Inkjet printing on fabric

Printing on fabric is only slightly more complicated than printing on paper – you just need to know a few things before you start:

First of all, what sort of printer do you have? Basically there are two types of printers in common use at home, laser printers and inkjet printers. It is possible to print directly on to fabric using either type but they need a slightly different technique. If you are not sure what you have, there’s a simple way to find out. If the paper coming out of your printer is warm then you have a laser. If it’s cold then you have an inkjet.

If you have an inkjet you need to know what sort of ink it uses. There are two main types – pigment based ink and dye based ink. To test, print something, let it dry and put it in some water. If the link starts coming off into the water then the ink is dye based. If it doesn’t move then the ink is pigment based.

Inkjet Printers

Ink squirted on to the paper or fabric
Pigment ink Dye ink
 eg Epson Durabrite Ultra eg Epson Claria
No pre-treatment needed Need pre-treating with something like Bubble Jet Set
Leave to dry thoroughly Leave to dry then wash with detergent.

How to print:

  1. Make sure the fabric is clean and smooth
  2. Stick an A4 multi-purpose label on the back of the fabric – the labels can be bought from pretty much any stationers such as Staples.
  3. Trim to size – I find a rotary cutter and quilting ruler are ideal for this.
  4. Make sure the image is the right size for the fabric you are printing on.
  5. Check the printer settings – try ‘plain paper’ for paper type and ‘photo’ rather than ‘best photo’ for the quality option.
  6. Feed the fabric through the printer as if it was paper. There you go – your image printed on fabric ready for you to embroider, incorporate into a quilt or just enjoy.

Don’t forget that if your ink is dye based you need to treat your fabric first with something like Bubble Jet Set.

Bubble Jet Set:
Use only with 100% cotton or silk (manufacturer’s recommendation). Soak the fabric in the solution for five minutes, squeeze out the excess and hang to dry. You can re-use the solution until it’s gone so pour anything left over back into the bottle. Then follow the instructions on How to Print given above.

Leave your print for at least 30 minutes after printing before removing the backing, then wash in mild detergent NOT just cold water

Notes for Laser Printers:
Fabric for these printers doesn’t require any pre-treatment. It does, however, need heat setting after printing. Take the fabric off its label, cover the print with some clean newsprint or other cheap paper and iron with a hot iron. Move the paper to a clean section and repeat. Usually two or three repeats are sufficient to remove the excess toner. After this the fabric is washable.

THESE TECHNIQUES SHOULD GIVE YOU A HAND-WASHABLE FABRIC BUT THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT BRANDS AND TYPES OF INK AROUND SO TEST BEFORE YOU EMBARK ON ANYTHING MAJOR. THE ABOVE ARE GUIDELINES ONLY! NOTHING YOU PRINT AT HOME WILL BE AS WASHABLE AS A COMMERCIALLY PREPARED FABRIC – WE ARE ASKING HOME PRINTERS TO DO THINGS THEY WERE NOT DESIGNED TO DO BUT, YOU CAN GET EXCELLENT RESULTS AND IT IS FUN!