Inkjet Printing on Fabric

I mailed one of my new no-sew fabric postcards to a Postcrossing friend in Italy. In her profile she talked about her passion for creating handmade things including sewing and découpage, and said that she’s always looking for new techniques. 
Wood hyacinth fabric postcard

Wood hyacinth fabric postcard

When she got the postcard she asked for the link to my blog to find out more about printing on fabric. I found an old post that gave an overview but not much concrete info, and it’s high time for me to give you a full-fledged post with the basics of my favorite art process. After you read this if you’re itching to learn more, please check out my Inkjet Printing on Fabric ebook or online workshop.
Printing fabric
Printing on fabric with your inkjet printer isn’t hard, but knowing a few things before you start will save you lots of time and money. There are two main components: your printer and the kind of ink it uses, and the fabric you’re printing on.
First: inks. To get the lowdown on the difference between dye and pigment inkjet inks and why that matters in printing fabric, go on over to CraftArtEdu to watch my free basic workshop about inkjet inks. Or here’s the really quick version: dye inkjet inks are not colorfast or waterfast, so they fade over time and run when exposed to moisture. Because pigment inks are colorfast and waterfast, they are by far the best option for printing on fabric.
Fabric printing color shift dye ink

Dye ink prints: colors fade and shift

Second – you need to choose what kind of fabric to print: (1) untreated, (2) fabric that you treat yourself, or (3) pre-treated commercial fabric. There are pros and cons for each, and what you want to use the fabric for is a factor, but in this post I’ll tell you about commercially pre-treated fabrics, because they’re the most versatile and give the best results for most purposes.
Untreated vs pre-treated fabric

Untreated vs pre-treated fabric

Pre-treated fabrics are backed with paper or plastic to stiffen them so they’ll go through your printer without crumpling up and jamming your printer. You want the fabric sheet as flat as you can get it so the edges don’t catch as the printer heads go back and forth, which can make the fabric shift or leave ink on the edges.

Fabric shifted in printer

There are a lot of different ways to flatten fabric — some tips: try curling it the other way by hand, flattening the sheet under a stack of books, or ironing it.

With so many pre-treated products to choose from it’d get expensive fast to sample them all to find the ones that work best for you. I advise starting out with a few that let you buy small quantities so you can test and compare. I’ve tried most of them, and my favorites for printing with pigment inks are Cotton Satin and Cotton Lawn by EQ Printables. The fabric feels wonderful and the quality of the print is great. In my opinion the plain EQ Printables (the package says only “Inkjet Fabric Sheets”) is not worth the money, so make sure the packages are either the Cotton Satin or Cotton Lawn. I also like June Tailor’s Colorfast Sew-in Inkjet Fabric. It’s stiffer than the EQ but the print quality is great and the stiffness can be ideal for certain projects: I use it for some of my fabric postcards and a lot of my home decor creations like fabric vases and bowls, covered light switch plates, etc.

Fabric vases

Fabric vases

After printing all you have to do is remove the backing from the fabric sheet. If you’re using pigment inks there’s no need to heat set or wash; you can use it right away in your sewing or other art projects. However, even though the fabric will feel dry to the touch, it actually takes quite a while for pigment inks to thoroughly dry. If you don’t need to use the fabric right away you’ll get best results by putting it aside for a week or so.

That’s it for the basics! If you want to learn more this is the link to my blog post about my ebook “Inkjet Printing on Fabric.” My website has a page with links to all of the different options to find my ebook, including the kindle version where you can see a preview of the book.

 Or click here to go to my online workshop on CraftArtEdu, which also includes a free preview.

Lars quilt

Lars art quilt, made with different kinds of printed fabric

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