CREATE YOUR OWN EXCLUSIVE FABRIC: 10 SELECTED HAND-PRINTING TECHNIQUES

I’ve always been curious about printing fabric designs by hand at home. The idea of creating your own colored or patterned fabrics with dye is certainly attractive, whether you’re a fashion designer or a textile artist. So I decided to gather 10 fundamental techniques in one place.What could be cooler than having a meaningful, sustainable, hand-printed piece in your collection?

Before you start hand-printing your fabric, remember to PREWASH and IRON it. Sometimes they add sizing during manufacture which might prevent the dye from adhering to the fabric surface.  To test whether your cloth really needs prewashing, drop a little bit of water on it. If it beads up on the surface, it needs washing. If it sinks in, so should paint. Iron the fabric to have a consistent design later.

1. SCREEN PRINTING

Screen printing (also “serigraphy” or “silk screening”) – a popular way of printing logo, text, or artwork repeatedly on fabric. A screen is imprinted with your design, placed on the fabric, and then paint is forced through the screen onto the fabric.

When screen printing, you can apply only one color. Therefore, if you want to add another color you need to literally apply one more layer of another ink.

Photo courtesy of lillstreet.com

TOOLS USED:

 

Screen Printing Frame

You can buy this ready-made or get the mesh and a cheap canvas stretcher frame and then create your own by stretching the mesh over the frame and stapling uniformly at the edges so it is tight, like a drum. For that, you can pick 43T mesh.

Squeegee

A squeegee is a tool that is used to pull the ink through the tiny holes in the screen. Squeegees last for a long.

Ink

Try a water-soluble ink to start with, such as the Speedball ink. Follow the guidelines on the bottle to make sure your design is washable.

 


2. DISCHARGE PRINTING

Discharge printing (also “extract printing”) – a technique of printing a design on dyed fabric by applying a color-destroying substance, such as hydrosulfite or chlorine, to bleach out a lighter design on the darker colored base.

Ayn Hanna textile designs

Ayn Hanna textile designs

When using this printing method, a wide range of values can be reached by adjusting the amount of steam applied to the areas treated with the discharge paste. The chemical composition of the color-destroying agent, the method of application (hand-drawing or screen-printing) and the dye base of the fabric – all these things affect the color you’ll eventually get.

In the example above, a textile designer Ayn Hanna used both a homemade thiox-based discharge paste and a store bought discharge paste. As a result, she’s got some variation in color in the discharged areas, ranging from blue to tan.

TOOLS USED:

 

 

3. BLOCK PRINTING

Block printing –  printing of designs, drawings, typography, from engraved blocks coated with ink or dyes.


TOOLS USED:

  • Cotton garment or piece of cotton cloth, prewashed
  • Black textile ink http://amzn.to/2FpPJaM
  • Printing blocks http://amzn.to/2GD4XZd
  • Small tray for ink  (a low, wide food container would work), lined with one layer of felt, which works like a stamp pad
  • Pins http://amzn.to/2F1TZ2i
  • Flat surface with cardboard or two layers of felt on the top
  • Iron 

You can buy ready-made traditional Indian printing blocks. You can also carve the pattern on a potato half  (as shown on the image below) or on a linoleum block.

potato-half textile printing

Photo courtesy of lovelylife.se

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Sketch

Once you come up with a motif for your pattern, make a sketch. Draw your design to scale so it fits properly the piece of fabric. Each color has its own block, so the print below, for example, requires 3 different blocks. Take that into account when designing your patterns.

block printed butterfly design

Photo courtesy of passionlilie.com

2. Prepare ink
Pour ink into your tray. Follow the instructions on the bottle. The felt printing pad should be wet but not submerged. Add water as needed.

3. Practice on paper
Do a test print on a piece of paper to get the feel of the motion and ink distribution right.

4. Printing direction
Print left to right, top to bottom if you are right-handed. (Opposite way for left-handed.)

5. Pin your fabric
Just before you start printing your fabric, pin it onto the cardboard or the felt surface.  Make sure that it’s taut and straight. Pin the needles on the four corners of the cloth. Angle the needles toward the center of the piece.

6. Block placement
Once the block is placed firmly on the cloth, press with force to ensure smooth distribution of ink over the fabric. Repeat pattern as many times as needed.

7. Drying
Dry from a clothesline until the ink is completely dry.

8. Ironing
Iron the entire surface of the fabric to set the ink in the fibers to avoid fading.

9. Washing
Wash in water and dry in the sun.

 

4. BLOCK PRINTING WITH ROLLING PIN

This technique is a modification of block printing that you might want to try 😉

Photo and technique courtesy of moldes-e-etc.blogspot.co.uk

*Choose a rolling pin that is thick to have enough space for design application. 

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Sketch
So, first of all, prepare a design. Remember, you are going to cut out all the details that have to be printed. So make the lines and the details thicker as in the example below. Moreover, take into account the available application area on your rolling pin.

 

2. Image transfer
Put your drawing on a foam sheet. Pin the corners so your paper doesn’t move. Next, with a sharp stylus or pencil transfer the image to the clay sheet.

3. Cutting
Now cut out the details of the pattern that you want to print on the fabric.

 

4. Apply pattern on the rolling pin
Once you cut out the pattern of the foam sheet, glue the pattern on your rolling pin. You can draw the design on the rolling pin first if you are afraid of messing up.

 

5. Prepare ink
Pour ink into your tray. You can use a big flat food container or a flat plate.

 

6. Pattern placement

Evenly apply the ink on the foam using a paint roller.  Rotate your rolling pin over the surface which you want to decorate. Apply ink as often as you want. With less application, you can get a stylized fading effect.

 

7. Ironing
Iron the entire surface of the fabric to set the ink in the fibers for colorfastness.

8. Washing
Wash in water and dry in the sun.

 

5. STENCIL PRINTING

Stencil printing or “stenciling” is a technique for applying designs by passing ink or paint over holes cut in cardboard or metal onto the fabric.

Photo courtesy of prettyhandygirl.com

TOOLS USED:

1. Prepare flat surface
If your fabric is thin, like cotton, the paint will bleed through. Unless you are printing your fabric in a garage or workshop where it won’t matter if the ink bleeds through the cloth, you’ll need to put something under the fabric. It can be several layers of scrap paper, a piece of linoleum or anything plastic, like a bag.

2. Start printing
Put your stencil on the fabric. Dip the roller into the ink, literally covering it. Then, while holding the stencil flat to the fabric with one hand, swipe the roller across the stencil, getting as much coverage as possible. You can apply a little pressure to the roller to get good coverage. In addition, you might need to rinse the paint off the stencil occasionally.

Photo courtesy of apartmenttherapy.com

3. Ironing
After the ink and the fabric dry completely iron the cloth for the same colorfastness purpose.

4. Washing
Wash carefully the cloth and dry.

 

6. DYING WITH BLEACH

Dying with bleach is a process that actually involves removing color instead of adding it. For this surface-altering method, you can apply ordinary household bleach to dark, natural-fiber fabrics by spraying or brushing the bleach on flat fabric. Besides, you can also dip the fabric in it, after protecting part of the surface in a certain way from contact with the bleach.

Photo and technique courtesy of threadsmagazine.com

TOOLS USED:

  • Dark natural fabric* (e.g. cotton, denim, linen)
  • Plastic sheeting or plastic bags to cover the work surface
  • 1 liter of household bleach http://amzn.to/2ooG791

    Lois Ericson creates wavy patterns by tearing cardboard into interesting curves and spraying over it with the bleach mixture.

  • Rubber gloves http://amzn.to/2FucdHE
  • Vinegar as bleach-neutralizing agent http://amzn.to/2CWGSKT
  • Plastic spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle http://amzn.to/2FxIHk7

* If the fabric contains polyester, the color may not discharge, since polyester is usually colorfast. 

The solution may be applied to dry fabric or wet. This is definitely a method that requires play. It’s really difficult to have a failure, short of removing all the color.  Every piece is special and has potential since you can always bleach again. Moreover, you can always add color back to the fabric after bleaching, using permanent markers, paints, or dyes.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prepare bleach
For spraying, use a solution of 1 part bleach to 2 parts water.

2. Prepare neutralizing agent
If you are using vinegar to neutralize bleach, mix one part vinegar to two parts water.

3. Prepare 3 buckets
You will need 2 buckets filled with water and one – with the neutralizing solution.

4. Apply bleach
Don’t remove too much color by overspraying. After the bleach is applied, nothing much happens in under 2 minutes. Don’t leave anything longer than 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Rinse fabric
Once you’re ready to stop the action, you’ll rinse the fabric in water. Then soak it in a neutralizing solution for 5-10 minutes, then rinse it one more time.

6. Wash and dry
After the final rinsing, wash and dry the fabric so that it’s ready to iron and cut.
 

7. BOTANICAL PRINTS

Well, you can use literally anything, not just specially cut professional tools, such as printing blocks. Just take a look at the examples below, get inspired and come up with your own ways of applying textile ink. For that, you can use leaves, flowers, fruits, vegetables, etc.

TOOLS USED:

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Collect specimen
When picking plants make sure that it is not an endangered species. Collect leaves and flowers selected and dry them under the press. You can put them inside a book and put some heavy object on the top of the book. Let it rest so for a day or two.

2. Prepare fabric
Prewash, dry and iron your fabric.

3. Prepare a soft flat surface
Cover the worktable with a flat smooth felted blanket.

4. Start printing
Press and hold the object in place for 5 to 20 seconds, depending on the texture of your fabric*. Allow it to absorb the pigment.

*Make some test prints to determine the time needed for the fibers to absorb the ink. 

 

8. BATIK

Batik is one technique of a process known as resist dyeing, in which the surface design on a fabric is applied with wax so those parts stay undyed. This technique can be combined with hand-drawing.

TOOLS USED:

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prepare workspace
Cover the worktable with plenty of scrap paper to protect it. You can also add an extra layer of scrap fabric or cardboard so it is easy to pin your main cloth.

2. Sketch the design

Develop a concept of the design for your batik print and pick colors for the design. Once you come up with an idea, draw your design on a bigger piece of paper to match the size of your future print. Next, put your cloth on the paper and pencil out the design onto the fabric. Use a light pencil to avoid stains.

3. Pin your fabric
Just before you start applying the design, pin the fabric onto the cardboard or the felt surface.  Double check if it’s taut and flat. Pin the needles on the four corners of the fabric piece. Angle the needles toward the center of the cloth.

4. Prepare soft flat surface
Heat up the wax bowl. The wax gets very hot so be very careful. If you run out of wax, you can add a piece of solid wax into the bowl.

5. Start applying wax
Use tjanting to apply evenly wax on the pencil lines. Use plate or scrap fabric to hold under tjanting to catch any drops of the wax. Check the video below to see how exactly to work with tjanting. It is important that the wax is hot so it soaks evenly through the cloth.

6. Apply dye
When the waxing is finished you can add dye to the sections you’ve marked out. The wax will work as a barrier to prevent the colors from different sections from blending with each other.

7. Wash the fabric with fixer
Finally, you will need a fixer (included in the set in the tool list) if you want to wash the fabric.

*Make some test prints to determine the time needed for the fibers to absorb the ink. 

 

9. COPPERPLATE PRINTING

Copperplate printing (also “gravure” or “intaglio”) – a technique similar to block printing. The difference is that the process involves images being engraved onto a metal plate (usually copper) instead of a wooden block. Dye is applied to the surface of the plate and then transferred to fabric by applying pressure.

 

1783-84 , copperplate print cotton, Toile de Jouy Museum of Art 

Copperplate printing is very similar to block printing. So the application of a design onto a fabric is the same. Moreover, you might want to have a custom-made “signature” copperplate to use time after time in your designs. It works just like a stamp.

 

10. PAINTING ON FABRIC

 

TOOLS USED:

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prepare the cloth
Lay the fabric flat on the table. Put some scrap paper underneath to protect the surface below from paint bleeding.

2. Make a foundation for paint
Wipe some water on the cloth. Then apply fabric painting medium. The medium is going to mix in with your paint and make it dry softer. Make sure to apply it to the shape of your design. It might look milky when you apply it, but it dries clear.

3. Draw the outline of your design
With a chalk, you can make a quick sketch of your intended design on the newly created foundation.

4. Apply paint
Start applying paint in the way you would apply it on paper. Check out some cool flower-drawing technique in the video below.


 

How to Set Fabric Paint

Textile paints need to be heat set if they’re painted on an item that’s going to be washed. This is a usual ironing process, except you’ll iron the painted section for longer than you would iron out wrinkles.

While you might be eager to finish the piece right away, it’s best to delay ironing after you’ve finished applying paints. Wait at least 24 hours till the paint is 100% dry. After you’ve set the paint in, give it, at a minimum, 4 days before washing the fabric.

When ironing, don’t use any steam because you need dry heat for setting fabric paint. Remember to turn off any automatic steam settings. If possible, iron on the “wrong” side of the fabric and not the painted side. As an option, you can place a scrap fabric over the top of the painting. You may also want to put a piece of cloth down on your ironing board to protect the cover.

  1. Set the iron on a medium/hot* setting.
  2. Move the iron across the painted area of fabric for several minutes (3-5 minute), moving it around constantly so you don’t burn the fabric.

*If it’s a delicate fabric, set the iron to a lower temperature and iron for longer.

Will the paint damage your iron?

If it is completely dry, there shouldn’t be any risk to the iron. If there’s still some wet paint on the fabric, it will dry with a ffssst noise when the iron runs over it and it will probably stick to your iron. So give some time for the item to dry completely.


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