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Printing Pictures on Fabric – a Tutorial

Printing Pictures on Fabric – a Tutorial post image

Photographs and other images add something special to your quilts,  t-shirts, and other sewing projects. Pretreated ink jet printer fabric makes printing on fabric at home fast and easy. You can print your first image on fabric in just a few minutes.

Supply List for Printing Pictures on Fabric

Here’s what you’ll need to print on fabric at home:

  • Ink jet printer fabric sheets with a thread count of at least 200. (Look on the package for the thread count.) These days, ink jet printer fabrics come in an amazing variety of different weights and styles. There’s cotton poplin suitable for quilting:Heavyweight canvas and denim for purses and tote bags:Even linen and silk, for scarves and other wearables: Printed Treasures fabric sheets come in [amazon_link id=”B000A8BM5O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]sew-in[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B000A88LYO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]iron-on[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”B00114TDGQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]peel-and-stick[/amazon_link] versions. You can probably find several brands at your local fabric store.
  • Photo editing software such as [amazon_link id=”B005MMMT6E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Photoshop Elements[/amazon_link]® for cropping, enhancing, and resizing the photo. I find Photoshop Elements and all its bells and whistles a bit overwhelming, so I use an ancient photo editor from Broderbund called Print Shop Pro.
  • A picture to print. A large, sharp, high-resolution image works best. Photos copied from the internet or email will look fuzzy when you print them.
  • Color inkjet printer or inkjet copier. For best results, use regular printer inks recommended by the printer manufacturer. Don’t use ink jet printer fabric with laser printers or copiers.
  • (Optional) [amazon_link id=”B00006IA8O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Scotch Guard[/amazon_link] or another brand of protective spray to help preserve the image from ultraviolet light and dirt.

Step by Step Instructions for Printing on Fabric

It’s easy to print a photo on fabric. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Edit the photo. Use your image editing software to crop out sections of the photo you don’t want to include, fix flaws in the image, heighten the color, or change the size and shape of the photo to fit your project. If your software has the capability, you can also add words or create visual effects such as giving the photo an old-time sepia tone. A free photo online editing suite is available from Adobe.  Here’s the image I’m going to print. It’s a high-quality photo of a snowy owl, to which I added some snowy rocks: 
  2. Read the instructions on your printable sheets. They will most likely tell you to set the printer at the highest print quality and set the paper type at “plain paper.”
  3. Put the fabric sheet in the printer. Your sheet will have a paper side and a fabric side. Make sure the fabric side faces in the proper direction for the ink to print on the fabric, not the paper. My printer puts ink on the side that faces up, so that’s how I load my sheet. Here it is, all ready to print:
  4. Test-print the photo on plain paper before you print the final image on expensive ink jet printer fabric. Photos printed on fabric tend to be less vivid than the same photo printed on paper. You may want to heighten the colors in the photo for printing on fabric.
  5. Print the final image. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for handling the printed fabric during and after printing. Here’s my sheet, all printed and drying for a minute, as per the instructions on the package:

The printed fabric is now ready to use in a quilt or sewing project. I’m actually going to trim away the excess fabric around this owl and decoupage the printed fabric onto a footstool with [amazon_link id=”B001IKES5O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mod Podge[/amazon_link].

Washing and Care Instructions for Ink Jet Printer Fabric

Some people like to spray the finished fabric with protective spray. Whether you do or not, keep the printed fabric away from direct sunlight, which can fade the inks. If the fabric needs to be washed, use cold water and a gentle detergent such as [amazon_link id=”B000BQLJIU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Orvus[/amazon_link] or Woolite. Dry and iron the fabric only on the low heat setting.

Post Photo: “Brian at 10 Months,” by Tanya Brown, photographed by Christine Mann at Pacific International Quilt Festival, 2009.


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