Interest is high among quilters in the art of putting images to fabric. Quilters want to make scrapbook or memory quilts, anniversary and wedding quilts and such for family gifts. Art Quilters are having a creative time exploring the use of imagery for their innovative quilts. Making quilt labels is another excellent use for transfer printing.
There are two different approaches to getting your images onto fabrics with the use of a computer.
This article discusses the Transfer Print approach which means putting your images onto a special paper and then using that printed paper to transfer the images to your fabric with a hot iron or hot press. The images can be put onto paper with either a printer or a color copier (although the papers differ for each.)
The second technique, which I call "Direct Printing", involves actually printing directly onto the fabric with your computer as you run the fabric through the printer. See the link in the box at the right to read the article about how to do that technique.
How does transfer printing work?
Very simply the transfer print procedure is this: an image is printed or copied onto a specially coated transfer paper. The printed paper is then placed face down on the fabric and heat is applied and the image is transferred (in reverse) to the fabric. One type of paper works with ink jet (aka bubble jet) type printers and the other works with color copiers. The papers are not interchangeable. You can badly damage a color copier if you try to run the ink jet transfer paper through it. I'm not going to write here about color copier transfers, check with your local copy center to see if they even offer the service. They may require you to use their paper due to possible damage to their expensive copy machines.
Ink Jet Computer Printing Transfers
For most quilters, using the special transfer paper sold in packs of 8.5 " x 11" sheets is the best solution for easy and versatile printing using your home ink jet printer. There are many brands of papers available. Some are sold in the paper section of computer stores (Canon, Epson and Hewlett Packard all have their own labeled brands). Last time I checked store shelves these major brands were all "hot peel" style paper and seemed to work very similarly to each other. I have used both Canon Bubble Jet and Epson ink jet printers with various brands of papers and they all work. Hanes (the T-shirt company) has technique articles and sells supplies and heat presses for those who want to move up from using an iron.
For myself, I prefer the "cold peel" papers for transfer printing with my ink jet printer. The advantage is that it is not as crucial that the paper be peeled off while the transfer is still very hot. This means fewer white spots on the fabric and not burning fingers. I have read that the hot peel type transfers more color to the fabric, but I haven't been able to notice a difference in using both cold and hot. There is a more "satin" look to the finished transfer and less shine.
The places I know to get cold peel online are Dharma Trading Co. and Conde (both have both hot and cold). Both offer bulk packs and you may want to go in with friends to buy in volume. Conde explains the range of papers available. Read the section on printers on Conde's site as well.
You will find more and more re-packagers of transfer paper being sold at quilt shows, in shops and through mailorder. These are usually 6-10 sheets per package. Aneta Sperber gives an excellent explanation about transfer paper (both in computer printers and color copiers) and explains why you can't just walk into a color copy center and expect them to let you run your paper through their very expensive copiers.
Union Ink has a very informative article on their site: Printing Plastisol Transfers by Mark Goodridge. "Plastisol" is the ink printing type used on the papers used with ink jets - this article explains the different types and is meant for commercial printers, but you'll find it interesting. Union Ink's Crayon Clear sounds very interesting. It will accept crayons and felt tip drawings for transfer.
Other sites with transfer printing comments and information:
- Betsy Szymanskis experiments with transfer printing
- Dyers List - This email list is for all kinds of dyeing and surface application of dyes and may include discussions of computer printing on fabric.
Want to go Deeper into Transfer Printing Information on the Web? Want more serious supplies, a heat press maybe? Sublimation inks are explained, too : Go to the next page in this article here.
Gallery of Transfer Image Quilts
Want to see links to an Gallery of images of quilts printed with Transfer Printing and two of my transfer printed quilts? See this Gallery page.
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