How to Print on Fabric With an Inkjet Printer: Make Your Own Inkjet Fabric Sheets or Buy Them

Inkjet fabric printing greatly expands quilters’ choices. Quilters love to collect fabric, and being able to print their own makes a great personal statement. Printable fabric can be purchased or prepared at home. Making an entire quilt from fabric printed on an inkjet printer isn’t practical, but customized small portions of a quilt add a special touch not to be found anywhere else. Print on fabric to reproduce photographs, add text, or make your very own fabric design and color.

Before investing time and money, it’s important to understand that an image printed on fabric will probably not look the same as the same image printed on paper. This is not a bad thing if you adjust your expectations or have the capability to adjust the image in a computer program such as Photoshop. All printers, inks, papers, and fabric are different, and allowance for experimentation to get the desired image needs to be made.

Commercial Inkjet Fabric Sheets

There are two sources for fabric already prepared for printing. Quilt stores and websites offer various products for printing directly onto fabric. Specialty paper sites offer a larger selection of fabric choices than quilting sites, often at a lower price. Rolls of 8 1/2″ wide fabric are an economical choice that reduces waste. Check the thread count of the fabric. The details will show better on high thread count fabric, resulting in a higher quality print.

When choosing which fabric to print, consider what the finished product will be. If it’s to be part of a quilt, will the image be quilted? The fabric sold in quilt stores for printing are heavier and stiffer than regular quilting fabric, making hand quilting impractical. Transfers and fusible printed fabric are different products that are not practical to quilt, even by machine.

Always follow the directions carefully for the specific product.

Homemade Fabric Sheets for Inkjet Printers

  • Dyer’s Muslin vs. Regular Muslin: An excellent choice of fabric for printing is dyers muslin, which is ready for dye, paint, or printing. Other fabric not specifically for dying will have sizing that needs to be washed out. Printed dyer’s muslin is easy to quilt, and costs only about 30 cents per 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet compared to 1 to 3 dollars a sheet for commercial inkjet fabric sheets. Regular muslin is even less expensive, but is not as uniform in quality as dyer’s muslin. Quilters disagree whether washing muslin before treating it for printing is necessary.
  • Treating Fabric Before Printing: Bubble Jet is a commercial product for treating fabric to print. There are recipes for homemade solutions online. If the your inkjet printer uses waterproof and fade resistant inks, such as Epson Durabrite Ink, the fabric doesn’t need to be treated for printing.

Mounting Fabric for Printing

Freezer paper is often recommended for mounting the fabric to print. Freezer paper doesn’t always adhere completely, leaving small bubbles, and it tends to curl, which can cause uneven printing and ink smudges.

Cut the treated fabric into 9″ x 12″ pieces. Spray one side of the fabric evenly and completely with quilter’s basting spray in a well-ventilated space. Place a piece of paper, either regular printer paper or inexpensive cardstock, on the fabric. Turn the fabric over, smoothing to remove any small bubbles. Turn paper side up, and trim the extra fabric off with a ruler and rotary cutter. Make sure the fabric and paper are firmly adhered along the sides and leading edge.

Sometimes it can be helpful to add scotch tape to the leading edge to hold the paper and fabric together. Another way to stabilize the leading edge is to brush Stiffy fabric stiffener onto the edge of the fabric and let it dry before sticking the fabric to the paper.

Printing fabric is fun and easy once you’ve figured out what works for your printer. Homemade fabric printer sheets reduce cost, and are usually a more satisfying finished print. Some printers don’t always feed as well as others. Some simply won’t feed fabric on cardstock, some need a little extra help at the leading edge. Start small and test wash the print before adding to a quilt. And dream about all the ways you can add printed fabric to quilts, bags, clothing, pillows, and more.