Introduction: Lavender Oil Printed Shirt

Do you have a nice black and white print that you wish to have on a shirt? For example on the sleeve or at the left lower corner, but your preferred shirt print company doesn't print in this areas?

Just do it yourself. Without screen printing (yes, I know, it is also really cool, but it takes a while to master it) or thermo-tranfer prints (which have usually this "invisible" area without color, which can be still seen).

Just your black print and some drops of essential lavender oil.

You don't believe me? Just give it a try…

Step 1: Material and Tools

What you need:

  • Print from a laser printer (ink jet printers don't work) or a black and white laser copy from your copy shop
  • Essential/ethereal lavender oil (I bought a cheap one from a local drugstore)
  • A shirt or fabric bag in a bright color
  • Parchment paper, to avoid oil stains on your table and backside of the shirt
  • Some tape to fix your print
  • A stainless steel spoon
  • A hot iron

Step 2: Transferring the Print on Your Shirt

Yes, I know, you want to start immediately, but it's better to give it a try first, than to ruin your shirt.

  1. Print some smaller images with the same printer for a pre-trial. If you have the chance use different printers (your own, that one at the office, the one at your friends place) It took me two trials, until I realized that the printer from my office is somehow not working.
  2. Take a scrap piece of fabric or a similar fabric to the one you want to print on. I realized that for me a knitted jersey worked much better, than a stiff woven fabric, but maybe it was also because of the laser toner.
  3. Follow the steps below :-)

Now you are ready for the real game

    1. Laser print your chosen image in black, make sure that you flipped it horizontally (if it contains letters, double check that it is flipped before printing)
    2. Set a piece of parchment paper inside your shirt, this avoids the oil and the color to be transferred to the backside of the shirt
    3. Fix your shirt on a hard underground
    4. Fix your print upside down on the shirt
    5. Gently drop some oil on the paper. Smoothly spread it over the paper until everything is oily, but there are no "lakes" on the paper, I used a scrap piece of paper for that, but you could also use a brush
    6. Rub gently with the spoon over the printed areas, try not to move the paper, otherwise the toner will leak and your print will be fuzzy.
    7. Repeat for a while and have a careful peak view.
    8. If there are areas which aren't transferred in a satisfying way, you can add a drop more and rub again
    9. If you think you're finished lift the paper and have a look :-)
    10. Yeah, it worked :-)

    Step 3: Fixing the Toner

    Now you need to fix the color on the fabric

    1. Place the parchment paper below and above your print.
    2. Hot iron for 3 min with the recommended heat for your shirt.
    3. The leftover ethereal liquids in the shirt will vaporize due to the heat, so please make sure you're ironing at a good ventilated place (or directly outside)
    4. If there are leftover oil stains, you can treat the printed area with some extra soap before the next washing. The color will also be a little bit lighter after washing and drying, but it is a really nice effect :-)

    Actually I only wanted the print on the front side of the shirt, but since this technique is so much fun, I took a smaller print, cut out the words and transferred it to the backside of the shirt. Now I need to find the next print and shirt, because there is still so much ethereal oil left... :-)

    Step 4: Explanation How It Works, Try and Error

    Unfortunately I'm not a chemical engineer, and therefore I can't explain the real chemical processes that happen during this ethereal lavender oil print. But the explanation I made to myself would be that some components in the oil are dissolving the toner, which is actually a powder activated by heat, and therefore transfer it to the fabric.

    The hot ironing process fixes the loosened toner to the shirt and vaporizes the leftover ethereal components from the oil until only the "oily" part is left, but this part will disappear in next washing.

    This didn't work out for me:

    color printed picture on canvas - somehow either the color doesn't dilute or the fabric is too coarsely woven

    black and red print from my office printer on jersey

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