Friday, July 22, 2011

Tutorial: Printing Photos on Fabric, Using Bubble Jet Set 2000

When I decided to make a photo quilt, "Windows into Europe," I was faced with a dilemma. How... do I do this? I'm a crafter who tends to jump into things without looking back (which can be a bad thing sometimes!), so I found myself I searching the internet to see what the best course of action would be. I only found a couple tutorials, and a few scant suggestions on forums.

After completing the quilt, I decided that a resource was very necessary for any sewers and quilters who might want to try printing photos on fabrics. There are several different ways to do this, but I've calculated this to be the cheapest (overall) and easiest option. It's very simple if you follow all the steps :) Below is a compilation of all I read and experienced. Ready?

1. Bottle of Bubble Jet Set 2000. I got it from Create for Less after much comparing ($14.25 plus shipping)- and considering it was a 32 ounce bottle (you can get either 16 or 32), I thought it would be the cheapest way in case I decided to make more photo quilts (which I very well may do in the near future).This stuff is precious though, so don't waste a bit. I would hesitate to buy the photo sheets that you can get at the nearest craft store - I saw some that cost about 5 dollars for 3 sheets - and that adds up quick. Even if you print two photos a sheet. With 20 photos, I used 1/3 of the bottle of Bubble Jet Set (32 oz) - so it's a good value.

2. A flat pan. I should have use this the first time around, but since I couldn't find one, I got out a big bowl. When I got to later steps, I was able to find a flat pan. So, get a flat pan :) You'll see why later.

3. Kona or Bella solids - white. This is probably the most clear fabric for your pictures to appear on. I ordered about 6 yards of this stuff from Hancock's of Paducah a few months ago for an AWESOME price (thanks to a commenter's suggestion!) - and I've been using it for several projects. It's hard to tell how much you'll need - it depends on how many photos you are printing, and if you want to do two per sheet (which I recommend to save fabric and freezer paper). If you're printing 20 photos like me, I would go with about 3 yards, though you will have extra. This is just to be safe, in case you mess up.

4. Freezer paper. You can get this for $2-3 US from your local supermarket - it'll be next to the aluminum foil. :) Look! It even mentions quilting! It's a great tool to have around. I've used it for applique also.

5. Iron and ironing board. Hopefully if you are sewing you have this all ready for action anyway!

6. Inkjet printer - NOT laser. If you're not sure what kind of printer you have, I would type it into Amazon and look in the description. Do not use a laser printer for this project. This is advice I've seen in multiple sources, including the bottle of Bubble Jet Set. I believe most or all HP printers are inkjet - this is what I used.

7. The pictures. On the computer or scanned in - all ready to be printed!

8. Rotary cutter and mat. For accuracy, no marks, and no headaches!

9. Scissors. Snippety-snip-snip (something just needed to be said here :) ).

10. Hangers and a place to hang your fabric while drying. (Got nothing this time!).

The Process
1. Cut your solid white fabric into sheets 9 x 11 1/2 in. - a little bigger than it will be to put through the printer. This is to allow for an possible distortions the Bubble Jet Set 2000 might cause, though I didn't notice any.

2. Shake the bottle of Bubble Jet Set and pour some into the flat pan. It will help you soak everything more thoroughly than a bowl would, and you won't get as many wrinkles. Let your sheets soak in the solution for five minutes. Depending how many you have and how large the pan is, you can put them all in at once. Make sure both sides of the fabric are being soaked.

The bottle mentions that you should use gloves, but I didn't - and my hands are still in tact, haha. You can definitely do this without gloves - just wash your hands really well when you are done. And the solution is a little smelly - heads up. A well-ventilated area would be helpful.

3. Wring the sheets out VERY carefully to keep as much of the solution as possible! You can pour all of that extra solution in the pan back into the bottle. I say "VERY carefully" because I didn't - and I didn't realize what that would do. I had a lot of wrinkles the next day. You don't want that - you'll iron your sheets out later, but you don't want them to be, essentially, wrinkly forever.

4. Hang up the sheets to dry. I would suggest using hangers - you can do two sheets per hanger. Make sure they don't touch or overlap because they could dry and stick to each other. I let them dry overnight just to be sure, though a few hours should be fine. Also, put a pan or garbage can underneath to catch the drips.

5. *a few hours pass* Now, go back to your sheets! They should be a little stiff. Go iron them, but still, carefully. Get all the wrinkles out (this was impossible for me, but I know better next time). Also, cut off all the string that will invariably be hanging from the edges now.

6. Cut your sheets down to 8 1/2 by 11 inches.

7. Now, you'll iron your fabric again, this time to the sticky side of freezer paper. The freezer paper gives the fabric body to move through the printer. Make sure *especially* the ends/side are ironed on well to the freezer paper - or else it can all come apart in the printer and you'll have paper jams. Been there, done that. Just trust me on this one - ironing the fabric to the freezer paper, well, and taking the time to do so, is worth it! Cut the freezer paper out to fit the fabric it's now ironed to.

8. You're ready to print! I would suggest putting the photos into a Microsoft Word document or the like, and printing one page at a time when you click print. When you put the fabric in the printer DON"T FORGET to put it face down (freezer paper on top) so that the photo prints on the fabric - or, if your printer works in another way - ALWAYS check to make sure it will print on the fabric (been there, done that, again!!). Then, you can hit "print" :)

(see the little wrinkles? I did not attach my fabric to the freezer paper well enough :( Luckily, this photo wasn't too badly affected).

9. Once you've printed all of your photos, lay them out separated from each other so they can dry for at least 30 minutes. After thirty minutes, mine were dry. (Photography credits to Julie!)

10. Peel off the freezer paper and cut the pictures out of the fabric - don't forget seam allowance - at least 1/4 in! Depends how you want to sew them. I would recommend throwing the scraps of white fabric away since they have been treated with chemical (my heart sighed sadly. I save so many scraps though, so I guess this isn't too much of a loss).

11. Rub the photos lightly with mild detergent and under warm water. This gets the excess ink out - a very important step that you should NOT skip - or else, your quilt might get ruined later. :( I did not use gloves for this part either and the ink did not get on my hands.

The bottle says "for best results, wash with Bubble Jet Rinse," which you can buy, but to save money, I just used Woolite. It still came out fine - no stains later on the quilt (and the pictures smelled flowery, too!) So that's another choice up to you. I expect that any mild detergent would work. When you are done with this step, you should hang the pictures up to dry again.

And that's it! You have pictures on fabric! Woohoo! Go you! They are COMPLETELY washable and really add character (and memories) to any quilt. It might sound like a lot, but this process was simple, with a little bit of patience!

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask! And I'd love to know if this tutorial worked for you, if you try it!


  1. Many thanks for sharing your fantastic insights and tips. So very very helpful. I have read widely on this subject, but you brought it all together and with experiences you have had. Thanks again.

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  3. I enjoyed your tutorial. I just finished a 60th anniversary quilt for my inlaws with lots of pictures and I used Bubble Jet Set 2000. It works great and reasonable if you want to use a lot of photos. Also the texture of the pictures is great. The pictures are soft like the fabric and sharp. Some methods leave you with stiff photos (June Tailor). I purchased precut freezer paper sheets (8 1/2 by 11 size) and they were very helpful and worth their weight in gold. Don't recall where I purchased them, but they worked very well. Great help with a fussy printer.

  4. Thank you sew much! I'm glad you saw my post on instagram :) I will use your post as a guide once I get to that point :) I did not smell anything from it. And, I did not notice anything on my hands (no gloves).

  5. I have searched and can't find a answer to my question. It is. Do you wash your fabric before using the Bubble Jet Set on it?
    Thanks so much.

  6. I have searched and can't find a answer to my question. It is. Do you wash your fabric before using the Bubble Jet Set on it?
    Thanks so much.

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