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

Handmade Fabric Postcards

I love postcards! I’ve been collecting vintage postcards for many years, and when I started printing on fabric, I quickly realized that using my fabric designs and images to make postcards was just going to be way too much fun. This is one of my favorites, a self-portrait with text incorporated into the design, some stitching, and a bit of gauzy fabric.

Fabric Postcard

Here’s another, just a photo of our cat Lars that I stitched around.

Fabric Postcard: Lars Sleeping

I’m in the middle of writing and recording a new online class for CraftArtEdu, to teach you how to make your own unique fabric postcards. I just got to the part where I show different options to make the back of the card, and I thought I’d give you a preview. There are so many options to design the back of your card, but one of my favorite techniques is to scan the back of a vintage postcard. Remember if you’re going to sell the cards to use the copyright-free ones. Here’s a photo of two that I picked to use as examples in the class:

Vintage postcard backsI scanned them:

Postcard backs scannedThen I cleaned them up in Photoshop Elements.

Postcard back postcard backs scan 02b smallI’ll work on them some more, might take the color out of the bottom one, depending on how it prints on my fabric.

Have you made fabric postcards? Interested in giving it a try? Let me know! Well, back to making the class now — I’ll let you know when it’s ready. Click here for the link to the online class, check out the preview if you’re interested!

Kindle-Garden Delights part 1

Amazingly, I have emerged from my adventure in making my ebooks available on Kindle (that’s Amazon.com’s ebook reader, for the uninitiated) with at least some of my coiffure intact.  I have been in the hair-tearing-out stage for the last several days. But first, some history. I had little trouble making my two ebooks, Inkjet Printing on Lutradur and Inkjet Printing on Fabric, into pdfs that I’ve  had available through my Artfire and Etsy stores. The next challenge was putting them up on Lulu, where they are also available as pdf ebooks, or as printed books.

I got through that okay, so let’s move on to the next step. Are you thinking of writing an ebook (or have you already)? What’s the 200-pound gorilla?  Amazon.com, of course. And therein lies the goal that has been on my to-do list for at least a year: get the ebooks formatted for kindle to sell on Amazon. And therein languished the goal month after month, sliding down to the bottom of the list.

What do you think Amazon says about publishing your own book for kindle? I’ll tell you: “Welcome to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the fast and easy way to self-publish your books for sale in the Kindle Store.”  Yeah, right.  Even just looking through the guides and help topics was enough to send me back to the to-do list.

So although I really like to learn new things and do most things myself, I realized that those ebooks were never going to be kindle-ized unless I got professional help.  I was lucky to have a free phone consultation with the inspiring creative-arts business coach, Jane Button.  Jane suggested I contact Joy Randall, who, among other things, helps writers publish theirs books and ebooks through her business Wisdom House.

And Joy was exactly what I needed! She took my WordPerfect file (more on that in part 2) and transformed it into a file that I could upload to Amazon for the kindle. I’m sure she has heard it so much that she’s sick of it, but Joy was really a joy to work with. She patiently answered my questions, she did exactly what we agreed to, and she delivered days earlier than her initial estimate. So ta-da! My first kindle ebook, Inkjet Printing on Fabric, went live on Amazon.com last week.

If you’re thinking of publishing an ebook that involves a format other than pdf (which can be tricky in itself), and you don’t want to learn how to do it yourself, I’d definitely recommend talking to Joy. You can contact her through her website.  There are many other options but I can’t vouch for them since I haven’t tried them.  Anyone out there have other services they’ve used and liked (or not)?

Anyway, getting that first kindle ebook made was easy – Joy did all of the heavy lifting.  But of course I had to pay her for her hard work. And you know (because I just said it) I do so love to learn how to do things myself. So therein lies the hair-tearing-out, about which more soon!

CraftEdu goes live!

Finally – after months of working on classes, taking photographs, writing scripts, narrating, annotating, editing, polishing …  CraftEdu goes live in beta today! I’m so honored to be part of this wonderful group of talented teachers, artists and crafters.  We’re a diverse group, with something for everyone: lots of jewelry artists of all stripes (Donna Kato, the polymer queen, is our fearless leader), but you can also find classes on digital art, fiber and textiles, encaustic, rubber stamping, mixed media, and much more!   Click here to visit CraftEdu.

I have two free classes up: Inkjet Inks, What You Need to Know for Your Arts & Crafts; and Introduction to Lutradur.   I also have two on demand classes up so far: Inkjet Printing on Fabric and Inkjet Printing on Lutradur. I’m busy working on more.  Join my group to ask questions, share ideas, or get information!

CraftEdu

Inkjet Fabric Printing – step by step instructional ebook

I just finished my very first ebook, on my most favorite subject: inkjet printing on fabric.  After writing an extensive booklet for the workshops I’ve been teaching, I decided to put it into ebook form so people who can’t come to my workshops could get the same information.

Inkjet fabric printing ebook

I take you through the entire process to quickly and successfully begin printing fabric on your inkjet printer. You will learn about types of inks, differences between treating fabric yourself or printing on pre-treated fabric, how to prepare fabric for printing, printing the fabric, post-printing treatments, and more.

The information and tips I’ve learned over years of printing on fabric will save you hours of time and much wasted ink and fabric. I have included many illustrations, questions and answers, and trouble-shooting tips.

Illustration: peeling off backing

Illustration: peeling off backing

There’s even a gallery of my original fabric creations to spark your imagination and creativity.

Gallery: butterfly art hanging

Gallery: butterfly art hanging

There are many books on the market about printing on fabric, but because the technology is moving so quickly, a lot of them are outdated. My guide is up to date, and I will revise it as often as needed to reflect changes in the field of inkjet fabric printing. Also, most of the books give general information that might not apply to your personal printer/ink setup. I tell you how to figure out what kind of inks your printer uses, and I can also answer by email personalized questions about your setup, or other problems you run in to when you print fabric. I also discuss the pretreated fabrics that are available commercially, and share the results of my extensive experimentation with printing using the different inks.  In the second edition of the ebook, now available, I added information about using two great products with fabric, inkAID and Golden Paints Digital Grounds (both coatings that make any surface inkjet printable.)  I’ve written a lot in this blog about Digital Grounds, and I wanted to expand the book to include these coatings – most appropriate for art fabric uses.  I also deemphasized the use of Bubble Jet Set 2000, a liquid solution that is the most common product used by people who want to treat fabric themselves for inkjet printing.  BJS contains formaldehyde, and I know a lot of people are concerned about any potential danger.  If you’re interested in the subject, the manufacturer addresses the issue in an article (read it by clicking here).

My ebook is in the format of a PDF file, which you can open and print using Adobe Reader.  I’m offering it through my etsy shop or lulu.com for $10.  Click here for the link to my ebooks section on etsy. If they are sold out and you would like one, please let me know and I will post more copies.  Or click here to see a preview and get it through my lulu shop.