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 costs $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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79 Responses to How to print on fabric at home – 4 different ways

  1. Yvonne Larson says:

    Am I correct that the design is printed directly onto the fabric rather than onto a transfer that is ironed to a T-shirt or other piece of cloth?

  2. Lynn Maynard says:

    Great Info.
    Would like to see heat presses versus irons for hats and shirts, with applique.
    Maybe even cutting machines.

  3. crazycrafter27c says:

    Great tutorial! Thank you. I think I would have to read this over and over while doing it. It is complex but you nailed it with your instructions and thank you also, for your comparisons. They are invaluable!

  4. Kathy Wallace says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial. I will be printing off a fabric print that is greatly reduced in size for a dollhouse.

  5. Sandy Fry says:

    Sorry for being dim,, you use the inkjet printer to print on the fabric side ……doesn’t that use a lot of ink or.smudge? The freezer paper or fusible web is just to make the plain cotton fabric more sturdy? Does this only work when printing on cotton or could you use felt, polyester cotton, silk or even fusible web side to make a pattern?

  6. Marge V Gray says:

    This was a great read, used to do this years ago when I made a 50 HS reunion quilt. Made a house and put before and current photos of each person in the windows. Matched each house in fabric they liked. As red/white/blue house for the retired service person and etc. Think Annie was asking do you dry iron on the dull side of the freezer paper or the side which has a shine on it? Marge

  7. Pamela White says:

    Have you ever tried to print on marine vinyl or any similar vinyl?

  8. Karol says:

    I’ve used the freezer paper method for years. I use a piece of light cardstock with a piece of double stick tape across the top. I stick the fabric to the tape. No problems. Feeds like the spendy sheets. The tape lasts for several printings. When it starts to get less than full stick across the paper, just pull it off and put on another piece. You could try putting on new piece over the old. You just don’t want to get it too thick with tape at the top.

  9. Susan Starr says:

    How do you get the photograph on the fabric?

    • Anne Evans says:

      The same way as you would print onto a sheet of paper. Use one of the methods above – attach a piece of fabric to paper/freezer paper as per instructions above then feed it through your printer just as you would a sheet of printer paper and use whatever software/programme you would normally use to print an image onto paper.

  10. Melissa Watts says:

    I love this tutorial. Since you mentioned the questionable use of a laser printer let me touch that topic. Do not use a laser printer for anything that has adhesive on it or a meltable surface. Laserjets work by melting the ink onto the page with heat. Well I guess it would be silly if you were melting it on there with cold. Anyway, things like wax paper will melt in your laser printer. You can buy special types of transfer paper for laser printers. I had to replace the entire roller assembly in my laser printer after using T-shirt transfer paper designed for inkjet. Be sure to check for anything you buy and make sure it specifically says for use with a laser printer. I hope this saves somebody a lot of money due to my mistake.

    • Kathleen B Gulbranson says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience! I hadn’t thought about how a laser printer works!

    • Donna Quigley says:

      Can you share what kind of transfer paper you used for your laser printer? I am needing to make a memory quilt using photos and all I have is a laser printer. Thank you

  11. Ellen Wadsworth says:

    I have used the white and color fuse on paper in a quilt for my oldest grand daughter, to print pictures of her life up to age 12. It turned out very well, loved by both her and parents. I don’t know about washing it, because they live about 130 miles from her and being handicapped don’t drive there as I would like.

  12. Sandra Goodwin says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this free information, it was very easy to follow. I look forward to more.

  13. Diane says:

    I don’t really see any instructions for how to use the paper, etc. Do you print on it? Which side? Then what do you do? Do you iron it on? How hot is the iron? How long do you iron it? I’d really like instructions.

    • Anne Evans says:

      Diane – When using freezer paper as it says above “you simply iron with a dry iron to your fabric.” then feed the fabric through your printer. With fusible webbing you iron that onto your fabric and again feed fabric through the printer. The ‘ready made fabric printer sheets’ are ready to feed straight through your printer.
      Hope this explains it well enough.


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