How to transfer an image to fabric with gel medium | How About Orange

November 10, 2010

How to transfer an image to fabric with gel medium

I experimented with transferring an image onto fabric the other day. For my test, I used this completely adorable dachshund drawing by Kayanna Nelson of June Craft. The little fellow is downloadable for personal use at Bloesem Kids.

To try an image transfer, you'll need:
Acrylic gel medium, available at art stores
Fabric
A laser printed image (not inkjet!)

With your finger—or a brush, but I prefer to feel what I'm doing—spread gel medium onto your fabric in the area where you want your image. Not too thin, not too thick; just a nice even layer.

Place your image printed side down onto the sticky fabric and press firmly. Burnish the paper with your thumbnail a bit to be sure the image makes good contact with the fabric. Let it dry completely.

Dampen the paper with water, then gently rub the paper away from the image with your finger.

The resulting fabric will be a bit stiffer where the gel medium was applied, and you'll be able to see it faintly. I sewed my print into a mini drawstring doggie bag, sized so the area with gel ends near the seams. This way the entire front of the bag is the same stiffness. It's quite cute!

For a good drawstring bag tutorial, check out this one at Skip To My Lou. Since my bag is tiny, I laid the baker's twine inside the top channel before stitching it down, rather than threading it through later.

83 comments:

Kristen @ Paper Crave said...

I love this idea!

Question - would this be machine washable? I'd love to do something like this on a tea towel or fabric napkin.

Thanks for sharing!

Kim said...

ooo awesome!

Ali @ His Birdie's Nest said...

I too LOVE this idea!

Anonymous said...

I have tried this with acetone, but no matter what type of printer I use, it doesn't work...

Jess said...

Kristen, I doubt it would stand up very well to much washing. My guess is the image would probably wear away (though it won't bleed).

Grandma G said...

Oh, so cute!

Breanna and Matt said...

That is so cool! Thanks!

Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons said...

awww does that mean I have to have a laser printer to do this?

Jess said...

A photocopy will work, too. Do you happen to have a photocopier in your bedroom, perhaps? Otherwise, it might mean a trip to Kinkos.

The Hungry Crafter said...

So cool! It seems that all the printable fabric you can buy is for inkjets, so I love knowing there's a way to "print" using my laser jet! This is huge! Thanks!

Ehme said...

Innnnteresssting...I wonder if this would work as a way to transfer my embroidery patterns to fabric.

NOTyourrunofthemill said...

Way to cool! Works with colour as well?

Emily Wolfe said...

Thank goodness for bloggers like you!!! There are so many cool projects out there that I'd never discover otherwise. Thank you for sharing this cool technique!

postcards and pretties said...

great idea..must try it!

Jess said...

Ehme, nah, you'd probably want to use something like this:
http://www.sublimestitching.com/transfer_paper.html

NOTyourrunofthemill, I haven't tried it. I believe it should work, though.

angie said...

that is awesome. thanks for sharing! will try to do that now..

Anna said...

Wow. So simple!

becks said...

This is the same process as doing a transfer in painting! Glad to know it works for fabric as well. Thanks for the tip!

farnell doodles said...

lovely blog
http://farnelldoodles.blogspot.com/

melina bee said...

my beloved gel medium, another amazing use! too bad I own an inkjet though. super cute, I love it, great alternative to screen printing

Umatji said...

very good idea! just need the right printer!

Jen from minimooh said...

OMG. I've been looking for a tute on how to transfer images with laser printers for like forever! I'm so psyched! Thanks for sharing! You rock!

Tricia said...

This is the best EVER! I hate those iron ons with all the plasticy crap in them - this is awesome! Thanks!

Jess said...

Don't go getting too excited-gel medium dries plasticky, too. It's an acrylic polymer emulsion. Ha, I just said some big words.

Mary Corbet said...

Hi, Jessica -

I haven't tried it yet (but I plan to, as soon as I can get my paws on a laser printer) that you can actually print a reverse image with a laser printer and iron it directly onto fabric for embroidery transfers, for those who are looking at the gel-laser method as a way to transfer embroidery designs. The gel-laser method doesn't work for transferring embroidery designs because of the residue, and as far as the iron-on plain laser method, I'd be concerned about toner residue washing out on the embroidery, or the long term effects of the toner on the threads or fabric.

I haven't tried it myself, or seen the results in person yet, so I wouldn't guarantee it. But I am going to try it and test out various results... (frankly, it almost sounds too good to be true!)

Best,
Mary

Emily Elizabeth said...

Oooo super excited to give this a try. Gel medium rocks!

The Cheap Chic Momma said...

Wow, this looks so easy! I didn't know that you could do this with a laser printer! Awesome!

NatalieJean said...

It is posts like this ( and all of your other kind, too) that make your blog one of my all time faves.

Jeanee said...

Amazing how clear & crisp the image is. It didn't rub off at all or bleed as you scraped the paper off?!?

Jess said...

I know, I was rather surprised myself. Nope, it won't bleed, and as long as you don't rub too hard, the image won't rub off. If you keep rubbing, it probably will.

Fibra Artysta said...

Great tutorial!

I'm sorry to contact you this way but I am interested in speaking to you about advertising and your email links don't work for me.

Could you email me at FibraArtysta(at)earthlink(dot)net?

Thanks! :)

Johanna said...

Neat! Thanks for the idea. I love the little wiener dog too.

Maxabella said...

You have such great ideas, Kristen. Isn't that little coin bag gorgeous!! x

hoopty doopty said...

I'm thinking the Jones' house needs a 'weiner dog'. This isn't the first time I've seen the beloved dachsund here at HAO. I bought some of that lovely weiner dog ribbon way back.

Jess said...

I know! Is this how I'm expressing my subconscious desire for a pet???

isabeau said...

How does it wash?? Does it go funny or wash off etc?

Ami said...

this looks great!

for a softer transfer, you can use an inkjet printer and a slow-dry blending gel medium, but you get a more muted effect. i have done that for scrapbook pages before and loved the result. :)

jnward said...

Have you tried Golden's digital media? I think you can prime your fabric with it and run it through the printer.

Jess said...

Oh my goodness, I have not! Thanks for the tip.

Isabeau, I don't know. Haven't tried it yet.

Anonymous said...

Inkjet and color pictures will work too. Check this out: http://donnadowney.typepad.com/simply_me/2010/10/ins.html

Mod Podge Amy said...

Love this, and I'm going to need a pug version. Okthxbai

Ceci said...

Beautiful. it's so cute.

jonahliza said...

thank you! love this... happy autumn <3

Cady said...

This can be done with most images.

When I've done it with printed color ones, they have bled a little bit in the process, but you can use regular glossy magazines to do transfers as well!

another option is to spread on the medium directly onto a magazine image you like, let it dry, and then rub the paper off the gel medium leaving a slightly translucent, flexible gelly image. Might be fun for ornaments, or to incorporate into other art!

Miss Fruitfly said...

this is awesome! looking forward to trying this.

Angela Dal Bon Custom Invites said...

Can't wait to try this! Thank you for the idea!

Yadira @ One Sweet Party said...

This is so cute! I wonder if you could apply the gel to the picture instead of the fabric to limit the "stiffness" feeling to just that area. What do you think?

Jess said...

Probably! I was nervous about brushing or rubbing over the image on the paper too much in case it got damaged, but it would probably be okay.

Michemily said...

I didn't even know that was possible. Thanks for the instructions! And your finished product looks great.

Lichen said...

I wish I still had a color laser printer at my disposal to try this out

Cherish @ My Cup of Tea said...

What a great tip! So very cute!

Inkspot Workshop said...

This is great! I really would love to see this tutorial for using inkjet printed images as I'm looking to do this onto muslin bags as well.

Casa e Cose said...

oh what an excellent tip! have to go out there and get some gel :)

ANNA said...

seems easy! would like to try it out by myself someday...

kristin said...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying your site and I reblogged this doggie bag project the other day. You can see it here http://www.bonbonmini.com/2010/11/diy-doggie-bag.html I also featured the pacifier clip tutorial here http://www.bonbonmini.com/2010/11/diy-pacifier-clip.html keep up the great work!

Lauren said...

hi have you tried this with Mod Podge?

I have done this technique on canvases. (like these! http://4two6.blogspot.com/2010/11/okay.html)

I have gel medium too but chose to use the Mod Podge I wonder what the differences are in the texture?

S▲R▲H said...

This technique also works on wood!
http://sah-rah.com/image-transfer-on-wood/

Bel said...

adorei

Poli said...

so beautiful work!
you`ve greate talant)

Flávia said...

Hi Jessica!
Thank you for sharing!

I'm brazilian, and part of a group of crafters. They really liked this tutorial too, and asked if I could translate... So I'm here to ask you, can I translate to Portuguese, and post in my blog, so they can understand it better?
I will give you all the credits, and the link to the original post, of course!
Thank you in advance, and congratulations for your work!

Flávia said...

Oh, and if you want to write me, my email is flavia@ateliedafla.com.

Thank you!

jk.myers said...

LOVE this!!! Do you think it would also work with photographs?

Cleo Fitzgerald said...

HI there,


Thanks for this wondeerful tutorial .. cant wait to give it a try!! You rock!!

{on a more bum note im not sure if you are aware of this site that has coppied your tute and given you no credit -http://nellylikewoah.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/how-to-transfer-an-image-to-fabric-with-gel-medium/}

sorry!

Cleo
cleo (at)techgear.co.za

Jess said...

Thanks, Cleo—looks like that site has taken many of my posts and copied them, as well as from Design*Sponge and others. I'm on it; thanks for letting me know!

Elena said...

Soo glad I pinned this!

Do you think this would work on a plain baby onesie? I want to make onesies for these new twins and have them say "copy" and "paste".

Otherwise, I can only think of using some sort of freezer paper method, but I can't find anything. Any help?

Thanks!!! :)

Jessica Jones said...

Hi Elena,
I think freezer paper is a better way for you to go. Then you can use paint made specifically for textiles and it will withstand washing. The method in this post won't.

See here for a freezer paper tutorial. Or, you could just get some iron-on transfer paper for inkjet or laser printers, whichever kind you have, and print your words on the paper, then iron them onto the onesies. Those hold up fairly well with washing. You can get that stuff at Office Max or other office supply stores.

Elena said...

Cool, thanks for the tip! I'll try that and see.

Delia Roda said...

Hi
Just wondering where you buy gel medium. I live in Australia so i'm not sure where to get it. Do you know if i could get it from bay or amazon??
Thanks

Jessica Jones said...

Acryclic gel medium should be a standard item in art supply stores. If you have a local art supply store, just ask one of the clerks for it. Otherwise, Amazon will definitely have it.

Delia Roda said...

Thanks and by the way i love all of your posts

Delia Roda said...

Thanks and by the way i love all of your posts :D

eeli said...

Very good Idea! Eeli

OKiEDOKiE said...

You don´t need that gel medium... You can print your design on regular paper and transfer it with a hot iron... It that doesnt work, try printing with inkjet shiny photo paper on the laser printer.

I did transfer some designs to rigid polystere plastic using this method and the transfer quality was way better than I expected...

Anonymous said...

I saw some years ago on the homepage of a german design student a more efficient way of transfering laser-prints on fabric.

At first a little bit knowlegde. Laserprints or the ink/toner is mostly nothing else as carbon black or shoot with a coating of resin. the carbon is the pigment, the color and the resin is the glue wich fix on the paper.

So if you print out your text or picture on a non sticky surface you can remove it or transfer it to an other material.

examples google "toner transfer etching" they the possibility of transfering toner to etch circuits.

So back to method of the designer guy:

Step 1 fix smaller pice ofbacking paper on a regular printer paper and print. The Printer has a better with regular paper because of the rolls.

Step 2 the print of the baking paper is not really fixed so be carefully turn it upside down on the fabric and iron it.

Why ironned? Cause the resin melts and fixed the toner with the fabric (more pressure equal more fixed)

Step 3 viola the print is transfered to your t-shirt or what ever.

So carbon black is a good quality, UV resist paint but the resin is maybe not so permanent it could be that it wshed away after wasching.

google around in different languages many people use the possibility of transferin toner such for printet circuit bords or on t-shirts an so on...

regards mike

zoleo said...

Thanks for the clear tutorial! I posted about my use of this technique here:
http://resolvingcrazy.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/a-notebook-and-a-lot-of-sleep/
Thanks for the inspiration!

Dez Tinny said...

Can you do this on anything other than fabric

Jessica Jones said...

Haven't tried it.... maybe wood? A good experiment! Or you can transfer images using packing tape, too.

http://www.howaboutorange.blogspot.com/2009/10/spooky-packing-tape-transfers.html

alexandra said...

Hello, I tried this using grumbacher matte medium & varnish acrylic, but it doesn't work. I wonder if there's another product you may recommend since I cannot find the one shown in your post. Thanks a lot!

Jessica Jones said...

I've only tried the stuff in the post, I'm afraid!

melissa said...

i am making a photo quilt for my daughter. the quilt is already put together. i am wanting to use pictures that i already have to save on ink because i have 43 pics to put on there. is there a way to attach the photo to the quilt without having to make a copy on the printer? trying to save some money. is there anyway that i can put a medium on the photo and put it on the quilt?

Jessica Jones said...

Hi Melissa, I don't think this transfer method will work with photos.

ledeakin said...

You can also do this with transparencies. Just have to make sure to use an inkjet printer.

Anonymous said...

How do you stop clouding on transfer image once you have removed all the wet paper?

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