Printing on Fabric

Here’s my best advice:

Know what kind of printer you have and spring for the fabric sheets.

If you are interested in how I reached this brilliant conclusion, read on!

There are lots of experiments with printing on fabric but I had to recreate the wheel and do my own because things/technology/products change. I loved the idea of using photos in quilting projects, but I have heard some horror stories about all the photos disappearing in the wash after the quilt was complete. I don’t want that to happen to me or anyone else. I tried several different processes. . .with differing results. I also almost destroyed a color laser printer during this experiment. Hubs was remarkably tolerant of that adventure and my subsequent trip to Staples to buy an inkjet printer.

If you don’t already have an inkjet printer, this is probably not a great time to buy one. Staples had exactly three in stock for me to choose from. . . and they only had printer cartridges for 1/3, so my decision was simple. The good news is that the HP8035 was simple to set up and connect wirelessly. Apparently some printers can use pigment ink- I did NOT use prigment ink, but I imagine this would be far more effective for this project.

This was printed on the laser jet using freezer paper. It got stuck (you can see the lines) and most of the ink washed out in the rinsing. DO NOT USE A LASER PRINTER.

Point number one is very important. I know it makes me sound like an idiot, but I did not know that we were the proud owners of a color laser jet printer at our house in Maine. It makes perfect sense because ink cartridges don’t do well when they are not used on a regular basis, but my hubs bought the printer and I never once considered that it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill inkjet printer. Apparently it didn’t cross his mind either because I have been talking about printing fabric on the inkjet printer for a couple of weeks and it didn’t trigger any thoughts in him. I guess that just proves that he really wasn’t listening to my ramblings.

Anyway. . . I managed to have some success that I probably should not have had with the laser printer. The sample pillow of my dogs was printed with June Tailor fabric sheets on my laser printer. I will never wash it and I try to not touch it much because it still smudges. The yellow arrow shows some of the smudge spots. Now. . . pretend that you have NOT seen this photo unless it is after October 6. Hint, hint.

This LOOKS great- as long as you don’t touch the photo!

Before we get to the fabric printing, I want to say a word or two about printing photos. Test prints are important. Keep your photo size small for these to save ink. Depending on what photo software you are using, you may have choices about what “color profiles” to use to print. For example, I have the option of allowing Photoshop to manage my color or to have the printer manage the color. You may need to do some adjustments to your photos before you start printing larger versions.

The first photo allowed the printer to manage the colors. Everything is REALLY saturated. The white in my shirt and the Fox’s little outfit is VERY blue. Our skin tones are quite warm.

The second photo is the same exact photo but allowing Photoshop to manage the color printing. The colors are more true, but the image is pretty dark. The hubs is especially dark- which he would attribute to a good day at the beach, but is really just too shadowy.

The third photo is color adjusted. I allowed Photoshop to do a color adjust and a tone adjust. I did not do any manual editing. WAIT- I did brighten up the exposure by about half a point- a lesson I have learned over the years. I think the result is much better than the first two. The Princess’s nearly white hair looks best in this photo.

The moral of this lesson is: let your photo management software fix things. You will be happier. And when in doubt, up the exposure a bit. Things tend to print a little dark.

Now. . . here we go with the results of my experiment.


June Tailor fabric paper- about 50% success rate at actual printing. Ink smudges on project. . . even after several days. I did not try to rinse- pretty sure it will all wash out.

Avery fabric sheets- DO NOT ATTEMPT! The Avery fabric sheets are mounted onto a plasticy backing that melts in the heat of the laser printer. The printer had been on for a while and when I reached in to get the jam out was my first clue that I was not dealing with an inkjet printer. (This should have also given me a clue that there was something different about these sheets, but no. That took longer.)

Riley Blake White fabric mounted on freezer paper- I did manage to get this through the laser printer but only once. The ink looked weird and when I tried to wash it, it really faded.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND using a laser printer for this project. The results were less than stellar.


Here is my methodology.

I printed photos on different mediums using different techniques. All samples were allowed to dry for 48 hours. (Photo 1 taken at this time.) I rinsed them under running water for 30 seconds and allowed to air dry. I did not crumple them or rub them. . . just let the water run over them. (Photo 2 taken at this time.) Then I placed the photos into a washing machine set at cool and delicate wash for a short cycle. I did add two color catchers in with the wash. When the cycle finished I put them in the dryer on low heat. When dry, I ironed with a dry iron. (Photo 3 taken at this time.}

June Tailor- The June Tailor paper was super easy to use. The edges stay together and go through the printer nicely, but when you remove the paper that is easy, too. It held color well, washed well, and ironed well. My only complaint is that the fabric is a bit stiff- even after being washed and dried.

Avery- So. . . I should have read the directions. But that would be against my nature! The Avery sheets went through the printer beautifully. When I rinsed it, the paper-ish stuff on the back did not come off. . . because it was an adhesive. (Good thing I didn’t try to iron it!) These sheets are meant to be printed on and then ironed onto an item. I’m sure they would be awesome for lots of projects. . . but not for this project.

Riley White on Freezer Paper- I ironed a rough cut of fabric onto a rough cut of freezer paper and then trimmed the piece to exactly 8.5″ x 11″ to go through the printer. The edges were a little funky but it did go through the printer. The ink adhered well but did not look as dark or saturated as the June Tailor paper. This did well just being rinsed, but lost a bit of ink in the laundry cycle. I would still be able to use the resulting images- especially if you were looking for a watercolor-ish look.

Riley White on Paper- I sprayed a rough cut of fabric with 505 adhesive spray and then smoothed a piece of computer paper onto the fabric. I used the paper as the template to trim the fabric. This went through the printer fine (make sure you get the edges sprayed down) and was slightly lighter than the freezer paper print. The trouble started in trying to get the paper off the fabric. Wherever I sprayed on the heavier side, the paper did not come off. I tried gently rubbing it while rinsing, but I didn’t want to ruin the print. The excess paper did come off in the laundry. (We won’t ponder where it went. . .) This was the lightest print to begin with and lost some color in the laundry. It’s usuable, but not the best print.

Ease of Use- TIE! June Tailor and Avery

Printed samples.
After rinsing and air dry. This is when I realized that the Avery product is totally different and would not work for this project. I think it would be awesome for other projects, though.

After laundering on short, gentle cycle.


Initial Color Print- TIE! June Tailor and Avery

Color Retention after Rinse/Air Dry- All had same results

Color Retention after Machine Wash/Dry- June Tailor

And the winner is. . . June Tailor Fabric Sheets with white fabric on freezer paper in second place.

What are your thoughts?

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