Project of the Day: Heat Transfer Dyes.
By Fran Ponta. The Sketchbook Project 2012 & The Sketchbook Project Limited Edition.
You can join me for a virtual cup of coffee and chat @ francesleestudio.blogspot.com.au
What we’ll be making: We’ll be using a simple method to transfer plant images onto fabric.
- Heat Transfer Inks. I use ‘Transprint Inks’ available from www.kraftkolour.net.au
- Iron or ironing press.
- Litho paper. Litho is a printmaking paper which is shiny on one side and matt on the other. Ordinary photocopy paper does work if Litho is not available at your local art supply store.
- Baking paper. This is a non-stick cooking paper which is used to protect your iron and ironing board.
- Plant material from the garden.
- Synthetic fabric. This technique doesn’t work so well on natural fibres such as cotton. The fabric I used for these samples is synthetic dress lining (which is very economical when you want to experiment!) I also tear my fabric into small workable pieces instead of cutting, as I love the frayed ‘lace-like’ edges of the torn fabric.
Estimated Time: Approximately 2 to 3 hours.
Let’s do it!
Step 1: Choosing plant material.
This is the part I enjoy the most! You will need to choose flowers and plants that are not too thick and fleshy, and that have a shape which appeals to you, such as these frangipani flowers…
…or the fern-like leaves of the Poinciana tree.
If you choose something that is recognisable such as lavender, make sure that it’s not too thick as once pressed, the image will be too ‘squashy’ and not recognisable. I decided against the lavender for that reason.
Fine, feathery type foliage is great to use as it presses down really quickly without leaving much plant residue, and the images are quite precise. I particularly like using these garlic chives, (and everyone thinks I’m cooking when I use herbs….little do they know!)
It’s best to use fresh plants as the images are more realistic and they seem to have a 3D effect on the fabric which can’t quite be seen when the fabric is photographed unfortunately.
Step 2: Paint the Litho paper with Heat Transfer Inks of choice.
As mentioned earlier, I use Transprint Inks because they’re so easy to use and reliable. Just purchase whatever your local art supply store has available. Some heat transfer dyes come in a powder form. If using these, just mix them with water to the consistency of full cream milk or very runny cream. They will then need to be kept in a cool place out of direct sunlight. I keep my inks in a cardboard box on the bookshelf.
Paint the shiny side of the Litho paper with your desired colours. Once you become familiar with the inks, you can get some beautiful watercolour effects. Using the shiny side of the Litho enables the release of the ink onto the fabric with less risk of scorching the fabric, although ordinary photocopy paper can be used with care. It just takes a little longer to release the ink.
Step 3: Transferring ink onto the fabric.
For demonstration purposes (I sound like a professional!) I’ll be doing two samples. One in warm colours using two sheets each painted a different warm colour…….
…and one in cool colours with several cool shades painted onto the same sheet.
Step 4: Warm colours first.
Place a sheet of baking paper down first onto either your ironing board or the bed of your ironing press. This will protect the area from inks and plant material stains. Place the fabric right side up, then arrange the plants. I prefer to put the plants right side down (but either way works fine, just go with your instinct here).
Place the lightest colour of pre-painted Litho paper painted side down over the plants, followed by a second sheet of baking paper. It is important to let the Litho paper dry naturally as if it’s heat dried to hurry things along, you could activate the inks prematurely.
This is what it looks like side on.
Press on high heat for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. This is much easier with an ironing press. If using a regular iron it’s best to pin through all sheets straight down into the ironing board with metal headed pins to prevent slippage. You’ll get a ‘feel’ for how long after a few attempts by the heat coming off the paper, the smell of the dyes and the smell of the plant material.
Carefully lift up the dye sheet to see if the dye has ‘taken’. It’s easy to see if you hold the sheet down with the back of a metal spoon, and just lift the corner.
Rearrange the plants, turning them over so that the previously inked side is now facing down on to the fabric…
…and place the second sheet of pre-painted Litho paper over. Repeat the pressing for the second colour.
Repeat this procedure as many times as you like for desired depth of colour. The Litho paper can be used several times, with each printing becoming less intense.
Step 5: Now for a quick look at the cool colours.
These images show the effects that can be obtained using a multi coloured Litho sheet, pressed only once each onto two separate pieces of fabric. The first has some plant material residue, the second is cleaner. Sometimes I leave my plant material overnight to allow the plants to dry out a little but still retain their 3D effect.
The Wrap Up:
The effect you achieve is dependent on the type of inks you have access to, the quality of the paper, the fibre content and ‘acceptability’ of the fabric and the pressing time. The whole process can become quite addictive, especially if you love plants.
I use both the fabric and the used Litho papers (which also retain plant images) in my bookbinding, often stitched onto other papers.
I hope this has prompted you to look at the plants around you in a whole new light!