Printing on Fabric

Okay, making t-shirt and other prints at home. Sounds like a fun, easy and cheap!

On human size, I’d say no. Well, maybe for temporary things, like printing out party stuff, or a shirt for a one event, but if you’re looking for durability and savings, go search for a professional. Definately not fun, if you’re technophobe like me, expect crying and shouting at inanimate objects.. Tweaking printer settings every-single-time,

Inks for printers are expensive. Iron on transfer papers are pricey. I don’t even want to go to bubble jet and other fabric treatment media – they’re probably more than worth their money IF you happen to have a supplier near you. However, adding $40 shipping cost, custom fees and the possibility the stuff isn’t even allowed in air mail (add time wasted and more possibility of lost) I think not…

Also, what ever you use to print at home, the colors will never last good as long as professional prints (unless the “professionals” use less than professional equipment).
Your print may look better fresh out of print, but add a few washing cycles, aaaand it’s gone.

Even the printer manager program wants me to order prints online. Hmm. That’s quite a contradiction, don’t you think? I bought a printer, for obviously home printing, and it would like to have me order prints of my documents instead of just… printing them out.

So, no then?

Well, not exactly.

Small scale is a whole different thing!
First of all, print on demands don’t make miniatures. Unless that is a place like Spoonflower, that prints quality fabrics in demand, but designing fabric to fit specific dolls might take more than a few revisions to make it right (3 out of 5 swatches were right in my first order), just add waiting times (took 3 weeks, few hours working on revision, then add 3 weeks to see if the revised version is any better), shipping costs, and learning to use appropriate computer programs to transform your idea onto print ready image (amsterDam you vectors y u make no sense to me), on top of the desired quilt of final piece.

That’s why I turned to my printer, online searches and my old school books. Just add freezer paper behind your fabric, and print, they say.

I learnt, that pigment inks work best for printing. Dyes wash out. It was only a few weeks ago that I got my new printer, if only I’d known! But I needed one asap then. Lucky me, however, my printer does use black pigment ink!

However, with my first attempts at printing straight to fabric, that didn’t seem to make any difference.

Both prints in all black and with color washed away very easily.

Printing on fabric teste

Cute pineapple, wash aaaaand it’s gone

Next expriment, adding sealer that I had at home, that is meant for photographs – fixative, I used it to seal some printed wallpapers to doll house and it made the prints water resistant – it makes the fabric feel like it’s starched, a bit stiff but still flexible. For things like dollhouse curtains and cushions, this might work, if you store them in a dry place. But even with just holding it under running water, the image washes out. Or, as seen in the cat picture, the colors wash out – the black stands but fades a lot, and most likely washes out with detergent.


cut image in two, washed the other side. All colors washed off

So, next idea I had was printing out coloring book image all in black ink, and then manuallycoloring them with fabric paints, ironing on the colors and then washing off the printer ink.

Here is where I got surprised. After really good ironing, the black (pigment) ink didn’t wash out! It did fade a bit, but the lines are still visible. The lines that got under the fabric paint are most likely sealed in the paint itself, but that doesn’t explain how the lines that did not have paint over them lasted so well. The heat must have something to do with it. Hmm… if only I hadn’t spent my chemistry classes doodling on notebooks.


Print straight on fabric just using black pigment ink, painted with metallic fabric paints

So, at this point printing straight to fabric with black ink (maybe pigment color inks works too? How about laser printers?) and iron well, works but I would still be wary of using that on a precious doll. Doll stored in a dry place, yes, but not for months. On inside photoshoots, sure, I’d even dare using full color print when I’m sure no water or humidity gets in the way. Outdoors photoshoots, maybe on a sunny day, with absolutely no clouds hanging about.


The test patches. 1st washed with just water 2nd washed with dish soap 3rd washed with detergent and rubbed 4rd the originals right out of print


Transfer Paper prints, the washing and durability testing of  Doll clothes of  Urban Doll


do comment and any questions just ask!


One thought on “Printing on Fabric

  1. Pingback: Wash and durability testing and Transfer paper method | Merineiti

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