Transfer print tutorial


This is a tutorial on creating detailed transfer printed designs. I came up with this idea when I was running a workshop at Bilston Craft Gallery. I wasn’t at all sure what to do with teenage boys, and came up with the idea of t-shirt transfers. The usual thing to do with t-shirt transfers is to design something on the computer, or use a photograph and print the whole image onto your t-shirt or fabric using the transfer paper. My idea was to use a whole range of different images and then cut them up and use small pieces to create a design. The boys designed their t-shirts using lettering and images cut out from loads of different photos. I ended up with loads of left over transfers, so I decided to do something with them myself. I made these pieces for my exhibition.

So how is it done?

1. Work out your design, it needs to be strong shapes which you can cut out. Draw it out onto paper and then photocopy or trace another version.

2. Using the second version, cut out the shapes in the design to use as templates.

3. Print a few images out onto transfer paper – this is inkjet transfer. Find one that suits your computer printer and check it will work with you chosen fabric. If you are doing a small design like mine, you wont be using very much of the picture, you could print 4 onto the same sheet of A4 transfer paper. You could of course make massive images using most of an A4 sheet for each piece of the design. I used these images and others. When printed out big on A4, they came out quite abstract.

4. Using your templates, draw your shapes onto the reverse side of the transfer paper, making sure you like their positioning on front side. Cut out the shapes.

5. Place all your cut out shapes FACE UP on your remaining design, matching them up. Use a tiny dab of glue to hold them in place temporarily. We do this to transfer the design neatly to your fabric, otherwise trying to position all the little pieces and then iron them on, leads to disaster!

6. Prepare your silk or fabric for transfer. I use silk organza because it takes the transfer well, is stiff and transparent. Cover your ironing board with greaseproof paper (baking parchment) and lay out your fabric right side up.

7. Place your design FACE DOWN onto the fabric. Cover the whole thing with another sheet of greaseproof. Press with a hot iron for about 15 seconds. PRESS, don’t move the iron around. If your design is bigger than your iron plate, do one area, then lift and move your iron. Don’t slide it around as this can smudge your design.

8. At this point you can have a look at the transfer and see if it’s working out. Mind your fingers as the paper will be hot. You should be able to lift off the paper design backing and leave your transfers stuck to the fabric. Remove the design now, it’s done it’s job. Check the transfer shapes are all firmly stuck to the fabric. If there are some areas not quite stuck, then cover the whole design with greaseproof again and PRESS a few more seconds.

9. Check again, and if they are all well-stuck then you can start peeling the transfer paper off. When you peel, you should see the paper coming off white, and the image transferred to the fabric. If the image isn’t quite stuck, then put the transfer back down, cover with greaseproof and press again. ALWAYS keep the transfer papers covering the prints when you iron, otherwise the transfers will iron off again and stick to you iron and all over the place. If you are using thin fabric, some of the transfer design will come through onto the under sheet of greaseproof, so make sure you don’t accidentally transfer this onto your fabric when you pic the design up and move it around. Use a clean area of paper.

10. Once you have peeled off all your transfers DO NOT IRON any more, as the transfers will stick to your iron. You can use greaseproof to protect them, and iron through this, but don’t do it much, it’s not good for them.

11. That’s it. I put mine into embroidery hoops to hang in the window or on the wall.

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