February 27, 2010

Tutorial - Transfer TEXT to FABRIC using a transparency

You know that wonderful fabric with text that many artists are using now? It is very simple and easy to make your own!! Use this idea with your own text or background fabric, using your own colors, font styles and sizes, etc. and have your own "texty fabric" to use in your projects!

This tutorial is for how to add text, or any other image, to fabric by transfering with a computer-printed transparency.

The materials you will need are:
  1. Fabric - In this example I used plain undyed muslin as my fabric (you could use other types of fabric such as silk, organza, etc).
  2. Image - whatever you want to transfer to your fabric (this could be text, in my transfer I'm using a "Wordle" which is text cloud created at http://www.wordle.net/.
  3. Printer with capability of printing image in reverse/mirror image (some printers call this a "T-Shirt transfer" setting) - otherwise a graphics program that allows you to "flip" the image or "mirror" the image.
  4. Transparency film - I used 3M Transparency Film for Inkjet Printers
  5. Gel Medium - I used Liquitex Matte Medium
  6. Paintbrush - to paint gel medium onto fabric (a cheap foam brush to throw away is great)
  7. Burnishing tool such as a bone folder or the back of a spoon

How to make the transfer:
  1. Print out your mirrored/reversed/flipped image onto transparency film. The film usually comes with two sides, one rough and one smooth and shiny - you'll want to print on the ROUGH side. Also, most printers have a print setting for transparencies - be sure to use that if available because it prints with extra ink on the paper, which gives you more to transfer to your fabric.

2.  Cover a work surface, and lay down your chosen fabric.
3.  Paint a thin layer of Gel Medium onto your fabric. You don't want it very thick, just enough to make the fabric moist to the touch on top.

4.  Place your transparency SHINY SIDE up (right side up, so that the words read correctly from the top), ROUGH SIDE DOWN, on top of the fabric.

5.  BURNISH the top of the image with a burnishing tool. I used a bone folder, but you could also use the back of a spoon. You'll be actually rubbing the ink down onto the fabric coated with gel medium - so be careful not to let the transparency slide around or move, unless that is the effect you want. You'll only need to rub for a minute or two for the text to transfer. I started in the middle and rubbed in tiny circles outward toward all the edges of my Wordle.

6.  Gently lift the transparency from the fabric, starting on one side, lifting up and away toward the other side. If you find that any words didn't transfer well enough, try rubbing a little more, and if that doesn't work, you know that next time you'll need to use a little more gel medium.

7. Last step - VERY important!! Now that the text is transferred, MOVE your piece of fabric off of your work surface to dry ( I made the mistake of leaving it on a piece of cardboard, which made it very hard to peel off later!! ) Hang it up with a couple of clothespins or paper clips on string or the edge of a box, or whatever you have handy, just so that the wet fabric isn't touching something it will adhere to.

Let your piece dry for a couple of hours, and then you have a text-embellished piece of fabric!!

I plan to do a bit more with mine from this point, such as overdying to add some background color with some Dye-na-flow or watered down acrylic paint, maybe even dye with alcohol inks and then use it in an art quilt. You might choose to do the transfer on your fabric after doing those other steps, however just remember there might be some interaction with the gel medium and the type of dye you used on your fabric.

I'll post a finished project with this piece later! (Once I redo it and NOT leave it to dry on cardboard...yuck!! ; )



  1. Just thought I'd let you know I'm going to try this out ... I've used that iron on transfer paper. This technique looks like it will give me a cleaner outcome.

  2. is there anything else you could use other than the gel medium that will give you the same outcome?:)

  3. I just tried you're technique but one print with hairspray and one with mosituriser because I didn't have the gel. It worked really well, thank you for the idea!


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