An easy way to transfer images onto fabric with this simple method using a home printer. I have used a few methods for image transfer and these are the best methods for front load printers.
I love to make seasonal pillows, canvas artwork, and even cute little pouches and bags with image transfer. Over the years, I have tried several methods with mixed results. Below is a step by step guide to my favorite tried-and-true methods to transfer a photo or image onto fabric.
Best Methods to Transfer An Image Onto Fabric
Methods of image transfer that I have never really liked include gel medium or freezer paper method. I have tried wax paper and if you have a printer that loads and outputs from the front, DO NOT USE WAX PAPER! I will absolutely save you the two hours of trying to get that paper jam out that I have experienced in the past.
Materials for Image Transfer
- Fabric – these methods work best on tightly woven and flat fabric material with little or no stretch.
- A home inkjet printer (laser printers will not work because they do not use ink)
- Photo Transfer sheets or Dark Fabric Photo Transfer Sheets
- clear plastic pocket protectors
- a slightly damp sponge
- Fabric Markers (optional)
Make or find your design. You can size it as you need in Microsoft Word or Photoshop. For both methods, make sure you reverse the image before you print it.
Method 1: Using Photo Transfer Paper
Just buy some photo transfer paper, shoot it through your printer and iron the resulting image onto a T-shirt or other fabric.
Step 1: Reverse your image and print your image to size onto heat transfer paper.
Step 2: Prepare the fabric. A few things to note:
You need a smooth, hard surface such as a mdf board. My ironing board isn’t smooth enough when the cover is off.
Check the fabric to make sure it is free of lint and dirt or hair I give a quick iron to the fabric to make sure it is smooth.
Step 3: Cut around the image and remove excess paper. The transfer paper is clear, so you don’t have to get right up to the edge for an intricate pattern.
Step 4: Place the image face down in position on the fabric.
Step 5: Iron on the Image
The heat transfer paper should have instructions, but I am including how I do it, which is mostly the same.
Use dry heat for best bond with NO STEAM. I empty the water reservoir before starting. Then I put my iron on the highest setting. Cover every inch of the image and use a lot of pressure.
Thinner fabrics, like cotton – Iron 60 seconds for smaller images and 2 minutes for images larger than 8×8.
Sturdy Fabrics, like Canvas – 60 seconds for smaller images and 2 minutes for images larger than 8×8.
Step 6: Peel off the backing paper.
After the paper has cooled enough to touch, gently peel off the paper.
You want the transfer to be HOT while peeling for best results. Also, move in a smooth and even motion or you may get lines in your transfer.
Method 2: Use Page Protectors
This method involves soaking the ink directly into the fabric for items like purses or pouches. This method gives a softer look than the photo transfer paper.
Step 1: Prepare the fabric. You will want to work rather quickly once the ink is printed. Smooth the fabric and iron if necessary to remove any creases.
Step 2: Reverse your image. For printer settings, I use glossy paper printing and best quality. Cut the edge off of the page protectors so that you have one flat sheet, not a pocket.
Step 3: Wipe the fabric down lightly with the slightly damp sponge. The sponge allows the ink to spread a bit into the fabric. Too much water means that the image will spread too much, so use sparingly.
Step 4: Print your image and immediately lay the image printed side down onto your fabric. Make sure not to move the image to avoid smudges.
Step 5: Use a flat card or a paint scraper to gently rub the the ink into the fabric. With clear page protectors, you can see how well the image has transferred. Once all of the image is transferred, gently lift off the page protector without smudging.
Is Image Transfer Fabric Washable?
First, if you are using a pigment based ink (check your printer guide), then it should be washable. However, test first. If using a dye based ink, I would consider hand washing at least the first few times or testing a small area (or scrap) to be sure. Dye based inks do have a tendency to fade or release in the wash.
In either method, I turn the fabric inside out and wash in the delicate cycle. Remember never to iron the transfer as the image will stick to the iron.
Pretty cute, huh? Much of how the image will transfer onto your fabric depends on your printer and how much ink it uses to print. My printer uses very little in and, thus, I get more of a lighter weathered look. However, I have tried this technique with other printers and it varies. If you would like a uniform look or the image doesn’t transfer in spots, use a fabric marker to fill in the areas.
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