It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a.k.a. a wonderful opportunity for me to get my hands dirty making holiday gifts for the people I love. I’ve been gaga about image transfer techniques for quite a while, so I was intrigued to come across a brand-new one that wouldn’t involve waiting hours for things to dry or getting little bits of paper everywhere, like the gel medium transfer I was obsessed with a couple years ago. If you want to learn exactly how to do this yourself, read on! For those of you who are visual learners, check out the video below.
- Flour sack towels (I bought two versions: the 4 for $10 ones at Bed Bath and Beyond, and these on Amazon)
- 1 inch foam brush (available at any craft or home improvement store in the paint section)
- Citrasolv (available on Amazon or at your local Whole Foods)
- Cardboard (a cut up cereal box works just fine)
- Small bowl
- Laser-printed images (TONS are available at The Graphics Fairy). Citrasolv reacts with toner from laser printers and copiers, not ink from inkjet printers. I printed mine on an inkjet and then took them to the public library to make copies.
- Wash, dry, and iron your towels. This will help the toner adhere to your fabric.
- Figure out where you want to place your images. I added four so there would be two ‘right’ ways to hang the towels, meaning I needed four copies of my original image.
- Tape your image to the fabric face down, and place your cardboard protective layer beneath so the Citrasolv doesn’t bleed through.
- Pour a small amount of Citrasolv into your bowl. You want to use as little as possible, I promise.
- Sparingly moisten your foam brush with Citrasolv and paint the back of the paper. As you do, your image will emerge. It’s only necessary to wet the paper where the image is; you don’t have to paint the whole thing. ‘Sparingly’ is the key adverb in that first sentence. The wetter your brush is, the more your image will bleed. It’ll get darker, but also look sloppier.
- The image isn’t on your fabric yet! Use the back of a spoon to rub the image into the towel, being sure to hold the paper steady over the fabric. If it moves around as you rub, your image will blur. I spent two or three minutes rubbing hard over each image to make sure as much of the toner transferred as possible. If you can lift the paper up without moving it as you set it back down, you can peek underneath to see what the transfer looks like.
- Remove your paper! I read on a few other blogs that ironing would help to set the image, so I did that. No controlled study yet on the effects on image durability of ironing/not ironing.
With 15 minutes and minimal supplies, you’ve got an adorable vintage-looking tea towel. Feel free to customize these with images your favorite people will love. My brother’s getting my face on a towel.
Side note: I dyed a few of my towels with Rit and tea immediately after following these steps. In retrospect, I wish I’d dyed first, then done the image transfer, as immediate exposure to boiling water caused the images to fade a bit. In general, wash your towels in cold water to increase the life of the image.