Experiment: Fabric Printing

Homemade printable fabric

[Updates: This method didn’t come out well if you wash the printed fabric with soap, the color will fade away and left only some color stains, only black remains there. I was told that inkjet printer uses pigment ink for black but dye ink for the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow and this dye ink won’t stay long in even 100% cotton without after treatment. So, it is either you use all pigment ink printer, or wait for my further experiment on how to set the dye. Sorry for keeping you waiting, but I am almost there after a huge bunch of failed experiments.]

I love fabrics so much that I craved to have my own fabric design. I had my pear fabric design printed by Spoonflower and the result was perfect, I love them and I am going to do more in future!!! Now, I wanted to try it myself to print some washable sewing labels for my handmade. I did some researches and made some experiments for a few options, but they were all failed until….. I found one homemade method!!!!

If you have been a fan in Craft Passion, you probably heard me screaming and yelling about the fabric printing experiments I did. I am glad that I gave it a shout, I received tons of information which lead me to a success! Before that, let see my failed project… first ever in Craft Passion to reveal a failed project, ha ha ha…. Look at those 2 photos below, the color faded away after a rinse with mild detergent. Only black and dark brown stayed back, others all gone, yucks!

I tried and reviewed a few methods:


T-Shirt Transfer Method

I saw this method at One Pretty Thing using T-shirt transfer to make sewing labels, cool…. I gave it a try, super easy to make and you will get almost exactly what you have printed out. The color won’t fade like those inkjet prints even after many washes but I think the transfer will crack over time. Anyway, I don’t quite like the rubbery plastic feel of the material. So, I searched for other methods.

Inkjet Printed Fabric

Then, I googled around and surprised to find that we can actually print directly to fabric by using Inkjet printer with a proper paper backing. Excited!!! But first, the fabric must be treated using Bubble Jet Set (BJS) or a pre-treated printable fabric. Where to get them here? Import? Call me thrifty, just take a look at the price! Also, the shipping cost is killing me. In addition, BJS liquid is near to impossible to enter my country without proper handling.

Doesn’t Batik Printing is about the same process in the way that we colored the fabric with dye then fixed it with chemical? If you don’t know, my country, Malaysia, is one of the exporters of Batik fabric, we even learned batik dyeing in school as an optional subject, too bad that I didn’t get to learn as I left school way before they implemented it. I gave it a try by applying the Batik Fixer (a kind of Sodium Silicate, very sticky liquid) onto the printed fabric. Note: fabric must have a paper backing so that the printer roller can grab and roll it in to print, exactly like printing on a paper (detail coming soon). After the printing and removing the paper backing, soaked it in the fixer for at least 8 hours, then hang it to dry. It looked fine immediately after rinsing but when I applied some mild detergent, the colors (except black and dark brown) begin to bleed and faded away. Just like the left photo above.

Inkjet Printable Canvas

I went to an art supplier shop to find for other material and idea and I came back with a roll of Inkjet Printable Canvas…. full of hopes that this time I was going to succeed because banner printing companies are using this material to print outdoor banner. I don’t know what is the process, so I just feed it into my printer and print. The ink took 24 hour to dry and I can see some ink smeared out from the print. I think I should heat treated it before rinsing it, so I place a white paper on top of it and iron for a few minutes with medium heat. The color still fading away (right photo above).

Laser Printed fabric

Then, I tried it on laserjet printer after hesitating in front of it for a brief second. Took a deep breath and fed the plain fabric with paper backing into it with my fingers and toes crossed and prayed hard that it won’t jam my only laserjet printer. Luckily, nothing bad happened, phew!!! But…. I only found out that color cartridges were low in powder after printed out, so the color is too light. I still gave it a rinse, but the printing were gone with a gentle squeeze. I can’t confirmed the failure factor due to the bad printing but one thing for sure I am not going to feed it in again if I have other alternative, laserjet cartridges and parts were too expensive for me to experiment.


I felt frustrated after all the experiments failed…. so, I gave it a shout in my Facebook fan page! Wow, never expect to receive so many ideas and information from you all, thanks!!! After read through and considered which method works well for me in terms of material availability and method, I selected the homemade faux bubble jet set 2000 (BJS 2000) method that lovely Anna gave, this (forum) and this (blog), but with a few alternatives on the main ingredient (please refer to the first photo for the result):

A. With Alum /Tawas / 明矾 I bought from Chinese herbal shop

B. With Alum (Aluminium Sulphate) I bought from Malay herbal shop

C. With Epsom (Magnesium Sulphate) I found at the organic section in Jaya Jusco.

D. With natural Sea Salt

E. With nothing but I rinsed it very briefly to keep the color.

F. The printout on paper where it is almost the same as the printout on the fabrics, a comparison to let you compare the color before and after rinse.

I set the printer to give a heavy ink so that the fabric is saturated with ink to cater for the fading. As you can see that the color still fade a little, I would suggest that you print darker tone on the fabric to account for the color fading. Below are the photos right after all the printings before rinse, A-E are fabrics and F is white paper, colors for treated fabric (A-D) are closed to those printed on paper which is brighter, but non-treated fabric (E) has a slightly dull color. I also tried the colorfastness of the permanent ink rubber stamp (see the little arch at the bottom left corner of A). The color set is better even on non treated fabric, cool!!!

By the way, I didn’t use 100% cotton for the fabric and it could be the reason why they faded more than they should. I will make another round with 100% cotton fabric and most probably with Epsom and sea salt since it gave the best result among others. Please come back for the detail with my modified recipe after I have done another round of printing.

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17 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Thanks for the info…I have used the Iron on transfer for my labels and also tried to used the inkjet printed fabric I bought from Walmart. Love the Iron on transfer but did not like the inkjet printed fabric. Of course, I have used Spoonflower for some of my fabric designs but they cost a lot. Anyway, the website you provided for inkjet printed cotton fabrics is really interesting. For me it’s cheaper than Spoonflower. I might try it and print some of my fabric designs. And oh…you should check out this blog…what she does is fabric stamp or blocking. She sells her fabrics at Etsy…here is the link of her method

    • Hi Ana,
      in ur comments u mentioned about a website providing the same services as Spoonflower with cheaper cost. Can i have the link to the website? I tried Spoonflower to design my own fabric :) but have not placed any order yet..So would be great if i can do the same with a cheaper price! Hope you could share with me here..many thanks!

  2. I am so glad that the info that I sent you helped. The results look great! I was going to try this too but you are saving me time, lol. and like I said before heat setting in the microwave really has improved my results with dye. when I get the chance hopefully next week, I plan on trying the citra solv method. I am thinking it would look really cool on denim.

  3. wow, great experiment, great result
    i’m sure will be coming back here often …

  4. Dearest Joanne, i am loving this post! It’s always so much fun to experiement. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and view! I am looking forward to try some on my own! Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to you!

  5. Dye sublimation onto polyester ribbon/ or 100% polyester material. Fully washable, sharp images, vibrancy and never fades, as the heat press sends the dye sublimation ink from a liquid to gas into the pores of the substrate – Permanently. Look it up

  6. Woah! I’m really loving the stuff of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s challenging to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance. I must say you have done a amazing job with this. Excellent Blog!


  7. Woah! I’m really loving the stuff of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s challenging to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance. I must say you have done a amazing job with this. Excellent Blog!

  8. So is it safe to say you can not treat fabric already printed on by Spoonflower to save the dye?

  9. Hai..love the idea…can your share recipes using epsom & sea salt…where can i get washing ash in malaysia?

  10. Have you tired just getting what ever design you are after printed by a company like spoonflower? http://www.spoonflower.com/welcome
    Probable more expensive, but there is no fuss or worry about fading

  11. Would you mind sharing your recipe using Epsom salts and sea salts? Do you add them to the original recipe or substitute for the alum?

  12. Would love your recipe and instructions for ink jet printer. Going to make a gypsy quilt but do not want photos yo fade out if it needs washed. Have you done more experimenting with this method?

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