Introduction: How to Print on Cotton Fabric Using an Inkjet Printer

What you are about to read worked for me and I have endeavoured to create a guide of exactly what I did to create some quality cloth prints on an inkjet printer.

Please do not attempt to do what I did unless you are confident you have the knowledge and experience to follow the steps without ruining your iron,  worktop, printer or marriage!!  There are plenty of people who have the correct experience to guide you through a project like this and I am sure if you ask for their help they will be glad to help you.

My son started School (reception) in January and the School has asked us to keep a pair of wellington boots in a bag at the School.
I remembered when we were at primary School (yes there were Schools then lol!) most of us had a cloth bag that we kept our P.E. kit in. So I thought I would make something for my son Mark that would do the job and also be original.
Some time ago I found some great ice hockey emblems in jpg format on the internet some were original but some were produced by artists as projects and did not seem to be copyright protected.

Here are some examples you will need to copy and paste the url into your browser:

Some of the above examples are most likely copyright protected.

Step 1: Sourcing Some Fabric

I did have some t-shirt transfers somewhere but we recently moved and after an hour or two searching around my home last night I decided fate was saying a different approach was required.

I did a few searches on the internet and discovered that some people succeeded in stiffening fabric enough so that it would feed directly into an  inkjet printer.

Mostly this was done using freezer paper (did not have any of that either) but a few people had used spray starch and although I had no cans of starch I did have some cornflour

I found a pair of my old white boxer shorts and although they were still bright white the elastic had seen better days so they were going to end up as painting and decorating rags soon anyway

I cut the elasticated hem off the top with scissors and then looked for a clear run without seams the piece of cotton I ended up with was a bit larger than an A3 sheet of paper.

Step 2: Stiffening the Cloth.

The cotton fabric was quite light weight and I did not think it would stiffen up enough to feed through the printer.
I used an ordinary little box of cheap cornflour to make up the starch. For this piece of cloth I decided about a cupful of water should saturate it enough and I added a heaped tea spoon of the cornflour to the water and gave it a good stir.
I laid the cloth on my kitchen work top and using a stiff paintbrush I gave the dry cloth a liberal coating of the mixture I had already ironed it flat and once I had finished it  was soaked all the way through.
(I would not recommend doing what I did next as I think you will get a better result by lightly stretching the fabric over a frame and leaving it to dry)

I then ironed the fabric using my household electric iron with the steam setting off until it was completely dry. As it was so wet this did take some time and I got  a few stains on the fabric as I think the iron needs an internal clean.

I also found that the fabric rucked up and creased a few times and also there was an excess of starch that had  dried on the surface and I had to brush off every now and again , so next time I will be patient and leave the fabric to dry over a stretcher. A large tray could work well for the stretcher so long as it has a good size lip and depth, I would use clothes pegs or similar to hold the fabric in place whilst it is stretched across the tray. 

Step 3: Cutting to Size

I have an hp officejet 6110 all in one printer it has a front loading tray that accepts A4 paper at its largest setting so I needed to trim my fabric down to A4 size which was the print size I had set up in my photo editing software. I had laid out all my motives and name tag so that they fitted the print area of an A4 sheet within my photo editing software.

The fabric had become reasonably stiff but at this stage I was not sure if it was stiff enough for the printer to pull it through its process.

I used a guillotine to cut the cloth to A4 size and just placed a piece of A4 paper (use a different colour paper if you have it) over the top of the fabric to ensure I cut to the right size. I noticed that the cloth cut better using a scissor/slicing like action rather than a straight single slice as it seemed to get jammed part way.

I ended up with two A4 size sheets of cloth ready for the printer,

At this stage I had no idea if the printer would print onto the heavily starched cloth or even draw it through the feeder. 

Step 4: Printing and Fixing

I tested the printer first to ensure all the ink colours were printing ok as I did not want to spoil the fabric with a misprint!

I set the printer up on best quality print with the paper setting to normal and clicked the mouse to print. The printer picked the paper up and started to print phew ok so far (thank god! I have not got the time to  fiddle around with this project for much longer) the print came out really well there was a small dark smudge on some of the waste area of the print probably due to a dirty cartridge but all in all very good.

Now when I did my research I came across the fact that inkjet ink when printed on cloth will run if it gets wet if you do not use a fixative and there was no way I was going to spend more time and money buying anything from a craft shop or ink suppliers. One person I found on the internet suggested spraying the cloth print with a thin coat of clear polyurethane varnish as this should fix the ink.

I knew I had a can of that so I cut all the motives out and laid them on some newspaper and sprayed them, only one coat but a good thick one. I left them to dry for half an hour or so until they were nearly touch dry then I took them to the kitchen work surface laid some greaseproof paper over them and gave them a good iron so they have had some varnish and heat now!

Step 5:

I set up my sewing machine with white cotton, I had cut up an old black t-shirt to use as the bag the t-shirt  had a good hem at the bottom which I used as the top hem for the bag.

Before I stitched the bag together I stitched all the motives in place (you have it do it in this order or its hard work if you are using a sewing machine) make sure the cloth is not inside out  or your motives will end up inside the bag!!

Once all the motives were in place I stitched the bag up leaving the stitching a little short of the top hem as that needed to be open so that the rope tie could be threaded through it.

All done I tied a length of string to the rope at one end and the other end of the string I tied to a pair of hobby tweezers and then threaded the string through the top hem , once done I pulled the rope gently through.

I secured the rope at the bottom corner of the bag using a simple knot which I had passed through a key ring . The keyring was secured to the bag by stitching a piece of black velcro loop   to the bottom corner of the bag  velcro is tough material so it should last.

and thats it, I still do not know if the ink will run when the bag gets wet but my guess is it will not as the varnish should have fixed it, I know it works on paper so it should work on cloth.