Saturday, 7 September 2013

Elephant No. 5: Inkjet-Printed Fabric

For today's elephant, I thought I'd try using my inkjet printer to print on fabric. I've never done this before, but there are lots of tutorials online, and it looks pretty simple. One of the best videos I found on the entire process can be seen here.

Since this only works with inkjet printers, you normally need a special inkjet fixative and a special inkjet rinse to make the colours waterproof. The two solutions don't make any difference to the quality of the print, so they're not crucial. I didn't have them, and didn't want to buy them for today's experiment, so I'll just have to keep my final fabric from getting wet.

Essentially, you can only print fabric as big as the largest paper your printer will take. Mine takes up to 8.5 x 14 inches, but I decided to go for 8.5 x 11.

The first thing you need is freezer paper. This is heavy paper with a waxy coating on one side, available in most grocery stores.

The next thing you need is cotton or silk fabric. I used unbleached muslin. Obviously white or off-white is standard, but coloured fabric would be interesting as well.

I cut a piece of freezer paper measuring exactly 8.5 x 11 inches, and a piece of fabric slightly smaller.

Next, you place the fabric against the waxy side of the paper and iron the fabric onto the paper. This takes a fairly hot iron. The most important thing at this stage is to remove wrinkles and bubbles, while ensuring that the paper and fabric are stuck together as a single piece that you can feed into your printer.

Check the piece to be sure there are no fabric bits hanging off the edges, and trim if necessary.

For my design, I chose this painted teabag image from my original blog, and sized it on my computer to fit on a 8.5 x 11 page. It doesn't matter what file format you use, as long as you can print it on your printer. I simply plunked this into a wordprocessing file to print.

Make sure you know whether you feed paper into your printer face up or face down, then place your fabric-paper sandwich in the printer so that the fabric side is the side that prints.

Press print on your computer. If you've trimmed your paper carefully and the fabric is properly ironed to the freezer paper, it should print easily.

This was my first attempt. Distinctly underwhelming. The colours were faded and the printer added little lines as it fed the fabric sandwich through. The detail wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

I wasn't sure what to do about this, then realized that it might help if I set the print parameters differently. I had the print function set to plain paper and moderate quality, so I reset it to "other photographic paper" and "best" quality. This was the second elephant.

Obviously not as sharp nor as saturated as the original painting, but this wasn't bad at all. There were no lines through the design, and it even picked up the shadows from the original photograph rather well.

This is was a very simple process, and gave reasonable results. I might try it again sometime with something with brighter colours, just to see what happens, but I liked this more than I thought I would.

Elephant Lore of the Day 
In Africa in particular, poaching for elephant ivory is more like mechanized warfare than anything else. Helicopters, jeeps, radios and high-powered rifles mean that elephants don't even have a sporting chance once they're in a poacher's sights.

Recently, however, an elephant in Zimbabwe made sure that one poacher would never be able to hurt an elephant again.

In April of this year, three men on a poaching mission ventured into a protected area inside a national park. Sighting a large bull elephant, one of the men took careful aim and fired. Unfortunately for him, he either missed or only managed to wound the elephant.

Enraged, the elephant turned on the trio and charged. Although two of the men managed to escape, the man who had fired was attacked and trampled to death. To read the full story, click here.

Although this particular elephant lucked out, poaching remains one of the most significant threats to elephants around the world. As demand for ivory continues to rise, particularly in the Far East, elephant populations in some countries are now being hunted to the verge of extinction.

Charging African elephant.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)


  1. Is there an Elephant A Day quilt or wallhanging in your future? Wouldn't that be something-including a great deal of work.

  2. Barb, what a great idea! Maybe that can be my wrap-up project at the end of another year or something: a quilt with a bunch of printed squares each featuring one of my elephants. And then I'll hand it all to my sister to stitch together, because I am soooo not a quilter!