Fabric Printing With Citra-Solv

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Introduction: Fabric Printing With Citra-Solv

About: I love to stay home as much as as I love to travel, I've been to 49 states (missing Alaska) and 31 countries. I have two wiener dogs now and a cat. We all live together in a house in the woods. With no roaches.

Any photograph, image or design that looks good in black and white is a great candidate for printing with Citra-Solv. It's permanent, can be washed in the washer, takes about 2 minutes to do and it's cheap and easy. Once you start printing it's hard to stop because the possibilities are pretty endless.

Step 1: What You Need:

1. Citra-Solv. They have an incredible website with product info, art stuff, order info, go here. If you live in the States you can find it at just about any Whole Foods. But save yourself a trip and go to their website if you live far from town. There are great ideas there that I didn't know about until after I wrote this 'ible.
2. Small shallow bowl
3. Cheap 1" or larger paint brush
4. Fabric you want to print on (this should be the smoothest fabric you can find - usually that means a tight weave, but experiment - if you don't have a lot of detail such as a photo you can use a looser
weave fabric.
5. An iron
6. Access to a copier that uses toner (most do, like a Xerox or Cannon etc.) This means a copier that ONLY prints in black.
7. Newspaper or something to protect your dining room table if need be
8. A big spoon, wooden or metal
9. Some pins
10. Images you want to print

Step 2: About Citra-Solv:

Citra-Solv must have some other uses besides being used to print images onto fabric but I don't know what those uses are unless I read the side of the bottle. You can do that if you want. I am not going to be pedantic and do it here.

All that matters to you and I is that it is pleasant to smell, but you still need to use it in a well ventilatied room or outside, and you should try not to get it on your hands - it doesn't burn but it's not good for you. Keep it out of your eyes obviously - OK, I read the side of the bottle. A little bit anyway.

There is more info about this in the ironing section - be sure to read that too.

Step 3: What to Do Next:

Make a bunch of copies (on a copier) of photos you like or images or designs. Until you get the hang of it keep your images to about 4" x 4" (10 mm) to start with. You will find that you get better the more you do, but in the beginning just use some junky fabric. It takes a little practice to know how hard to burnish, how secure the paper must be not to be moved while you are burnishing and how much Citra-Solv to use.

You can use images that you have on your computer (I am assuming I don't have to say anything about copyright stuff here, you know the drill by now - DONT COPY other's work without permission). Print them in black in white or color - it doesn't much matter as you are going to be making copies of them on the copier that will be in black and white.

You are then going to lay the image upside down, meaning that you will be looking at the back of the paper. Now secure it to the fabric with those pins from the supply list.

Step 4: Brushing on the Citra-Solv

As you can see from the above photos the stuff is like water and it's easy to just wipe it across your upside down copy in under a second.

Step 5: Burnishing

This is where your spoon comes in. It can be a metal or a wooden one, but the idea is to rub and rub the spoon on the image. That rubbing pressure will make the ink, which has been turned into a liquid from the Citra-Solv, transfer to the fabric underneath.

Your printing/burnishing surface must be fairly hard - not as hard as a table and not as soft as a towel on top of a table; newspapers and a piece of fabric give about the right hardness. Think about how the paper would bend if you were burnishing on a really soft surface. Think about your lack of surface area on a really hard surface. Look for something to give you an in-between surface.

Step 6: Peeking

In this step you take out all but one pin and take a peek to see how you are doing - is the image all there? Is is smeared? Is is dark enough? I can tell you from experience that once you get the hang of this kind of printing you will not want to take a peek because no matter how careful you are to place the paper back down just right, it usually shifts just a tad. The result is a blurry print.

But the reason I want you to peek at this point is because you are just practicing. Peek enough times and you will soon get to the point that you won't have to.

Step 7: Ironing

Sometimes I don't remove the paper at all but iron right on it after burnishing. Sometimes I remove the paper and then iron. Sometimes I think I get a darker print if I iron right through the paper but I think more depends on the weave of the fabric.

Iron on a cloth to protect your ironing board. You are protecting it from smelling like Citra-Solv forever and also in case any ink goes right through your fabric.

I don't think it is a good idea to breath Citra-Solve fumes as they evaporate from the hot iron so you should do this outside or in a well ventilated room or wear a real gas mask. When I am working with it I tend to print many, many images on a piece of fabric so I wear a real gas mask, don't let this deter you from tying this 'ible. I use a lot so I take more precautions. It doesn't say anything on the bottle about it being harmful if inhaled (it does smell pretty good too) so it must not be, but it's just common sense to me. (Yes, I read the side of the bottle after all).

Step 8: Hints

Weave matters. The tighter the weave the more detail you will have in your print.

Poke just a small hole in the top of the Citra-Solv bottle so the stuff doesn't evaporate too fast and so you have more control as you pour it into that shallow dish.

Iron your fabric before you start printing because you really need a flat smooth surface.

If you are printing on a T-shirt put something inside the shirt so you don't have ink bleeding through to the back of the shirt.

I know you will ask but no, you cannot use this technique with stuff you print out from your inkjet printer. I tried it and nothing happens, no ink transfers because no ink dissolves. Laser printers I do not know about - try it and let us know.

An Addtional Note: I tried this technique with a color laser copy (not to be confused with a color laser print, which I have not tried yet) and there was no transfer at all. The color copy (from Kinkos) was a few years old. A brand new copy may have a dfferent effect.

Remember that if you are printing an image with words on it that they (the words) will print in reverse. Actually the image will print in reverse too. You probably already knew that but just in cae you didn't, make them backwards before you make your copy so you can read them. Some really great copiers have this feature - so if yours does, use it. You will only forget one time.

Step 9: The Best Step - You Can Wash It!

Yes you really can. I have even tried to bleach it with no effect at all. It's on there for good.

Step 10: The End

Happy Printing. Don't hesitate to ask me questions, and please rate my Ible. Citra Solv has a great link to finding printers and copiers that work well - here.

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    264 Discussions

    Hello, I’m not sure if I understand well the type of printer you need to use. Is it a laser printer that works with toner?
    Or just a copier that works with toner?
    If possible could you please give me some printer or copier suggestions?
    Thank you!!!

    1 reply

    Because things have changed so much since I wrote that 'ible I would suggest that you get images from a variety of sources - printers, copiers etc and test them to see which work and which don't. Whatever you do though just try it, don't worry about it not working, you won't know until you try. In this 'ible I used a cannon copier - a PC941 but it's about 20 years old now. I can't give you any suggestions because tech changes so fast. Pick an image and go around to all your friends with some beers and trade for a copy on their printer, go to a few different print shops and ask for different copies. You are looking for toner yes, but I've been told that some inks work as well. Good luck. You can always contact Citra Solv - they are great folks.

    I compared the transfer I got from Citra-Solv + spoon (nothing transferred) and the transfer achieved by using a Walnut Hollow tool (about 1/2 the toner transferred). I also tested combining the two (with multiple fans blowing away the fumes), but it only made the image blurrier. I recommend the Walnut Hollow tool, but this could just be due to the copier I am using, of course. Someone suggested that the paper used to print makes a difference as well, and some papers lose all the toner to the fabric.

    4 replies

    I put Citra Solv on a napkin and rub the back of a LASER print and it works GREAT. It's all about the LASER PRINTER! If you do not have one, go to Staples or Office Depot and have them do it.

    INKJET PRINTERS are the WRONG kind of printer (just in case there's any confusion)

    I think that the subject of which copier to use has been discussed at length. It's not about the tool you use obviously as you can see in the photos. The copier that uses toner is key. Printers do not usually work. Cheap copies that only copy in black and white. The paper does not matter.

    I understand that your method works for some copiers. I mentioned the heat-transfer method so that those who cannot find a copier that works for Citra-Solv could use heat instead.

    But this is an 'ible on transferring images to fabric with Citra-Solve. If you want to write one on using something else then you should. Your comments, though well intentioned don't really make sense here. I thought your reference to a walnut hollow tool was something made from a hollow walnut. Even now that I understand the transfer tool was heated the comment still has nothing to do with this 'ible.

    I'm sorry you were not able to transfer images with Citra-Solve. Possibly your copies were at fault. If you or others cannot find a copier that transfers clear, wash-safe, bleach-safe images to fabric using Citra-Solve then keep looking for a copier that will make copies that work with this method. Don't give up just because you are using copies from the wrong type of copier. Don't settle for anything that is blurred either.

    Would you be able to transfer images from a newspaper? Do you think the ink be suitable?

    1 reply

    No, not really. I have tried Citra Solv transfers with newspaper onto watercolor paper, and while you can maybe get a blurry outline, it really lacks detail. What you could do: Scan the newspaper and print out on a laser copy-THEN do the transfer. Laser prints work so well!

    This is a great idea and I wanted to try it. I got a toner printer and printed the image but when I tried to transfer it no ink was trying to come off :( Do you have any suggestions?

    1 reply

    This method is for copies - not prints. Your COPIER must use carbon based toner. Not your printer. Sorry I am late in answering your question, there was a bug with notifications but it is fixed now.

    Thank you for sharing. I wonder if this could be done on a wood box? Have you tried other surfaces?

    1 reply

    What I have to do to make the printings work?

    I had printed some images in a regular printing machine, I tried it 4 hours after having the printing images, and didn't worked!

    Can you help me?

    1 reply

    Printed images won't work because the toner is not carbon toner. You must use COPIES. And you must make sure the copies are made on a copier the uses carbon based toner. There is a lot of information about the difference between prints and copies and all of that in the comment section.

    As far as I know, this stuff is made from d-limonene, which I actually buy in bulk from a supplier to make cleaners. It's not expensive & it's safe to work with providing a person doesn't do anything stupid with it like drink it, and it smells very strongly of oranges since it's made from orange peels. It's used as an industrial solvent, amongst other things like skin & hair care products, so that tells you it's incredibly effective & useful. I'll be testing this out using my pure d-limonene for this project after getting some of my other half's photography photocopied at an office supply store. It'll be interesting to see what happens! Thanks very much!

    1 reply

    Satoko68,
    Read the MSDS on d-limonene before you start - you should not be using it without a respirator. Just because it is made with oranges it is still a solvent that will cause nerve damage if you are exposed to it in an unsafe way for too long. Artists are exposed to many chemicals and should take many precautions. Think about your quality of life in 10 years.

    Also, read a lot of the comments, there have been problems with people not getting copies that are carbon based. The copier that you use must be carbon toner based one. The comments will explain it all. Good luck and be sure to post what you make.

    I love this technique but don't use it because I am very chemically sensitive and don't like the smell.

    Is there a functional difference (in terms of this project) between Citra-Solv and Goo-Gone?

    Both appear to be citrus based solvents.

    1 reply

    Yes, they do seem the same-ish, but I don't think they are the same. Though of course they both might work. The Citra-Solv folks are really wonderful and they have a lot of artist related stuff on their website and I am sure they could answer your question.