Quilt Photo Transfer Tutorial

Carla’s Quilt Photo Transfer Tutorial-

I received a message from blog visitor Beverly this morning, asking questions about my leaf quilt and the subtle photo transfer method that I do. I thought I would answer her here, in case anyone else is curious.

Here is a photo to refresh your memory, along with a close up of two of the photo transfers contained within the quilt:

This quilt contains quite a few photo transfers, but I have included them in a subtle manner. I want the viewer to first enjoy the overall quilt design and colors, then come closer and get drawn in by the photos. The photos are actually the focal point of this quilt, but done in a subtle way.

This quilt is the second in a series and I made it for my son. He attended a school back east, and the pictures relate to his school and the time he spent there- which are filled with warm, positive memories for him. The first quilt was auctioned off in 2004 to benefit this school (it earned $5025.00) and I’ve included a picture of this first quilt within the second quilt.

I picked these two photo transfers for a reason. One is a color photo and one is not, I’ve de-saturated the second photo using a photo imaging program (I use photoshop).

Before we start, I want to emphasize a point. Photo transfer quilts don’t have to be unattractive! It works much better to pick a quilt design, any design, and then find a way to work the photos into the quilt in a subtle way. Trust me on this!

Step 1: Pick a quilt design and fabrics/color palette. I love using batiks for their range of color, texture and the simple fact that I can print images onto the batiks and get a very clear image. This is due to the high thread count in the batik fabric.

In my sample quilt above, the pattern is a leaf variation of a positive/negative design. I found this leaf pattern in an old copy of a Quiltmaker magazine. (I would credit the designer, but they did not list one.)

If you have difficulty choosing your colors, here is a favorite color website to help you out.

Step 2: Gather your supplies for image Transfer onto Batik– Use your favorite image transfer method to transfer onto the batik. The simplest and most archival way is to hire my friends, the Pixeladies, to help you with the printing- especially if you don’t have the computer skills to do it yourself. If you want to do it exactly the way I did, then I used the Bubblejetset method combined with archival ink onto the batik.

Bubblejetset method has been around for awhile. I recommend that you read up on the various types of ink your own printer has to understand how it will act when washed and exposed to sunlight. If you do not feel confident, then hire someone who has archival ink to do your printing. If you feel confident, then let’s proceed.

Bubblejetset may be purchased from many sources. I recommend at a minimum that you buy the bottle of Bubblejetset, a small bottle of synthrapol, and the manufactured freezer paper shown here by CJ Jenkins on the Dharma Trading Co. website. I suggest you purchase the synthrapol instead of the BJS rinse.

Important!! Do not substitute regular freezer paper in place of the CJ Jenkins Freezer Paper sheets. Why? Because you just increased the likelihood that the fabric will jam in your printer. You do not want to learn this lesson the hard way.

Step 3: Print out the images onto your fabric following the directions on the bottle, also found here. I also recommend you iron the pre-treated fabric to the Jenkins freezer paper sheet, then carefully tape the leading edge (half the tape on the top of the fabric and half wrapped to the back of the freezer sheet.) that will go into your printer. This is the trick I use. Using it, I have NEVER jammed my computer printer.

Step 4: Wait 24 hours. I know, the directions say 30 minutes. Ignore them and trust me. LOL!

Step 5: Gently wash in cold water with a tsp. of Synthrapol in the bath. I do this in a plastic tub in my sink or sometimes I just use my laundry room sink. You will see some of the ink leave the fabric. This is normal and because I’m going to lose a bit of ink, once washed, I adjust the contrast on my program and will print my images a tad darker to compensate.

Step 6: I let dry, then press them flat. If i am in a hurry, I will press it dry, then cut it to piece it into the quilt.

That’s it! You now have your photo transfers to use in your quilt project, fiber art project or any other application. As with all of my tutorials, please send me a picture when you are done. I would LOVE to see your project.

Any questions? There are many ways to do photo transfers, this is just the way that I do it. I’ve been doing it about 10 years, and I’ve been doing my subtle quilt techniques about 6 years. Good luck! Carla


5 thoughts on “Quilt Photo Transfer Tutorial

  1. Carla, thank you for this information. I have been somewhat disappointed with the photo transfers I have done in the past and will try again using your information.

    Thanks for being so giving!

    Judy in MO

  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  3. Hi Carla,
    Thanks for the tutorial. Can you tell me kind of printer you use. I have been in stores and online for the past two days and I am so confused.


    Hi Cookie, Personally, I recommend an epson printer for photo transfer work if you are in the market to buy one. Why Epson? The inks they have developed have an archival lifespan of from 200-300+ years. Here is the link on their site which talk about ink:


    I also reference my friend, the Pixeladies in the post above. They have a very expensive printer which use procion dyes. I would say their system is more achival than epson. But if you are a DIY-er, buy an epson.

    Btw, I do not work for Epson, merely feel their product is worthwhile. For people who own a different printer brand and want to do photo transfers- just go for it! My advice is for people wanting to buy a brand new printer.

    Hope this helps, Cookie! Carla

  4. Carla,
    I came by your website accidentally and 3 hours later I’m still reading and being amazed at the information you give to fellow friends. You are certainly a talented lady. I am inspired to try some of your techniques which are new to me. Thanks again for sharing your love of creating.

  5. Pingback: Carla’s Echo-Swirl Feather Quilting Tutorial « Feathered Fibers

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