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Transfer Printing

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

We've been teaching transfer printing for a long time and always get such brilliant results. You'll need hardly any equipment and materials to get started. Here's our simple method:

You can use Transfer Dyes (disperse dyes) or Transfer Paints. The dyes come in powdered form and need to be mixed with water. The paints can be used straight out of the pot and are a lot thicker. To mix up a transfer dye sprinkle 2tsp of Transfer Dye onto 100ml of water. Mix and leave for five minutes. Mix up all the colours that you want to use.

Paint your dyes onto paper. Standard 80gsm copy paper works perfectly.

You can create different marks and textures on your papers.

If using transfer paints, paint your paper all over or create a image, design or texture with the paints.


Transfer dyes and paints appear dull when painted onto paper but become very vibrant when heat transferred onto fabric. If you want more subdued colours, mix up more muddy looking shades. Paler shades can be achieved by adding less dye to the water when mixing them up. Leave your papers to dry.


Assemble a collection of objects. Feathers, seed heads and leaves work really well. These objects need to be able to be pressed completely flat to the fabric.

You will need to use synthetic fabrics for transfer dyeing for the best results. Polyester works perfectly. In order to use natural fibres, Transfix can be painted onto the surface and left to dry before use.

Lay your objects over the fabric. Place a sheet of painted transfer paper face down on top of your assemblage. Cover with baking paper and iron on a hot setting. After a minute or two, the dye will have transferred to the fabric with the objects acting as a mask. This fuchsia pink appeared as a dusty mauve on the painted paper.

Create layered designs by placing different papers onto the fabric and ironing over the top.

This blue layer was added next, using the same leaves to mask areas. You can cut shapes from the transfer papers and place them face down before covering and ironing again.

Your design will build up as you add more layers.

This design was created using a dried hydrangea flower between the dark green paper and the fabric. Pink stripes of paper were placed down before the green paper.

After being pressed against the transfer papers, your objects will pick up colour of their own. Turn them over and iron them onto the fabric.

Cut paper masks and stencils to use between your paper and fabric.

You can see the vibrancy of the transfer dye intensifies when it is heat pressed onto the fabric. Each piece of painted paper can be used several times. The intensity of the colour will decrease each time until very little dye will be transferred.

This hydrangea was heat pressed onto cotton that had been painted with Transfix and left to dry. First the fabric was pressed with a hydrangea and pink paper, then the flower was moved slightly and pressed with green paper. Both the pink and green papers had been used several times before this print was made, giving subtler shades. The Transfix treated cotton produces paler shades than a synthetic fabric would.

To create transfer dyed fabrics of your own you will need:

  • Transfer Dyes or Paints
  • Measuring jug and measuring spoons if using transfer dyes 
  • Copy paper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Synthetic fabric such as polyester (or natural fabrics painted with Transfix
  • Objects to print with such as leaves, seed heads and feathers
  • Scissors
  • Baking Paper
  • Iron
  • Ironing board or padded surface


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