Monday, March 19, 2012

More Printing on Fabric

In my last post I mentioned that I had printed photographs on fabric many times before. I also promised more tips to help you get started.

Here are some of the questions I am most often asked (and the answers):

What type of printer do I need?
If you want to print directly onto fabric you need an inkjet printer. You probably already have one for printing documents. It does not have to be an expensive printer!  One of the ones I use was only $39.95. The cost is really in the cost of the ink. I always use the manufacturer's ink in my printers. I don't buy generic ink or re-fill ink cartridges. Doing this can void the warranty on your printer and I want the best prints I can get.

One thing to check is the type of ink it uses.

Dye-based inkjet ink is not waterfast, so the fabric you print on must be pre-treated before printing so the ink will not run as soon as water touches it.

Pigment-based inkjet ink is waterfast so you do not have to use pre-treated fabric. However, using a fabric with a pre-treatment can produce a better-looking image since the slight coating reduces the spread of the ink. The less the spread, the sharper the image.

My printers are Epson and they both use DURAbrite® ink - it is a pigment ink. I have used both pre-treated fabric and untreated fabric with excellent results.

How do I pre-treat my fabric?
The easiest way to use pre-treated fabric is to purchase it already treated. Several brands are available. I have had best success with The Electric Quilt Company's pretreated inkjet fabric sheets (and rolls, as you saw in my last post). There are other brands available that you may want to try too. This fabric is cotton and several types are availble:

Regular Cotton Inkjet Fabric - 200 thread count, 8 1/2" x 11" sheets, 6 sheets per package
Premium Cotton Lawn - 240 thread count, 8 1/2" x 11" sheets, 6 sheets per package
Premium Cotton Satin - 283 thread count, 8 1/2" x 11" sheets, 6 sheets per package

The fabric rolls are Regular Cotton Inkjet Fabric - 200 thread count, 8 1/2" x 120".

You can also buy silk and organza fabrics that are ready to print right out of the package. All these fabrics come attached to a backing sheet to make them stiff enough to feed through your printer.

The most common pre-treatment for fabrics is Bubble Jet Set. You need to soak your fabric in the solution, hang it to dry, cut it to size and attach it to a backing sheet. The backing sheet can be freezer paper or a full-sheet sticky label. You can see that it takes time to do these steps and it is easier to have pre-treated fabric when inspiration strikes!

How do I edit my pictures before I print?
Photo editing software is an extensive topic!  But you probably have some capability with the software that came with your camera. You would have installed it on your computer so you could transfer your digital pictures from the camera to the computer. Your computer may also have a photo-editing program. Basic tools will probably include the ability to crop the picture (draw a box around the part you want to keep and discard the rest), make the picture lighter or darker, fix red-eye for portraits.

I use Photoshop Elements to edit my pictures. Basic edits are very simple to do but the program also has extensive filters and options to combine photographs, recolour, resize and more.  I highly recommend this software if you want to do more with your photographs.

What can I do with my printed pictures?
This is where the options are many!  Here are a few examples showing how I have used my printed fabrics in quilts and fibre art.

Photos from my first Alaska Quilting Cruise, Attic Windows setting.
I teach Attic Windows Design at Quilt University.
I don't specifically teach printing on fabric but you create your own quilt design
for your particular fabrics and these could be a set of photographs

Collage quilt with photo of Paris.
One of a series of small quilts, photographs printed on pre-treated silk.

Brag Book - photos of children printed on Inkjet Fabric.
Collage pages using fabrics that would enhance the photographs.

Two-page spread showing collage pages with embellishments.

Prairie landscape using photograph of old buildings taken near Drumheller, Alberta.
Fabrics include commercial cottons and upholstery remnants.

Close-up of photograph portion of the quilt.
Stitching on the left side adds the 'missing' part of the building.
This blends the photograph into the other parts of the quilt.

Where do I get printable fabric?
I carry Electric Quilt's printable fabric in my Patchworks Studio store. And they are all ON SALE (25% off) for the month of April. Quanitities of some types are limited so place your order soon.

Coming next time, book references for more information about Printing on Fabric. Check back later in the week.


Robin in Short Pump said...

I just printed some labels on EQ Printables Cotton Lawn and I find it difficult to needle through it when I stitch the labels to the quilts. I'll try the regular sheets with the smaller thread count, maybe it will be easier?

I have problems with the sheets feeding through my printer a little bit wonky. For instance, I had designed four labels on one sheet in InDesign with a 1/2 inch margin all around. The printer rollers must not have grabbed the sheet correctly and on the leading edge, my 1/2" margin was now gone. I had to rotate the labels around and print on a second sheet in order to get two good labels from each sheet. Clearly, an expensive waste.

Should I have taped the leading edge to a sheet of paper so that the rollers would have gripped it correctly?

Daphne Greig said...

One tip is to clip the corners from the leading edge - just a small clip across the corner. I'm not sure that adding thickness to the leading edge would help at all. I think the printer may be having trouble 'picking up' the sheet. If you have it I would try a 'thick paper' setting on your printer. Perhaps trying to print a 'blank' page will help you get that figured out without wasting a sheet of printable fabric.

About hand sewing your labels. Did you soak the fabric after you let it dry for a while? That can help, but yes, the lawn is a very fine closely-woven fabric. The regular inkjet version is easier to needle.

Hope this helps!