Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Print on Fabric Using Freezer Paper

There are a lot of different ways to get an image onto a piece of fabric: screen printing, iron transfer, stamping, photo emulsion, etc. My most preferred method is ink and freezer paper. Let me explain.

Freezer Paper
Speedball Fabric Ink
Exacto Knife
Firm Paint Brush
Optional: Computer and Printer

Choose or design an image that you want to put on fabric. (I've primarily used t-shirts and baby onesies, but you could use denim, tote bags, skirts/dresses, etc. I even did a little hat once.) Here are some images that I have designed and printed:

Step #1:
Create the image.
You can find images online or design your own. I design/draw my images on my ipad using Sketchbook Pro, then export them to my computer.

Step #2:
Get the Image onto the Freezer Paper
I use Microsoft Word to print the image because I can resize it using the ruler on the side of the document and make my image the exact size I want. Of course, you can also use Photoshop or whatever program you're comfortable with, or good old-fashioned pencil and paper. I've never tried printing right onto the freezer paper, but I will probably try it in the future, I have no idea if it will work. So, I print the image, tape it to a cutting board and tape the freezer paper over it. The freezer paper is transparent enough to accurately and easily trace the image underneath. Trace the image onto the paper side of the freezer paper (not the plastic side) with pencil.

Step #3
Cut the Image from Freezer Paper
Using your most awesome Exacto Knife skills, cut out the image you just traced. Be precise! In your image, there will likely be little bits that "float" (I don't know the technical term for this, so "floating" is what I call it). For example, if you were to cut out the letter "O", the middle of the "O" has to "float" inside the ring, otherwise you are just cutting a circle. Get me? So, I always secure the "floating" parts with little extra, uncut pieces of freezer paper, like this:

(This particular design has two layers (two colors), the blue circle in the middle with the negative space "Big Brother", and the black outline and words "Best Ever". I printed the blue circle first, let it dry, then printed the black layer over the top so the ring in the middle of the words "Best" and "Ever" outlined the blue circle.)

Step #4
Iron the Freezer Paper onto the Fabric
Using a hot cotton setting on your iron, arrange the image exactly where you want it to appear and iron the freezer paper directly onto the fabric. This whole techniques works because one side of the freezer paper is like parchment paper and the other side is covered with a thin layer of plastic. When you iron the plastic side to the fabric, it melts enough to form a great seal, but not enough to damage the fabric, in fact it peals right up easy-peasy. That's why this technique is awesome. When ironing, press directly down, taking great care not to rub the iron around on the freezer paper until every little bit is firmly in place to avoid folding or crumpling any part of your design. The motion with your iron is more like patting, less like rubbing.

Step #5
Cut Away Extra Bits
Remember all those extra pieces of freezer paper you left on your design in order to keep the "floating" parts in their exact right locations? Well, now cut them off, you don't need them, but, TAKE HEED, you must do this extremely carefully with a sharp Exacto Knife. I definitely have cut through my t-shirts when I haven't been careful enough. It is easy to cut off the extra paper without cutting your fabric or displacing your "floating" bit, but it is also easy to mess it up. BE CAREFUL. When done, iron everything back down for good measure.

Step #6
Apply Ink
I use Speedball Fabric Ink. It is made for this and it is the best. It goes on evenly and thickly, doesn't bleed, and there are great colors available. I've used other inks and fabric paints and I don't like any of them as much as Speedball.
Using a stiff bristled paint brush (usually pretty cheap, like dollar-store cheap), apply the ink to the design. Apply enough ink to thoroughly cover the exposed fabric, but not so much that you're frosting a cake.  You want the ink to saturate the area you are coloring, but not gloop on--too thick and the ink will look cracked and could peel later on.
 Step #7
Allow Ink to Dry and Peel Freezer Paper
I usually let the ink dry for a few hours until it is dry to the touch. Then, my favorite part, I peel up the freezer paper with great anticipation and anxiety--did it turn out right? Did any parts bleed? Did I mess anything up? No! Excellent!

I iron over the whole thing again with a super hot iron to seal the ink. Viola! You're done!
Wash and dry the garment as normal.

This is how we announced our second pregnancy. I have no doubts he'll live up to the title.