A Short Course Book
Displaying & Sharing
Your Digital Photos

Photos on Fabrics

Synthrapol from Dharma Trading Company.
Bubble Jet Set 2000 from Dharma Trading Company.
A cross stitch pattern printed on fabric using Stoik Imaging's PM Stitch Creator.

One way to display your photos is to print them on T-shirts and other fabric items. You can even print on small fabric squares and assemble them into a quilt or make album covers, pillows, potholders, or even books with fabric pages.

Using Iron-On Transfers

The most popular way to put an image on a T-shirt or other fabric object is with a special transfer paper on which you print the image, and then iron the image from there onto the fabric.

For best results, start with a new light colored T-shirt, or use transfer paper designed for dark T-shirts. Most transfer papers let the underlying fabric color show through white or transparent areas of the image. Transfer papers for dark fabrics have an opaque background that keeps this from happening. You can buy packages of transfer paper specially designed for use with inkjet printers from almost any computer or office supply store. Use a photo-editing program to flip the image horizontally just as it would appear if viewed in a mirror. If you use a program designed to print T-shirt transfers, you don't have to flip the image, the program will do it for you. These programs also include art and frames you can use in combination with your photos and make it easy to add text. After printing the image onto a sheet of transfer paper, let it dry and then follow the instructions that come with the transfer paper when ironing the image onto your T-shirt. When washing the fabric, do so by hand or on a gentle washer cycle so the image doesn't fade or crack.

Haynes T-ShirtMarker makes it easy to import one of your photos for printing on a T-shirt.
Printers don't print white so the white areas in your photo will have the same color as the fabric you print on.

Printing Directly on Fabric

Although transfer paper is easy to use, it has one drawback. The area of the fabric on which you iron it becomes somewhat stiff and the texture is hidden. To avoid this you can print directly on fabric squares that you run through your printer without loosing the natural soft feel and texture of the fabric. The only drawback of this approach is that the fabric must be small enough to pass through your printer. You can't do that with a T-shirt!

There are sheets (and rolls) of specially treated fabrics with a paper backing that stiffens the fabric enough so it can be run through the printer like a sheet of paper. You print on the fabric side and then peel away the paper backing. To keep dyes from running into light areas some fabrics require that you steam the printed fabric, rinse it in a solution of Synthrapol, and then iron it dry. These steamed fabrics give a darker and sharper image. Other readymade fabric sheets have been treated with an ink fixative to ensure the fabric is colorfast and washable. Be sure to read the package or Web site information to see how to treat the fabric sheets you are considering. You should also be able to find information on the printer settings to use. One company recommends you use the highest print quality and set the paper type to plain paper. Other fabrics may require different settings.

Specially treated fabrics come in a limited variety. If you want to print on your own fabric, there are ways you can make it stiff enough to pass through the printer. There are a few ways to do so:
  • The Fabric Carrier is essentially just a sticky paper you use to hold the fabric of your choice. Just remove the protective strips from the fabric carrier, mount any cotton or cotton blend material, and print just as you would with paper.
  • Bubble Jet Set 2000 is a liquid used to stiffen fabric for printing. You simply soak your fabric in this solution, dry it, and then iron it to the plastic coated side of freezer paper cut to fit the width of your printer. This stiffens it enough so it passes through the printer just like a sheet of paper. The product is widely used for quilts, pillow cases, and other fabric art pieces. One user said "The funny thing is when using this product you have to go back to mixing a chemical with water and sloshing fabric around in it, etc.—sort of like going back in time to developing film in trays".

Cross-stitch Photos

Not many people seem to have time for the traditional art of cross-stitching any more, but that may change. PM Stitch Creator is the software that allows you to prepare your own counted cross-stitch patterns. The program automatically converts your digital pictures into stitch patterns optimized for a specified floss palette, or you can create patterns from scratch with virtual needles and other tools such as color fill, eraser, or text. Stitch patterns can be viewed on the screen and then printed as stitch work or as a chart complete with a color key and material list.
. synthrapol
. fabric carrier

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