As you might have guessed, I love to print on fabric. It’s my favorite method of image transfer and I print on fabric to create all sorts of artwork such as art bags (more pics here) …
quilts (more here) …
and even three dimensional art (more here).
I get asked lots of questions about printing on fabric, but the number one question I get asked is always about color, so here are my top tips and suggestions for getting great color reproduction when printing on fabric.
Use genuine ink cartridges
Using generic or refilled ink cartridges is not recommended for getting great results when printing either on paper or fabric, and if you’re using generic ink cartridges this is probably the number one reason why your prints would be looking dull.
While generic inks might be cheaper than brand name inks, they are not of the same quality and don’t meet the same standards. Printer manufacturers spend a lot of time and money developing their inks to meet very specific requirements such as color and image quality and fade and water resistance, which might not totally justify the cost of brand name ink, but it does guarantee very specific and consistent results which is important when printing high quality images on both paper and fabric.
I’ve been printing on fabric for over ten years and have always used Epson brand inks, and the fabrics I printed ten years ago look just as good today as they did back then. This is one of the first quilts I made using printed images on fabric and it still looks great today.
I even printed the cups onto fabric.
Clean your printer heads
Another reason why your prints could be dull or have poor print quality, is because your printer heads may need cleaning. You can usually tell if your printer heads need cleaning if your colors look dull or the print quality is poor.
Your printer normally has some sort of maintenance tab on the print dialog box that pops up when you send an image to print, and this is where you can usually find the option to do the head cleaning. You may need to consult your printer manual to find this option. Even though the cleaning does use up excess ink it’s well worth doing this every once in a while – it makes a world of difference.
Another reason to clean your printer heads every once in a while is to avoid clogging of the printer heads. This occurs most often if you don’t use your printer frequently, and if the ink sits for too long it tends to dry out a little and this clogs up the heads.
I always use my printer on a daily basis in order to avoid the possibility of the heads clogging, even if it’s just to print out a test page. In Epson printers head clogging is quite a common problem, but in over ten years of printing on fabric using Epson printers, I’ve only ever experienced clogging once which was on a printer that I don’t use for printing on fabric but I let sit unused for several months because I was too lazy to plug it in after I moved it. It was a pain to unclog. Lesson learned.
Make sure you use the correct printer settings when printing on fabric. Some printers will print perfectly well using the standard print and paper settings, but with others you may need to use the photo or best photo setting with a different paper type. I use an Epson Workforce 1100 printer, with photo quality and standard paper settings. These settings give me a perfect print every time, however you may need to tweak the paper type and quality settings and do some testing to determine the correct settings for your particular printer.
In this post I explain in detail how to set up a series of test prints to determine the settings for getting the best possible color quality. You’ll be amazed at the results the different settings give you.
Color management settings
Deciding whether to allow your photo editing software or your printer to manage color will also play a part in how good your colors look.
You can read more about my experience using color management in this article.
Calibrate your monitor
If you want your prints to be the exact same color as what you see on your computer screen, then you will need to calibrate your monitor.
In this article by PC World they explain how to calibrate your monitor using Windows 7 which has a calibration tool. At the end of the article it also suggests several other methods of calibration.
You can also find step-by-step instructions for manually calibrating your monitor here.
I personally don’t worry too much about my prints turning out the exact same color as my computer screen. I have manually calibrated my monitor using the method mentioned above, and my prints turn out almost the same as what I see on my screen and I have always been happy with these results.
My favorite tip for getting better color quality
My favorite tip for getting better color quality is simple – using a photo editing software such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, simply increase the saturation by 20%.
Outsourcing your fabric printing is becoming popular these days particularly if you require prints larger than what can be printed through a standard size printer, or if you need continuous yardage, and one of my favorite companies for outsourcing my fabric printing is Spoonflower. I’ve always had great results and beautiful colors.
Spoonflower offers custom fabric printing on a large selection of fabrics including cottons, silks and knit fabrics. You simply create your design, upload the file into your Spoonflower account and select your options. It is that easy. You can find Spoonflower here.
Great prints in a hurry
The quickest and easiest way to get a good quality print on fabric is to purchase commercial pre-treated fabric sheets and follow the directions. I think I’ve tried about every brand on the market but my favorite commercial fabric sheets by far are EQ Printables Inkjet Fabric Sheets.
EQ Printables are a little more expensive than other brands, however the color and print quality are superior. I did a comparison test of several different types of fabric including EQ Printables, and you can read the full article here.
If you’d like more information about the many ways I print on fabric including tips and tricks I use, you can find lots of articles right here on my blog.
If you’ve never printed on fabric before but would like to try, I’ve put together a handy downloadable tutorial explaining everything you need to know to get started printing on fabric using an inkjet printer. You can find it here in the store.