I always get asked if I paint directly onto the fabric for my hand painted textiles. I don't, and so I thought I would tell you how to make hand painted fabric. Specifically how I use sublimation inks to create my hand painted textiles. Spoiler alert I'm not going to give away all of my secrets as i've spent a while perfecting the process, but the tips below will help you explore the medium.
When I say no I don't paint directly onto the fabric, people naturally assume I mean reproductions of artwork. You know, scan in an image of something i've created and then get it printed by a machine. That's not how it works. Let me explain.
First I paint an image onto paper using specialist sublimation inks or rather i paint numerous images. You can use the inks on any paper. I've found a certain type that gives a great texture, but simple printer paper is fine. You have to print onto synthetic fabric, you can buy a special coating to apply to natural fabric but I've not managed to get it to work as well.
One of the difficulties with the painting using the sublimation inks is the colours you are painting with do not show as the colours that will transfer later on. You have to trust the process and pray you've picked up the correct colour! For example the photo below turned into the beautiful blue scarves I sell.
You have to wait until the papers are fully dry. You can try and speed it up using a hair dryer but I prefer to let it naturally dry out. It helps me get the interesting blending and watercolour type feel to the paintings.
Once dry you can heat press the design onto fabric. You can either use a domestic iron or if you have one a heat press. I use a portable heat press by cricut. The benefit is you can adjust the temperature and there's less chance of the image slipping and blurring underneath. Plus being portable means you can store it away when not in use.
To transfer the design place a heat proof mat onto your surface, then place the fabric on top, take your painted image and put that face down onto the fabric and finally put some heat proof paper on top.
It's a bit of trial and error on how long the paper needs to be heated. Primarily because the longer you heat it the deeper and more rich the colours become. So this is where the artistry in mine starts to play, depending on how i want the image to change on the fabric depends on how long i allow the papers to be heated. I need to overlap many images to get the effect that I want.
What's fun is re using the images you have heated- it still prints but instead it leaves a ghost like edge on the fabric.
And that's how to make hand painted fabric for your painted textiles! It's really good fun and once you get the hang of it you will be trialling lots of different methods.
To see my range of hand painted textiles visit here