If you’re sitting around puzzling about the basic premise behind image transfers using a InkJet printer (and, wow, who isn’t), let me put your mind to rest: it’s all about “floating” ink on a non-porous/semi-porous surface and then using some sort of burnisher to transfer that floating ink to a porous surface where it will sink in and dry, effectively “staining” the porous surface.
If you read this blog, you know I’ve had my issues with image transfers (here and here), so when I was working on yet another project requiring a transfer, I decided that until I found a quick and easy transfer method, I would not rest.
Which is, of course, when I realized that the answer to my puzzling was the familiar and comfortable answer to so many of my puzzlings: duct tape.
This realization led me to experiment with a wide variety of tapes (two types of duct tape, clear packing tape, tan packing tape, blue painter’s tape, white artist’s tape), and, frankly, all of them work to a certain degree.
Any of them would do in a pinch. Okay, not the white artist’s tape, but all of the others.
After way too much experimentation, there were three tapes closely ranked as the top performers: 1) Standard Silver Duct Tape (I happened to use 3M brand), 2) Nashua brand Transparent Duct Tape, and 3) Blue Painter’s Tape. These three tapes had the least amount of problem with the ink “beading up” and causing blotches in the transferred image.
The #1 limitation to image transfer by tape is the width of the tape. If you butt strips of the tape together, you end up with tiny strips of no ink (at the butting). If you overlap the tape, too much (and even a little might be too much — this is highly dependent on the image), you end up with hills and valleys of ink making an extra dark or light strip.
Which may be why the blue painter’s tape did not win in this experiment — it works extremely well, but I only had a very narrow roll and quickly became irritated by the inability to print even a small image without attempting to compensate for the “hills and valleys”.
Besides, duct tape is inherently cooler than painter’s tape.
SUPPLIES and INSTRUCTIONS
- InkJet Printer
- Ordinary Printer Paper
- Image to be transferred
- Duct Tape
- Burnisher (for the most part, I used a wooden tool designed for sculpting clay, but a wooden clothes pin, a credit card, and an acrylic roller also worked)
STEP 1: Print the image(s) you wish to transfer. This gives you a guide for placing the tape and will help with lining up the image when you wish to transfer it to a new surface.
STEP 2: Cover the image with duct tape.
STEP 3: Print the image(s) again, this time on the duct tape covered paper. At this point, I’m compelled to offer two bits of advice and a caution: 1) always leave a border of plain paper (no duct tape) on all edges (particularly the lead edge that feeds into the printer; 2) before placing the duct tape covered sheet of paper in the printer, remove all other paper from the loading bay — this prevents the duct tape (even the non-sticky side) from “grabbing” the paper below it; and 3) Odds are that all InkJet printer manufacturers recommend against running duct tape through your printer… do so at your own risk.
STEP 4: Place the printout, duct tape side down, on the surface you wish to transfer to — in this case, orange and white checked cotton fabric. Hold the paper down with one hand and rub the back of the image with a burnisher of some fashion.
That’s all there is to it. Here are some examples of duct tape image transfers:
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the duct tape as a quick and easy way to get digital images onto fabric as a pattern for embroidery, needle felting, fabric paints, etc. Sometimes, as with the pumpkin images on the wool blend felt, image adjustments are needed for a solid transfer (in this case, thicker lines).
While both the silver and Nashua transparent duct tape worked well, the transparent tape repeatedly edged out the silver for transferring small details in photographs.
I’m pretty happy with this quick and easy transfer method — after all, who isn’t happy when using duct tape?
All right, one last transfer image:
Now if I could just suss out a way to use WD-40 for image transfers…
UPDATE: Over on Craftster, some folks pointed out that duct tape is now sold in 8″x11.5″ sheets — how perfect is that? But be aware, I did some googling about and while the sheets eliminate the issue of “tape width”, they are a bit pricey (running $1-$2 per sheet).