Have you ever been looking for the perfect T-Shirt with your favorite TV show character, dialogues, music band, etc.? Wanted to gift your loved one something priceless such as a memory quilt with your favorite moments’ pictures together?
These are some of the examples of fabrics that can be customized effortlessly, even by yourself right at home!
Fabric printing is no longer an impossibility these days for anyone and when it comes to the designs you can go for, the sky is the limit!
It is one of the most awesome ways of personalization as you get to show off exactly what you love or support, or makes your gifts the most special; differentiating you from the crowd.
Hence, let’s head on to all you need to know about how to print on fabric at home in all the fun and exciting ways!
Before we move on to methods of printing on fabric, you need to know the three main categories. Whether you are printing your fabric at home or commercially, whichever method you use, falls under any of the three categories below.
This category of printing is basically the direct application of color, pigment, paint, or dye, etc. on your fabric.
It can be either directly applying/painting them on, or printing on them using printers.
The discharge category involves the removal of colors from a colored piece of fabric in specific zones with the use of chemicals.
Once the color gets removed, you are left with a specific pattern on your fabric.
In this category of fabric printing, a special type of chemical or paste is applied on the fabric in your desired pattern. Then the whole fabric is colored.
The resist chemical prevents those areas from getting dyed while the rest of the fabric takes on the colors, creating a pattern with the initial color as the fabric’s base dye.
Tie-dye and batik are two of the most popular methods of this category of fabric printing.
Both these printers can be used to print on fabric, but inkjet is more recommended.
This is because inkjets use liquid ink droplets to produce prints. As a result, they provide enhanced quality of images, especially when printing detailed pictures. The colors are also blended out smoother that with laser printers.
This model of the printer also can handle a more versatile range of media types, making it the convenient option for not only fabric printing, but for your other purposes too. It is also more cost-efficient as ink cartridges tend to be more affordable than toners.
Fabrics that are printable are produced a little differently to be firm enough to smoothly pass through your printer. If you are opting for pre-treated commercial fabrics for your projects for more long-lasting color, inkjets alone are capable of handling them as the laser printer heat may affect the treatment products on the fabric and damage it.
Lasers are a good option for when you are printing in bulk and they can produce stellar black prints and you’re good to go if the images aren’t too detailed. But since the products for post-treating the fabric printed with toners are different, you’d end up with a stiffer output.
Hence, laser printing on fabric is recommended for projects that don’t involve much folding or hand-quilting, or neither at all. Examples of such projects include wall hangings, postcards of fabrics, etc.
Regardless of which printer you use, the rest of the method is the same for both printers.
Many of you are already familiar with what freezer papers are. These are the papers you buy to cover and store your food in the freezer and possess a single waxy side.
One end of the paper is shiny with the wax layer and the other is matte. That waxy part, when heated, adheres to your fabric. Hence, you get a firm piece of fabric that can easily pass through your printer without getting wrinkled, facilitating effortless printing
Printing on to fabrics with a laser printer is basically the same as via an inkjet printer. But do keep in mind that you cannot use pre-treated fabric.
Once the printing process is complete according to the steps discussed above, you’d need a sort of workable fixative to seal the toner into the fabric. Lightly spray it in several layers and keep in mind that your fabric will end up a little stiff due to this.
When fabric printing at home using your printer, there are other options you can use instead of freezer paper which are as follows:
Though these are the costliest, they tend to yield the best results as they already come pre-treated for ink-fixing.
Since they are firmer, thicker, and completely flat, they pass through the printer perfectly smoothly and come out with super-clear and crisp prints. There is also no smudging, which is a common struggle when using freezer papers.
Similar to freezer paper, these are a little thicker and easier to use and unlike freezer paper, there is no waxy side.
Hence, you don’t need to iron it to get it attached to your fabric as it comes with an adhesive side. Simply peel the covering off the adhesive side, stick it on to your fabric sample and get printing. Just peel off the paper after you’re done.
This is yet another impressive alternative to freezer paper which is almost identical to it but is better depending on your project type.
First, it comes in a roll instead of separate sheets, making it a more economic choice. The working method is the same as freezer papers but since they are thicker, you get better print results with lower chances of smudging.
The unique feature of this material that it is double-sided. This means once you pull it off from the fabric after printing, the opposite side of the fabric is left with an adhesive layer.
This provides you the convenience of sticking your fabric on surfaces directly like a sticker and is an advantage you can use if it fits your project.
In order to print with this method, you’d need the following tools.
Once you have these at hand, follow the steps instructed below to complete your project.
These are printable fabrics that already come attached with paper.
Though a costly method, it eliminates the hassle of prep-work and all you have to do is load them up on your printer directly. Print away like you would with normal paper and finish off as usual with iron and treatments after peeling the paper off to receive the final result.
Stenciling is another genius way to print and create flawless patterns on your fabric. There are endless ways of doing so, and you can either buy the stencils or make them on your own.
This is one of the most straightforward ways of glamming up your fabric without requiring fancy equipment or your printer.
For block or stamp printing, the main tool is the designed wooden blocks, or any other material, that you use to stamp on the design onto your fabric after dipping it in dye. The following are the things you’ll need.
Now let’s move on to steps to block or stamp on your fabric perfectly like a pro!
This method, as the name says, is pretty self-explanatory. It involves using specialized spray guns under control to stain your fabric as desired.
Cricut is a digital cutting device that is capable of cutting the widest range of materials includingpaper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, leather, etc. while some can even cut thin wood!
These devices, with the help of a small cutting blade, scoring tool, pen, or rotary cutter, are capable of cutting up your sample in endless shapes and sizes. You thus get to get the most versatile array of designed cutouts with the help of this device and its Design Space software.
Printing on fabric is a creative and fun way to decorate them and there are many DIY and commercial ways to do so.
The methods we discussed are just the tip of the iceberg and as we just saw, many of them can be easily done with just your regular printer at home!
Now that you know enough from our guide about how to print on fabric in all the different ways, you can finally let your creativity go wild all by yourself!
About Dror Wettenstein
Dror Wettenstein is a software engineer and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. He is the founder of TechTreeRepeat, a company that enables technical writers to publish their work faster and share it with readers across the globe. Dror has a master’s degree in computer science from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from UC Irvine.
When he’s not working on software projects, Dror enjoys writing articles and essays on various topics. He also likes playing guitar and spending time with his wife and two young children.