Print Directly On Fabric With an Inkjet Printer

[fungus amungus] was reading online about printing directly on fabrics with a home printer. He’d read a few hopeful tutorials about printing on them with a laser printer, but he didn’t own one.

Considering that you can occasionally buy an inkjet for less than the ink, he decided to take the plunge and see if he could print on a swatch of fabric with his inkjet. The technique requires a printer, some wax paper, scissors, and an iron.

By adhering the wax paper to the fabric properly, it’s possible to run it through the printer without tears. (We’ll let you pick the heteronym.) The final step is to let the ink sit for an hour before running the iron over it again. This seems to cure the ink and it can even survive a few washings.

Being able to make any pattern of cloth on demand seems like a useful thing to keep in the toolbox!

8 thoughts on “Print Directly On Fabric With an Inkjet Printer

  1. Instead of freezer paper, you could try using iron-on fabric interfacing. It’s made for the purpose of stiffening fabric so you can do things like embroider on it, so it should also work well for printing. Of course, more people probably have freezer paper in their kitchens…

  2. there were some DTG (direct to garment) printer hacks featured here. the wax paper is new through. some ink suppliers offer DTG inks for certain printers. I found the EPSON C64, C86,… series printers easy to modify for DTG printing. the heads were a pain to clean though so now I have ~20 printers with broken heads here and bought a cutting plotter instead;-)

  3. For a t-shirt print, probably you would need to open the inkjet printer, then rework the mechanics in order to make the printer head moves “X-Y” axle instead of the fabric (“X” only), then make this new setup hover the t-shirt that would be arranged on an adequate position. I work with inkjet development and that is how thinks tend to be done for direct fabric printing. Or else you will only be able to print on a sheet of fabric – that seems to be the point for the current article :)

  4. Instead of running the fabric through it, run an empty laminating pouch through the roller and use the resulting plastic sheet as a transfer surface. Ink won’t stick to it, but it will stick to any fabric pressed against it. You can increase the transfer efficiency by spraying the fabric lightly with acetone.

    It works for pigment inks – not for dye based inks. The latter run off in the first wash because it dissolves again.

    You just have to set the density of the print really low or the ink will run and smear on the plastic.

  5. A few issues:
    1. Why do you keep saying “wax paper”? it is freezer paper. Wax paper will not work. Freezer paper is covered with a thin plastic on one side. When you iron the fabric down, it melts a bit into the fabric and hangs on to it. But it can be peeled off.

    2. Best advice for long life: do NOT iron the print. Don’t do anything to it for a week. Inkjet ink has lots of stuff in it, including things to slow the final drying. Neither dye nor pigmented inks are set by heat.

    Some suggestions/tips:
    If you need to wash what you are printing, use a pretreatment and dye ink. Let dry for a week, then wash before wearing as some ink will wash out. If you wear it without the first wash, it will run. Although that should wash out.

    If you want it to last a long time as a wall hanging, use pigmented ink. It resists fading a lot better than dye ink, but it is subject to crocking (rubbing off) and washing out. For things like quilts, pillows, etc. I’ve printed with pigmented ink, then sprayed with a light clear coat like Workable Fixative.

    More information here, although the traffic there is a bit slow at the moment:
    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/inkjetfabricprinting/conversations/messages

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