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What fabric is best for photo transfers?

A reader wants to know how to pick a fabric for photo transfer. Ami gives her the complete run-down.

Answered by Ami Simms

I am making a pillow for a friend and want to use pictures on it. I was reading about the way you can do it with the picture paper, and was wondering if you could use colored fabric, instead of the white 200 thread count?

What are the guidelines for picking fabric that will give good results?

- A Quilter’s Review reader

Ami Simms

I like bright white fabric for transferring because you get the best color reproduction.

The transfer paper you use, such as Photos-To-Fabric, deposits a thin layer of transparent film (with the
color copier’s toner imbedded in it) onto your fabric.

Learn more about Photos-To-Fabric on Ami’s Web site

Those areas of the transfer that are light, such as skin, sky, clouds — anything white or light — will allow the fabric beneath the transfer to show through.

Put people on beige fabric and they look suntanned. Put them on red fabric and they look sunburned. Put them on green fabric and they look seasick. (I see a theme quilt coming….”A Day At The Beach.”)

I know some quilters like beige fabric for an old-fashioned look. I’d rather let the picture on the fabric say that and be true to the original photograph.

I know some also like to transfer on muslin. I don’t recommend that. Muslin has tiny flecks of brown. They will show in the completed photo-transfer. And they can come off.

You’re luck there will be one right in the middle of Grandma’s cheek and she’ll look like she’s got a pimple. You’ll notice the speck and try to move it with your fingernail and then Grandma will have a write spot instead.

Most people will be piecing the photo-transferred images into patchwork, not using a picture centered on a chunk of fabric cut 12 inches square, for example. Since you’ll be piecing, the fabric the photo has been transferred onto won’t be showing anyway.

If you’re going to center a picture on a chunk of fabric cut 12 inches square, please read one of my books on making photo-transfer quilts.

Learn more about Ami’s books on her Web site

The absolute best fabric I have found for photo-transferring or direct printing onto fabric is Springmaid Southern Belle. It is sometimes sold as “Memory Cloth.” Bright white is best.

Don’t wash it — use it right out of the package or off the bolt. Washing it removes the sizing, which is part of the reason it makes such a nice transfer. Once the transfer is on the fabric it won’t shrink.

It’s not so much the thread count as it is the smoothness of the fabric. The slicker the fabric, the better the transfer.

Read questions that Ami Simms answered

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Readers’ Comments:

September 10, 2001
Garnett R. writes:

Pima cotton is great for photos on fabric. It feels like silk.

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6 Responses to What fabric is best for photo transfers?

  1. I want to transfer some photos to fabric but everytime I attempt to buy the transfer paper I’m overwhelmed by the number of choices. How do I know what I’m looking for or which is the best product. They all look and sound the same to me. Help!

  2. I’ve not done side-by-side comparisons so I’m not able to tell you which is best. I work part time in a quilt shop which sells Printed Treasures.


    This product has been used in dozens and dozens of pictures by a rescue dog league. The raffle quilts look beautiful with all the dog pictures which are clear and the color is true.

    Copy the link about to see this product on Amazon.

  3. HI all
    I need for someone to put a photo of my 11yr old grandson onto a piece of fabric. He has passed away on 27th Jan 2012 from Leukemia and I want to make a memorial cushion. I dont know how to transfer so would pay someone to do it for me. If anyone out there can help me please please get in touch.

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  5. Incredible points. Solid arguments. Keep up the great work.

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