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Photo transfer methods/tips?

KathiCville | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi……….Does anyone have any tips to share for transferring images from antique color postcards (or any other color document, for that matter) onto fabric?   When I tried to copy the postcards onto special heat-transfer paper( following package instructions) using the color copier at my local Kinko’s, one of the employees warned me that the paper would heat up too much and stick to the machine’s innards…. She was right!….I just bought a color printer/copier for my home office and I’m afraid to give it a try again—for fear that the paper will do the same thing and gum up my brand-new machine………..Has anyone figured out how to get around this problem?  Or can someone suggest an alternate method for transferring color images (that doesn’t damage the originals)?………..Thanks!



  1. Tikiclub | | #1

    Awwwww man, I just typed in a novel and something burped!

    Here we go again. I did this two years ago. Try a local independent copy guy. That's where I went. No luck at the big box stores.  Same problem as you. My local guy not only stocked the photo transfer paper which went with his machine, he also gave me the how-to's! I think a 81/2x11 sheet was $8 or so. Squeeze as many pictures as possible to save cost. Then call a tshirt maker and have him do the heat transfer (my copy guy already had a regular customer do all the leg work). They have big presses which do a much more professional job than you can achieve at home. This cost me a buck per press, and he was able to do 4 at a time. Call around. If they understand what you are trying to do over the phone, chances are they have the supplies & know-how. Good luck.

    1. KathiCville | | #2

      Thanks, Theresa!  I'll give the smaller copy shops around town a try.........Over the weekend I checked out a few Internet sites that mentioned a method that uses a (cool) scanner rather than a (hot) copier to transfer images.  Does anyone in the forum have any experience---good, bad or indifferent---with the scanner technique?  It sounds like using a scanner allows you to manipulate/edit the image any way you want before you print it.  

      1. Tikiclub | | #3

        Kathi, the only thing I would worry about with a scanner is deterioration of the photo/image. Each layer you add between photo and fabric, you lose a little bit of resolution. Plus you need to take into consideration that the fabric itself will affect it, too. One thing which I heard (and worked for me) for fabric choice was go with white muslin. A nice tight weave (read: high thread count) with no nibs. DO NOT WASH the fabric. This will invite nibs, as well as take out any sizing, which helps with the transfer. Don't want uncle Lou to look like he has small pox or something!

        1. KathiCville | | #4

          Thanks, Theresa---good points.  The antique postcards I want to transfer have very small captions on them, so I would definitely like to keep the resolution of the image as clear and clean as possible.......Kathi

  2. sarahkayla | | #5

    What are you planning to do with the fabric photos??? the method you choose is really dependant on the final use.

    I have found that the sheets you put into your printer (scan the image into your computer first) have a lovely resolution but have a nasty plastic feel - you can also use bubble jet a liquid that makes printer ink permanent ( you can do a google search to find their website) -

    You may want to invest in a couple of books, to read about some of the many methods of doing photo transfers. jean Ray laury's book is pretty good. It isn't rocket science but expect that it will take 5 or six attempts to get it just right. Every method is somewhat peskier than it seems and all have their advantages and disadvantages. again a google seach will help you find sites with good directions- probably for several different methods.

    As for me, i love bubble jet, I hate the goop you put on a photocopy, hate the transfer paper and love the mending tape method. But use what works for you. you can email me with more specific questions...


    1. KathiCville | | #6

      Hi Sarah.....Thanks for the suggestions.  I've done a little poking around via Google and came up with a few short articles about photo transfer, but nothing that really gives the pros and cons of each method.  I've heard of the book you mentioned; maybe I'll see if I can track down a copy just to get a better idea about how each works.........I have two projects in mind for the postcards (and maybe some antique photos).  The first is a jacket.  I thought I'd transfer maybe eight or ten postcards onto natural or white muslin, leaving a bit of a border around each.  Then, cut them out, turn the edges, and applique them onto a loose-cut, plain black linen jacket (along the lines of a hip-length kimono shape).  [I have a wonderful collection of color and B&W postcards of Paris from the 1890s to the 1920s.].........The other project would involve placing a postcard image (or photo) as the center block of a pillow face.  Or maybe use several images/blocks as a pillow face.......What's the 'mending tape method'?  [If it's easy to explain in a short message.].........Thanks!

      1. sarahkayla | | #7

        Ok, for what you want to do ,i would go for the bubblejet method. It is permanent.

        You soak the fabric in bubblejet - I'm partial to silk satin but you can use a satin poly or really anything smooth. then after it dries you run it through the printer, you have to support the fabric with something, you can back it with freezer paper or with contac paper or with this 81/2 x 11 sticky paper that is made just for that purpose. some folks swear by starching the fabric , but I have not tried it. You run the fabric through the printer (set your printer for high quality so you get better resolution & more ink) you let the image set for 30 minutes. then comes the counter -intuitive part - you wash the fabric in detergent. They say to put it in the washing machine. The washing makes the image permanent. Why??? I have no idea. i have been too chicken to do that, so i just swish the fabric in a roasting pan with dishwashing detergent, rinse & let it dry. The image is fairly clear and the fabric keeps it's soft hand. I would not use the transfer paper on clothing, but would for a pillow.

        The mending fabric method was developed by marjorie croner she wrote the book fabric photos. If you do a google search on her you will come up with the method. It is cheap and low tech, low mess and easy, although the image comes out soft and on the fuzzier side. I have done both pillows and clothing with the mending tape method. it has much to recommend for itself. I am a fairly new ( less than a year )devotee of bubblejet - but I really like it. I have played with the mending tape for nearly ten years.

        the mending tape method starts with a photocopy, you lift the toner from the photocopy onto the mending tape and then print from the mending tape. This is a very condensed version of the method - you can get it in full, from google with not much effort. The mending tape method is not sucessful with colored images but is fine with b+w, and gives the image a lovely antiqued look.

        let me know what you do... yell for help if you need it...


        1. KathiCville | | #8

          Hi Sarah.........Wow, thanks for the great, detailed explanation of the bubble jet method!  I probably won't be able to do any experimenting with any of the photo transfer methods for a couple of weeks---too much on my plate at the moment---but I'll holler if I try the bubble jet method and run into a problem............Thanks!


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