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What Are the Best Tips for Fabric Printing?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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To get the best results while fabric printing, stabilize the material before printing on it, set photograph and printer settings to the highest resolution, and treat the fabric with a color fast setting agent. Adhering fabric to a sturdy backing prevents it from bunching and tearing while traveling through the printer mechanisms. Using high definition image settings for photos and printers creates a clean, crisp image that is easy to see once incorporated into the larger sewing project. Chemical setting agents preserve the project and protect it against the damage caused by aging, use, and washing.

When fabric printing at home, ensure that the material being printed on is stabilized before placing it in the printer tray. Any type of ink jet printer may be used to transfer images and words to fabric. Any type of freezer paper, which may be purchased at a local grocery store, is a common choice for use as a stabilizing agent. The paper can be ironed to the wrong side (non-print side) of the fabric, and both should be trimmed simultaneously to the correct size of paper normally handled by the printer.

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Photo transfer ready material can also be purchased at craft and quilting stores for use in fabric printing. These sheets are pre-trimmed to standard sizing and are already equipped with a stiff backing paper. This paper can be peeled off prior to using the material in the finished project. Photo transfer fabric is typically only available in white, however, and does not offer the wide variety of options that can be used when combining any color or print material with freezer paper.

Photographs should be increased to the highest resolution possible prior to printing on the material. The printer settings can be similarly increased to maximum color output. This will provide a crisp, clean image that does not blur or appear fuzzy once transferred to the fabric background. Photographs typically look best on a solid, light colored background, while words and logos may be printed on any type of material.

A setting agent can be used before and after fabric printing to maintain the crisp appearance and original colors of the transferred images. The fabric is first allowed to soak for a half hour or more in a chemical setting solution. This compound prepares the fabric for its interaction with the printer, and prevents colors from smudging or running. After the photo has been applied to the material it may be rinsed in a second solution that permanently bonds the fabric and ink. Treating the fabric in this manner will help the printed ink survive many years of use and cycles through washing and drying machines.

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