

I've never heard of Bubble Jet 2000. What is it and where do I find it?

Megan @ said...

Bubble Jet 2000 is a rinse that will help set your ink and prevent fading. You can find it here:

ann wagner karel said...

thank you for the good advice.