Introduction: How to Create a Home Fragrance Printer

Olfaction - our sense of smell - is our most primitive sense and is especially involved in forming and remembering emotional associations. Smell is a powerful tool for communicating emotions. At the moment, our emotional engagement with computers is achieved primarily through our visual and aural perception - that is, seeing and hearing digital information. If our sense of smell could be applied to our experiences on the computer, we would be able to experience a greater sense of emotion from the information we see onscreen.

This tutorial allows you to combine and print fragrances with onscreen text and images using your home printer. The printer can be modified to have fragrances assigned to the various ink colours. When the inks are mixed during a print, they form new and interesting combinations of scent particular to that text or image. Following this tutorial enables you are able to make your own perfumes and install them into the printer to create their own personal combinations of scents with your prints. 

Printing fragrances with colours can be used for a range of applications for personalising image and text prints. The emotional potential of smell is particularly suited for providing abstract associations with text content and might be an effective way to personalise stories and poems or add a scent signature to a personal letter. Images and photos are also given a personal and emotional touch when printed with fragrances.

During the research for this tutorial, I conducted a survey to gauge the effectiveness of scent as contributor to the emotional understanding of content. A text and an image related by content were presented to the participants and the effectiveness of the scent was gauged as a communicator of a singular emotion in the text. The content was supplied twice, once with an added scent and once without. The scent supplied with the second reading was a watery floral scent which corresponded with the imagery in the text. The results of the survey, displayed in a graph above, show the majority of participants found that the scent helped to enhance a sense of emotion in the text. Most participants found that the scented text communicated the emotions of the text more effectively than the non-scented one, and a minority, found that the scent helped them create new emotional connections with the text, adding new emotional meanings that may have drawn on their own experiences.

This tutorial is part of the eScents project, a research project focused on exploring how learnt relationships between scent and the digital interactions might be established and generating discussion around what influence these relationships might have on the way interact with technology. Check out the project blog at

For research purposes, I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions for this tutorial, such as new applications for this technology, your thoughts on the value of this as a possible future technology or your personal experiences with the tutorial. As mentioned, the project aims to generate a discussion on this technology so any comments would be valuable for the project.


> A home printer with empty ink cartridges. Some printers gave up to six ink cartridges - this allows for more variety of scent. This tutorial has been completed with a four cartridge Canon MP280 inkjet printer.

> A printer cartridge refill kit for your printer. Be sure that you have the correct refill kit specific to your printer brand and model. It should include ink refills and syringes for injecting into printer cartridges.

> A series of water-based fragrances of your own choice (see tutorial link in Step 1 to make your own)

> Cups to mix liquids

Step 1:

Follow the link to the How to make perfume tutorial. This is a cheap, simple and effective way to create your own custom scents for the printer.

Follow the link to and complete the tutorial.

The value of this tutorial comes from your ability to assign custom scents to each print. Although this is a personal choice, there are some existing structures with which perfumers combine fragrances successfully. These might act as a guide to the scents your create and install in your fragrance printer.

The fragrance wheel was first developed by fragrance expert Michael Edwards in 1983 and categorises odours into four major families - those with floral, fresh, woody or oriental notes - giving examples of each. It also describes how these families can be combined to make new fragrance combinations and the words used for each.

The fragrance pyramid also gives insight into the composition of commercial fragrances and the ingredients used. These diagrams act as a guide to producing your own set of complimentary fragrances. Here is a list of tried fragrance combinations:

Of course, the decision of which perfumes to use is a personal one and depends on your experience with those scents, your personal aesthetic, and so on. Perhaps one last thing to consider is the emotional effect that your combined fragrances might create when printed. How might these scents relate to the kind of material you will be printing? Also consider your personal experience with these scents and how they effect you emotionally.

Step 2:

Pour one colour ink from the refill kit ink into a cup with the fragrance you wish to combine it with. This should be be done to the ratio of 1 part ink to 2 parts fragrance, or to taste, depending on the strength of the fragrance.

Mix thoroughly.

Step 3:

Remove empty ink cartridges from printer.

Use the syringes to suck up the fragrance/ink mixture and inject into the corresponding colour ink cartridges.

Replace fragrance cartridges into printer.

Step 4:

Print this fragrance test page.

The page allows you to gauge scent of colours separately and mixed and to adjust levels of scent to achieve the desired balance and effect.

If you are happy with the fragrance levels in your new fragrance printer, you are now ready to print scents!