How to print on fabric at home – 4 different ways

How to print on fabric at home. 4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

I was drawn to the idea of printing on fabric when I saw some amazing memory quilts shared by one of our readers in the sewing chat group.  She used vintage family photos to create unique quilt blocks for her breath-taking quilts that will surely become treasured family heirlooms.

Sadly Facebook decided to mysteriously remove the lovely photos she sent me so I can’t show you those, but here are a couple of other memory quilts shared by our group members using their own printed fabrics.

Memory quilts

Of course you don’t have to just print photos, and you don’t have to use them in memory quilts either.  There are lots of other applications and reasons why you might want to print your own fabric.  We’ll take a look at a couple of examples.

Print your own fabric series

So how difficult might it be to get your photo, text or any other image onto fabric?  Well, it’s easy and it’s hard – but there are several different options and several things that can go right and wrong along the process.  We’ll look at the whole process and the options that might or might not work for you, over this and the next two articles in this series:

  1. This one – How to print on fabric at home – 4 different ways
  2. Coming up next – Print your own fabric – what about washing and fading?
  3. Making your own sew in ‘designer’ labels
  4. Last one – Using  your print at home fabrics in a sewing project

Let’s take a look first at how to get the fabric into your printer.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

How to print on fabric at home

In all of these examples, I’m using my regular (old and cheap) Canon Multi-function bubble jet printer. It may also work on Laser Printers, but you’ll have to test that for yourself.  You’ll need to make your fabric stiff and stable enough to feed through a printer successfully.  There are several different methods, and I’ve picked the 4 most popular to try and test below.  Here are my experiences.

Method 1 – freezer paper sheets

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

You can buy ready-cut freezer paper sheets that you simply iron with a dry iron to your fabric.  My pack of 30 sheets cost $7.92 on Amazon.  (US here or UK here.)

They went on quickly, easily and smoothly. Then trim around the sheet with scissors or a rotary cutter.  Despite the description saying that ‘Sheets lie flat’ mine did roll on the corners a little after fusing.  I think one of my corners wasn’t properly fused because it came away a little during the printing and created a smudge in that one corner.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

I tried it again with a second sheet, made sure the corners were good after trimming but that one was the same too.  It came away during printing and created a smudge in the one corner.  Not sure if it was my fabric, my printer or my trimming, or something else, but I didn’t get perfect results with these ready cut freezer paper sheets.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Method 2 – make your own freezer paper printables

So assuming these freezer paper sheets are just that – sheets cut from freezer paper, can we simply make our own?  I cut some freezer paper roughly to size, ironed it to my fabric and then trimmed the lot with a rotary cutter to a size to fit through my printer.  The freezer paper went on easily and smoothly, felt no different to the sheets above.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Obviously a little less convenient than simply pulling out a ready cut sheet, but it does mean you can make sheets any size you want, and that it would be cheaper than the ready cut sheets.

It’s on a roll so I expected the end result to be curled, but it wasn’t really any different to the curling on the ready cut sheets.  It seemed to fuse better than the sheets and fed through my printer perfectly every time without any coming away or smudging.  Right first time.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Method 3 – ready-made fabric printer sheets

The most convenient and the most expensive method.  I bought this pack of 3 pre-treated ready-made fabric printing sheets by June Tailor for about $10.  (Amazon US here and UK here.)  They also have another very big advantage – they are pre-treated with an ink-fixing treatment.  We’ll talk about inks and fading later on.

How to print on fabric at home.  4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

These were by far the most superior and for me, the best and most preferred method.  The sheets were completely flat, thick and strong and fed through the printer perfectly every time, with no smudging.  I was very confident in using them, and they gave a very crisp printed result, bright colors and a nice quality.

How to print on fabric at home. 4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

The color is described as white, but it was a little less bright white than the cotton fabric I was using.  You can see here a comparison of color and of printing between my cotton fabric I was using with the freezer paper and the ready-cut fabric sheets in this package.  Printing is generally clearer, brighter and crisper.

How to print on fabric at home. 4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Method 4 – using a fusible web

I used the Heat N Bond fusible web to stiffen the fabric for printing in this final test.  (Amazon US here and UK here.)  Works similar to freezer paper but with an added advantage.  Comes on a roll, so quite economical, and fuses to the fabric with a dry iron.  Then trimmed to size same as the freezer paper method.  Still curls when fused, but it was a little heavier weight than the freezer paper and fed perfectly through the printer every time, no smudging.

How to print on fabric at home. 4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Added bonus – the fusible web is double-sided, so when you peel off the backing paper, your fabric sheet is now fusible and has a glue layer on the reverse so you can cut out shapes, photos etc and fuse them to other projects or simply fuse them to another piece of fabric for strength and stability.

How to print on fabric at home. 4 different methods and products tested and reviewed.

Pros and cons of each method of printing on fabric

Freezer paper – easy to use, making your own sheets is cheaper than buying the ready-made freezer paper sheets.  Sheets might be reusable several times, but probably best not to.  Possibility of some creasing, curling or smudging if your corners or leading edge aren’t properly fused or have little threads.

Ready-prepared fabric sheets – easiest option and the best printed result.  Pre-treated to be colorfast (read more about why this is important later), but expensive.  Save for your ‘best’ projects, anything that needs to be washed, and test print on the freezer paper method first.  If you are going to choose – I recommend investing in these sheets instead of the cheaper methods.  If a thing is worth doing, its worth doing well!

Fusible web – leaves a fusible layer on the reverse of your printed sheet – this can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you plan to use it.  Easy to use and reasonably priced.

Coming up ….

Next in the series, we’ll look at print settings to use, and whether your printed fabric is washable or not, and what to do about that!  Until then, start to gather a few of those fabric printing supplies together because I’ll have some printable files to share and we can work on a project.


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29 Responses to How to print on fabric at home – 4 different ways

  1. Christine Muehlbauer says:

    For printing on many fabrics (canvas, felt, burlap, cotton, etc.), I just use a full size of (8 1/2″ X 11″) Avery label sheets. I have never utilized any of the aforementioned sources for printing on fabric because the office label sheets are great. I do in fact have a good printer (HP Photosmart Inkjet), so this might help with my success, but honestly, I have used this method on other printers I have owned in the past with great success. I love using the full size Avery label sheets. I have even utilized the same sheet two or three times (not with felt and burlap though, due to leftover/residual lint/material) and it still worked great. As far as treating the fabric so it doesn’t run, well I don’t have much to offer about that because my industry is not for items that will ever require washing. Give it a whirl, you all might like it. Happy Crafting 🙂

  2. Karol says:

    I used Bubble Jet Set early on when it came out with great success. When I had a problem with corners, I made a ‘carrier’ sheet from a piece of card stock with double stick tape across the top. I would put the freezer paper/fabric combo, paper side to the d/s tape. That allowed the printer to catch it with no problem. Perfect prints with my canon ink jet printer. The tape would last for quite a few prints. Then I’d replace it.

    In fact before the BJS, I used artist’s workable fixative on the fabric. I don’t remember where that idea came from. sprayed it on. pressed it and repeated it a couple times. It worked well. Wouldn’t take a lot of washing tho

  3. Wow, i love this. This is stuff I’ve never heard of before. Gonna try it after hitting Amazon.

  4. Shannon says:

    This is a great series! Like someone mentioned above I’ve been paralyzed by indecision. I want to make my grandmother a pillow with pictures of her great grandchildren but can’t decide on the method I want to use. After I finish my sewing for teachers I’m just going to dive in. My grandmother sews the most beautiful quilts. It will be nice for her to receive something handmade for a change!

  5. Dory says:

    I am a little “thick!” My question, does the image actually print on the fabric or is it on the paper fused to the fabric? My granddaughters want some certain images on some t-shirts and I was going to try and make them, but my first attempt was a disaster. I’ve since bought more t-shirts and would like to try again. Thanks for your suggestions

    • Ah for t-shirts you want something different again. There is a product where you print the image onto a transfer paper and then iron that onto the t-shirt and the image comes off the paper onto the fabric. I used this stuff to create some cool Christmas Decorations here where I transferred images onto felt. If you check out this link, you’ll see the stuff you need for t-shirts. http://so-sew-easy.com/easy-felt-christmas-tree-ornaments/

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, the image is printed right on the fabric, so make sure when you load your fabric/paper that the fabric is the right side up for your printer to print on .

  6. Patsy says:

    I have used the freezer paper method for all my quilts so far (a dozen or so). I usually am making one label at a time and center it on my fabric so if the corner curls or smudges it doesn’t matter. I use the freezer paper on the roll cutting it to size. I have an inkjet printer and print with black ink. I find other colors of ink do wash out easier (at least navy blue did not work as well). I make sure I heat set the ink before I wash. So far so good. I like making labels this way because I can use my computer and say what I want and decorate the way I want. Deby, thank you for this study and posting it. Most informative.

  7. Ann says:

    Thank you! I just ordered the fabric paper to try this on a quilt. I will let you know how it does.

  8. Penny says:

    I don’t like the fabric sheets, they are stiff and rubbery, I love the bubble jet method, because if I want a certain color for leaves or what ever I am doing, then I just grab a sheet I already treated and is ready to go, this works great, I just treat a bunch of fabric at once and then when I want a certain design, I just grab one and start playing with color. thank you, oh and yes I use good old wax paper and just a little bit of blue painter tap on the end, works beautifully .

  9. Lesley Gilbert says:

    I’ve used the ‘iron on’ transfer paper method a few times with great success. I printed some football team logos onto white fabric and made them into mug rugs to sell at a craft fair 🙂

  10. Gail B says:

    Thanks Deby for the info for printing on fabric and I will be looking forward to all of the following blogs relating to this topic.

  11. Simka Miljkovic says:

    Last Christmas, I made zipper bags for all my co-workers. They sent me their favorite pictures and I printed them on fabric. I used white duck cloth that I soaked in Bubble Jet 2000 (after pre-washing) and adhered to freezer paper (I had better luck with the sheets than with the roll). After printing, I used Bubblet Jet Rinse (I purchased both from Darma Trading -they have wonderful directions on their site).
    I was so pleased with the results and my co-workers LOVED them.

  12. Hilary says:

    I recently read a book – I think it was called “Breaking The Rules With Fabric” but I’m not 100% certain – and it suggested that when you’re prepping freezer paper with fabric to feed through your printer that you make sure the fabric doesn’t quite go all the way to the leading edge of the paper (the part your printer will grab on to to pull the sheet through.) It helps it feed more smoothly, apparently. Haven’t tried it yet, but thought that might help with your corner pulling up issue.
    Thanks for the great review of options!

  13. Kim says:

    I forgot to add that there is fabric sold on amazon that comes in rolls that you can cut to the size that you need and use for printing. This is actually my fabric of choice. It is the least expensive and easiest for printing on fabric.

  14. Kim says:

    I have tried many ways of printing on fabric, including all that you have shown above. I also have used cotton fabric adhered to card stock with Bubble Jet Set and used the Bubble Jet Rinse afterwards to set the ink. I sell these in my etsy shop and people love sending me pics and getting their picture on fabric to use in any project they’d like. Several people have also just framed the printed fabric! You can also print fabric with fabric designs to make quilts and other items. I have made my own fabric by printing a sock monkey fabric design onto the cotton and then made other items with the new fabric that I’ve made. This is also a great idea to save your children’s artwork and compile it all into a nice baby quilt for future grandchildren or collect pictures of a bride and groom while they are growing up and print them onto fabric along with engagement and wedding pictures and it makes a lovely wedding or anniversary gift. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination!

  15. Thanks for all the info, Deby – very helpful. I bought some ready prepared fabric sheets. Have totally forgotten what I had in mind, but I haven’t used them yet. They cost $30 for 5 sheets!!! At least I know now they’re a good option.

  16. Sherry Kelly says:

    I’ve been researching this very topic because I want to make an anniversary quilt for my parents. Here are a couple other options:
    There is a product called Bubble Jet set. You soak your fabric in this prior to printing.
    There is also something called iron on transfer paper. You print your image onto this and then iron it on to your fabric.
    The third option, and the one I am leaning toward is to email your pictures to Spoonflower and have them print them onto fabric for you.
    All of these suggestions come highly recommended from those who have used them. I’m kind of paralyzed by indecision at this point :/

    • I know! There are so many ways you can do it, you just have to look at all the options and decide which is best for your project. Spoonflower would no doubt probably give the best results, but it can be expensive. The Bubble Jet Set I can’t get here so couldn’t try that one, but would be an alternative to using the pre-treated sheets.

    • Charlotte says:

      I make my own by using regular paper for the printer, high quality muslin fabric or sheets, repositional spray on adhesive. Name brand printer ink turns out is water insoluble, but generic ink runs like crazy.

      • I thought that too about the ink but it turns out it’s not that straightforward. My black Canon sticks, my Canon color inks washes out. I’ve got a follow up article coming up about washability. Interesting about using a spray adhesive and regular paper. Must try!

  17. Linda says:

    Printer must be inkjet – laser works differently.
    Thanks for reviewing the different methods. I plan on making a family tree quilt with pictures so will take your review into advisement. Did you find the printed ready -made sheets stiff? That has been my experience.

    • Yes they were a bit stiff, but that tends to work well with the sort of projects I’d be making anyway and would save me adding and interfacing to the fabric.

    • Kim says:

      Yes Linda, you are exactly right. The laser printers will not be colorfast if you print onto fabric with them. You must use an ink printer in order to make the prints last.

  18. Andi C says:

    I’ve printed directly onto freezer paper to transfer designs onto wood and other surfaces to paint, but never knew it could be ironed onto fabric to give it the stiffness for printing!! I learn something new every time I read your blog. Thank you Deby!

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