How to Print Fabric With an Inkjet Printer and a DIY Colorfast Recipe




About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

Wow, I am so glad I was motivated enough to learn more about computers and making designs. It was a little frustrating at times but all in all I am happy I learned a few techniques that will save me a lot of time with my projects here. I have created some pretty nifty projects that were created because I finally learned how to make some interesting designs using the PC. I promise to share as soon as I get the time to do so.

For this instructable I will be sharing what I learned about printing fabric from my Pc using an ink jet printer. I am including a recipe for making the ink colorfast to achieve a better quality of print. I am also sharing a few projects I made from the printed fabric sheets to show you how the fabric looks made into something of use. Follow through and let's get started.

Step 1: Research

I am new to printing fabric using an ink jet printer. I have been reading comments online about the homemade version of Bubble Jet Set. There were mixed reviews all over. I stumbled across an article "Understanding Bubble Jet Set;" very much worth the read for information about the process. The more you know the better the homemade version will work. The article explained the ingredients and how to print fabric with good results. He also mentioned to go to the quilting boards to read quilter's comments about printing fabric because they were the experts. So I did.

Some mentioned they had great success using the homemade versions. One quilter used soda ash and water with the best results. I did not have any and used the most common recipe; Washing soda, Fabric softener, and Alum.

In my opinion the homemade method will help prevent the ink from bleeding out while printing the fabric. The solution is more meant to do this, than to set the ink after the fabric has been printed. Some people recommended a vinegar rinse ( I don't), a cold water rinse, warm water rinse (tried both seemed OK), or placing the fabric in the freezer (didn't work for me). I guess it depends on what type of ink your printer is using. I have a cannon ink jet that uses a water based ink except for the black. That is why some people have had conflicting reviews. I noticed that my black ink did not fade or bleed ( see pictures) but my colored ink did. Now I know why.

I think the reason there are so many different opinions is crafters used different fabrics, different textures, Different weight of fabrics, different inks, different time frames (waiting after printing to use the solution) and how long they allowed the treated fabrics to soak in the rinse water and if they twisted the fabric to remove the water.

I used about 250 thread count 100% white cotton fabric pre-washed, dried and ironed. I had two jams and realized it was because the ends were not stuck to the freezer paper.

I made sure there were no strings to catch in the printer by cutting the fabric slightly larger than the freezer paper and trimming it after it dried from the solution and was ironed to the freezer paper.

I had the best results allowing the ink to set overnight before rinsing the fabric.

A very quick rinse is all you need. Do not wring out the liquid.I will explain the process later.

To sum it up, I recommend using sample cloths and print reduced sized pictures so you save ink and before printing anything of value. I do not recommend using this version on cloth that will be worn or washed a lot. I just don't think it will hold up. I wanted to make something family members would enjoy for a while and then pack away for old their old age to help trigger memories and dates.

Step 2: Tools and Supplies

Gather and organize tools and supplies:

Ingredients for colorfast or homemade Bubble jet set recipe:

2 Tablespoons Alum (This can be found in the spice section of the grocery store). If you are planning on printing a lot of these, I would buy a pound on the internet and saw some for about 5 dollars. The small spice ones I found were 2.50 for about 2 tablespoons.

2 1/2 teaspoons Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (This is not baking soda. This product is hard to find in some areas but look for it in the laundry isle of the grocery store).

1/2 teaspoon Fabric softener for the fabric wash, plus another 1/2 teaspoon for the rinse.

100% Cotton fabric ( or I read silk can be used as well). washed, dried, and Ironed.

1 Cup hot water

You will also need a large bowl, whisk, measuring cup, measuring spoons, shallow edged cookie sheet,

Jar with a tight lid, you will have plenty left over and a blotting towel.

Tools and supplies:

PC, Ink jet printer and printer paper,scissors,yard stick,pencil, iron and ironing board, Patterns and designs that you would like to use.

I edited my designs in paint, pixlr, word, and one other that I don't remember. I also made a thumbnail from a picture I took of my sister's cat using the (patch option) in instructables because I did not know how to do it otherwise.

Step 3: Mix Ingredients

I placed the dry ingredients into the bowl and mixed the fabric softener with the water before adding it to the bowl.It is important the dry ingredients are dissolved before treating the fabric.

Step 4: Cutting the Freezer Paper and Fabric

Assuming you have already pre-washed, dried, and ironed the fabric, you can cut out the freezer paper.

Cut out the freezer paper the exact size of the printer paper. If it is too large it will jam your printer and if it is too small it might jam the printer.

Next, measure and cut the fabric slightly larger than the printer paper. I found it is easier to trim the fabric strings later on.There will be loose strings around the edges of the fabric when the fabric is treated with the solution.

Step 5: Place the Fabric Sheets Into the Solution

Update: This method of printing fabric is ideal for experimenting before using the fabric sheets that can be purchased at craft stores. When I make more of these I will probably try using the Bubble jet set. I used Preserve it by Krylon, but even then; if washing is needed expect fading unless you use a printer with colorfast ink. The down side of Preserve it; is it leaves a texture so it is not very smooth. Hand wash no soap and line dry.

I also applied a thin coat of Glow in the dark paint to some of my projects and it helped but in my opinion I would spot clean when necessary. The next time I make this I am going to use more alum. It is one of the things used for a dye fixer and may set the ink better.


Place one sheet at a time into the solution making sure the fabric is well coated.

Lightly swish the fabric around a bit.

Let the fabric soak in the solution for about fifteen minutes.

Wring out the sheets and place the wet sheets on the blotting towel and remove as much liquid as you can by blotting it.

Use a blow dryer, iron or air dry.

Step 6: Iron the Freezer Paper to the Fabric


After the fabric sheets are dry, press them again before ironing them to the freezer paper but do not trim them until after the freezer paper is stuck to the fabric. Trim loose threads before printing.Make sure the ends are stuck to the paper.

Step 7: Print the Designs Onto the Fabric


Carefully insert the fabric sheets into the printer paper tray.

Make your image selection and click print pre-view. Choose size, click OK.

Click print and preface. Select draft copy for samples or highest quality for the real deal.

Do not walk away from your printer during the printing process for best results.

I listened carefully for any indication something was not right as a safety precaution.

Remove the fabric and put it in a safe place overnight to dry.

Heat set the ink using the highest setting on your iron if using cotton. If using a different fabric do some research because I have not tried it on anything except cotton.

Remove the freezer paper from the printed fabric sheets.

Step 8: Rinse

Place 1 cup of warm water and 1/2 teaspoon of fabric softener into a bowl and mix.

Pour this solution into the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet.

Quickly swish the fabric sheets into the cookie sheet and without wringing them out; lay them on the blotting towel and blot carefully as not to rub the ink into other areas of the cloth.

Allow to dry thoroughly before ironing to set the ink again.

Lightly rinse the printed fabric sheets again not twisting the fabric and place on the blotting towel and remove as much liquid as possible.

Iron dry, blow dryer or air dry.

Press again to smooth out any wrinkles.

Step 9: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

Now you can go make something beautiful with your new printed fabric sheets. My family love their pets; so I made pillows, door hangers, and gift cards and everyone loved them. Some of the designs looked tied died and others retained fairly decent colors.It took me experimenting before I got the hang of it. I experimented using glow in the dark pens and paint on a few projects and they worked great. You could outline the pets in glow in the dark paint for the kids; I am sure they would love it.

I will be sharing how I made the above pictures as soon as I get the time to do so. I like to add dates to projects like this to give a timeline. I have always written up washing cards to go with the gifts but now I can print them. This project was so much fun. I made a commitment to myself to learn more about designing images on the computer and expanding my PC knowledge. This project sure filled some voids for me and I am excited that I did take the time to learn new techniques. I am sure there are a lot of DIYers that will benefit from programs like the Sprout. I feel like I have accomplished a lot the past few weeks. Sure is a lot to learn though, but as I always say knowledge is power!

I like to take time to thank contributors for making this an awesome place to share. Thanks so much for stopping by and do have a splendorous day~




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    13 Discussions


    Question 19 days ago on Step 9

    After you soaked your fabric in the wash for 15 minutes did your fabric have white residue on it when you took it out and patted dry?


    1 year ago


    I make bags for everybody in the quest to rid Mother Earth from Plastic. So I designed various 7x9cm colourful lables reading : 'One Less plastic Bag' to sew on each bag. Months long trial and error to print my labels, from the Canon Inkjet I bought for this purpose, resulted in poor results, but of course for the Black.

    So glad was I to get the recipe for Bubblejet, and seeing your wonderful results, that i went out on a limb to try and get all the ingredients here in Australia - it took me weeks to get Alum - - - can you believe it! -- and at last after a princely sum, I spent more than one day preparing abouit 15 sheets of lovely thick cotton, and some calico following your instruction to a T. Went to bed last night, so happy with the very lovely colorful print on these painstakingly prepared fabric sheet from my Canon inkjet printer, full of wonderful expectation for what lies ahead when i wake up

    But, NO! it did not at all work for me - as soon as I carefully rinsed each prepared and lovely colourful sheet in the prepared rinsing water - - i was left with a sink of blue water, and badly faded and run images.

    What did I do wrong? I am soooo sad. . . .

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi EliseM12,

    Sorry for the late reply but we have had out of state company. Firstly, this method will not preform as bright as the store bought version and it will fade. After thinking about your reply, I thought of a couple of things that might improve your project. I have been wanting to give this a try but am out if printer ink. I do plan on making this project again using a different method to try and get my projects to retain the ink for brighter colors, when I buy more ink. You might try a fixative I will leave a link under my comment. I am also considering not rinsing the fabric for a month or two. This might give the ink a longer time to set. I would iron the fabric several times during the month or two wait before rinsing. The type of printer ink you used might also contribute to the problem. I have considered buying a printer that is designed for fabric printing if there is such a thing, I have not looked into it yet. If I knew more about what you are making with the fabric design, I might have more to offer to help you. and Meanwhile I do hope this helps you and I am sorry this method did not work for you.Have a great day~



    3 years ago on Step 2

    BTW. AH Washing Soda is Soda Ash. It has a slightly more course texture, but they are the same. "Soda Ash" is more difficult to find and costs more, but there's no need for it. You can just use the Washing Soda. Chemically they are the same.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this information. I thought it strange that soda ash would be much more expensive. Washing soda is not expensive at all. Have a great day.



    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there! You should really consider entering this in the Bedroom Contest! We're giving away Spoonflower credit so you can get all the fabric you want to make more projects :)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I wanted to thank you for bringing this to my attention. I just learned I can use my own image to have it printed on minkie! Yay~ Hope your day shines.


    Very interesting approach! Do you know of any methods for printing or transferring onto larger pieces of fabric?

    Have a great day!

    5 replies

    After thinking about your question I thought of something you might try. One of the sponsors here: of the contest has some fabric you might try and you could go to Office Max and have them print you a copy or consider the Spoon Flower, I noticed they will print Minkie with your design but I am not sure if other fabrics can be used. I hope this helps. Hope your day shines.


    Well, not a cheap way like this. My son send a photograph to a printer and they printed a very large copy of the picture on some canvas. I am not sure how much it cost. Depending on what your plans are as a quilter I would print out the pictures needed to make a complete picture and sew the pieces together to make one piece. Not sure if that would fit your theme but it is something that could look very nice. If I had more information I might suggest another method. Thanks for stopping by and I hope the stars shine brightly on your night.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for stopping by and taking a look! I hope your day shines.