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Fabric image transfers: t-shirt transfers

Last week I talked about a couple of my favorite methods for transferring images from one paper to another. Today I want to look at transferring to fabric instead. There are two methods that I use more than any other, and I want to start by showing you side-by-side what the final results look like:

The first is a t-shirt transfer, and the second is a transparency transfer. It’s easy to see how much more pigmented and opaque the t-shirt transfer turns out to be. Both of these methods will reverse the image, just like the ones we saw last week, so keep that in mind when you are printing out your inkjet picture.

We’ll start with the t-shirt transfer method:

1. Print out your image onto the transfer paper with a bit of extra saturation of color. Prepare the receiving cloth, ironing it flat if needed.

2. Use parchment paper to protect your iron and board. Iron the transfer in place, following the manufacturer’s specific directions for heat and time. Peel off the transfer paper.

3. Again using parchment paper to protect your iron, iron waxed paper over top of the image to remove the plastic-y feel of the transfer. Peel off the waxed paper. I learned this trick from Rice Freeman-Zachery on a radio interview that she did.

Part two shows the Transparency transfers

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Copyright 2007 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Anonymous said…
I am curious if this transferring can be done with an old photograph that is not on a computer and printed with a computer printer.
Cyndi L said…
Photographs often have a layer of emulsion over them which prevents them from being transferred with this particular method. It is sometimes possible to lift the emulsion off and transfer *that*, but what I would suggest instead (especially if the photo is important to you) is that you scan and copy it, and transfer the copy instead :-)
Cyndi L said…
Bree, I use the Avery brand of tee shirt transfer paper, but there are others available as well. You can buy it at Staples or Office Max. The fabric is just plain muslin, but many types of fabrics work for this, as long as you can iron them :-)
ClaireZitzow said…
is it possible to transfer an image that is already printed on fabric to wood? i have a hand-painted silk scarf that i would like to transfer to a wood board.
Cyndi L said…
Well, I wouldn't say it's absolutely impossible, but I don't think you'll find it will work very well. Once fabric paint has dried, it's probably not going to reconstitute very well, if at all. Maybe if you could find the right kind of solvent, but I'm afraid that I can't help you with that.

My suggestion would be to scan your fabric and print it out on paper or on a transparency. Then you can do an inkjet transfer using acrylic medium.
Christine said…
This looks fabulous! Can you tell me if the fabric which would now have the image transferred could be embroidered - would the image make the fabric a little brittle, hard or otherwise incapable of being pierced with a fine needle?

I am needing to embroider something which I am hoping will endure for a long time. Is it possible to know how the transfer medium might affect gold and silk threads in time?

And another question - for a different project - is this transfer medium capable of being use on ANY fabric - for instance could I use it on tapestry canvas, which has holes on it for cross stitch to be worked? Would the fibres of the canvas be "shed" when the needle passes through the holes?(I believe that I would need to prick each of the holes in the canvas before working the cross stitch and some of the transfer medium would presumably be shed but once this was done (if it is in fact possible) it should be plain sailing - yes?

Many thanks,

Cyndi L said…
Christine, I have embroidered through these transfers and they do give some resistance but it's not too bad. If you stick your needle in, it's going to leave a mark, so be sure you know where you're planning to embroider. Also, don't add any acrylic medium top coat or anything, just leave the transfer as is.

On loosely woven fabrics, you'll get some distortion, but if you're wanting to use the transfer sort of as a guide I could see this working...maybe! How's that for an answer? I'd love it if you tried this out and shared your work with us here! I love having other artists do profiles...hint, hint :-)
nicolepep said…
hey, would you know how to transfer a computer picture onto a tshirt, but i dont want it to be the glossy image, you know the transfers that you can't feel and it almost feels like its in the actually fabric, is that possible? so i can get the vinatge worn away look.
Cyndi L said…
The transparency-style transfer will give you more of the soft vintage look that you want. Check out
Anonymous said…
I transfered an image onto a tshirt, then transfered another image over it. The paper backing of the second image refuses to come off, and if I tug gently, it threatens to pull off the original image. Any suggestions?
Cyndi L said…
If you used acrylic medium to do the transfer, let the whole thing totally dry out for a few days. Then wet the paper backing well and rub it gently with a baby wipe.
Hannah said…
Do you know if this paper can be found at other stores such as Walgreens and Walmart?
Cyndi L said…
I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Unknown said…
Does it have to be inkjet printing?
Cyndi L said…
You'll have to check the brand of transfer paper that you buy. Some may work with other types of printing, but the type I bought (years and years ago now!) specified ink jet, and that's what I have.