Fabric Printing:
Here We Go Again

Lynn Schoeffler 2011

   
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"How do I print on fabric" is a question I see come up on different internet forums time and again. A recent question from a CQMagOnline reader made me think it might be time to revisit the article I wrote several years ago: I've learned a few more tips and tricks since then!


Free gift from Trisha at FrenchKissed

While I still love the fabric prints I get from my laser printer because of their sharpness and clarity, I'm happy to report that inkjet fabric printing has come a long way. Good quality ink is a must; many times refilled cartridges won't print with vibrant color. Fabric treated with Bubble Jet 2000 still seems to be the industry standard for good quality prints with an inkjet printer. There are also many pre-treated, printer ready fabric sheets available. Most claim to be fade and water 'resistant'. According to some experts I've talked to like the people at Dharma Trading, iron-on transfers are really the only images that are even hand washable for any length of time. Use your prints in 'art pieces' that won't be washed and overly handled as in a quilt for your grandchild! Good quality ink is a must; many times refilled cartridges won't print with vibrant color.)

One major factor for image printing is the quality of your image. There are currently many scrap booking websites that offer high quality images, and I'd like to introduce you to the owner of one of my favorites, Trishia at FrenchKissed*. Trishia authors a charming blog, featuring her antique French postcards and ephemera, along with salty/sweet commentary, guest artist spots, and teasers from her 'not so monthly' newsletter. Many times Trishia will offer a free image for download, and image discounts from her Etsy and Zibbet stores. I love them all! Trishia digitally re-masters her images and delivers them to you via email in 300 dpi resolution. When asked for permission to use a couple of her images for this article, Trishia immediately offered a free gift to CQMagOnline readers--these two lovely vintage prints in high resolution--ready for your printing pleasure! Further, Trishia says she would be happy to help anyone who might want a logo removed or a special crop on any of her images--just drop her a line.


Your free gift from Trisha at FrenchKissed (see below).

You can do a lot to improve vintage images and old photos with a digital imaging computer program such as Photoshop Elements. One free online version is GIMP.


Belle McCabe, my grandmother.

Even simple actions can make a big difference to an image, as in the two below. This botanical print comes from the Bibliodyssey web site, and is available under a Creative Commons license.**

The Photoshop action of auto color correction and auto sharpen heightened the clarity of the blue flowers. After that, I "cleaned" up the spots on the background, removed the original lettering which was faint, and added my own choice of font. Print your images at 300 dpi resolution.

Another reason I print my own images is so that I can add extra background to the image; I like having the option to piece an image into my CQ with more than four sides. In the photo below, the black line is added to show where the original print ended. Using Photoshop, I extended the cream colored background about three inches, giving me the room I need for piecing.

Here's a work-in-progress showing an image pieced with seven sides. The female figure was purchased from Lunagirl digital images, superimposed over the clock from Graphics Fairy, with the colored background from Temari at The Stockyard.

The quality of your fabric is very important, also. After lots of experimentation, I have given up the silk shirts from the thrift stores I used when I first started making my own prints. The quality is just too variable, and it takes a lot of time to search them out, wash, cut them to size, and then back them with iron-on sheets or sticky paper to make them ready for printing. Of course, this is the most cost effective method!

Lately my two favorite choices for printer fabric come from Dharma Trading: one is a high quality cotton sateen, which can be purchased in pre-cut sheets or on a roll. Images print almost as crisp and sharp as on paper; amazing for a cotton product. Another advantage to this cotton is that prints don't have to be backed with iron-on stabilizer before being pieced into your CQ. Fabrisign fabric is formulated for water-based ink, but I have used it successfully with laser toner; again, for small prints that won't receive a lot of handling.

My second choice is Dharma's silk charmeuse at a 23mm weight, also pre-backed with paper. The printed image is clear, and nothing beats the pearly, luminescent quality of silk! I found the weight to be much less delicate that the hobatai silk I've used previously, although it is not as translucent. If time is a factor, however, this silk is problematic for small jobs--the sample size of six feet comes on a huge 40" wide roll. You'll spend a lot of time cutting this up into a workable size. Dharma does have Fabrisign silk charmeuse in a 12.5mm weight, pre-cut into 8x11" sheets.

Unfortunately, cost is a factor here; if you are going to do a lot of printing, split the rolls with a friend or two.

Try printing an image on ivory dupioni silk; the print will not be as sharp or clear, but will have a nice vintage feel to it.

Here are a few tips for using pre-cut fabric sheets for a laser printer.

  • Test your print first on paper for color, size, stray ink marks or toner tracks. If you see spots or marks that look like faint tire tracks, clean the printer heads according to manufacturer directions.
  • Use one fabric sheet at a time. If the sheet doesn't to want to start, add the full limit of regular paper to the paper bin. Put the fabric sheet on top and try again.
  • After the image is printed, heat set it with an iron set to silk/wool setting. Don't touch the face of the print with the iron; it will smear. Lay a muslin pressing cloth over the print and press carefully. There will probably be some ink residue left on the muslin cloth; press again until the cloth comes away clean. If there is a lot of ink smearing; try adjusting the color mode settings on the printer. The auto setting seems to work best for me. Don't re-use your pressing cloth until washed; toner marks could show up on your next print! Remove the paper backing from the print from two corners on the same side, pulling the fabric evenly to avoid distorting the print.
  • If you happen to get a tiny fleck of stray ink on your print, you can sometimes scratch it off very carefully with the point of an X-Acto knife.

Worth a try? Lightly spray your print with an acid free sealer for decoupage. I was quite surprised when I tried this on both silk and cotton. Although the cotton stiffened slightly, the silk charmeuse stayed supple. Even when sprayed on a light colored image, I saw no spotting, and I was able to needle through both easily. No color came off of the print, even when hand washed with mild soap. No, we don't know what affect the sealer will have on the fabric in years to come, so maybe you don't want to try this on something you intend to last past the next centennial. It's interesting to note that the manufacturer's directions say that silk flowers can be sprayed with the sealer.


Print sprayed with sealer, with a few silk ribbon leaves added to test the stiffness.

There can be a lot of trial, error and experimentation with fabric printing; so if you don't feel like gearing up for the process, visit some of our favorite sites for already printed goodies: Maureen's Vintage Acquisitions; Ribbonsmyth; and Flights of Fancy Boutique.


Thanks to Graphics Fairy

* Trisha at FrenchKissed: http://frenchkissedpostcards.blogspot.com/
** Creative Commons generic attribution: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Printer fabric:

Dharma Trading: http://www.dharmatrading.com/

Pre-printed images available at:

Maureen's Vintage Acquisitions: http://www.maureensvintageacquisitions.com/servlet/StoreFront

Ribbonsmyth: http://ribbonsmyth.com/

Flights of Fancy Embellishments: http://flightsoffancyboutique.com/cgi-bin/Store/store.cgi
 

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