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Image transfer to fabric

Image transfer to fabric main article image
Posted on February 7, 2021 by Jan Hunter

Image transfer to fabric using mod podge and an inkjet printed image has been on the to-do list for a couple of months and with Valentine’s Day approaching, the timing is perfect. But if you don’t have time to do something for February 14th, look through your folders of graphics from Creative Fabrica and if you’re a “collector” like me, it’s quite likely you’ll have many to choose from. You could even get a head start on your holiday gifting projects or another holiday décor.

Let’s get started. Gather the materials you’ll need:

  • Image(s) from Creative Fabrica
  • Computer/tablet
  • Editing software (eCal3); can use photoshop elements, Word, etc.
  • Inkjet printer set to the best quality
  • Muslin (for a more rustic look, use duck cloth)
  • Sewing machine, needles, and thread
  • Tack it Over and Over (you could use hook and loop tape)
  • Buttons and embroidery floss (optional)
  • Pillow cover and form (purchased or made previously)
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron, steam setting
  • Mod Podge (Matte Coat)
  • Foam brush
  • Small jar with water
  • A non-stick surface such as a piece of transparency, Teflon craft sheet, freezer paper

Since this is a Valentine-themed cover for this pillow, the following collection was used and can be found at Creative Fabrica.

Cute Gnomes Valentine Clipart

*Note: Pillows for this project were custom made and are 9 x 7 inches and 9 x 6 inches finished. If you are making the pillows, decide on how you’re going to attach the panels before stuffing them with the poly-fil. For this project, a drop of Tack It Over and Over has been used in each corner of the decorative panel.

The pillows are stuffed with poly-fil and are washable if they get dusty or dirty.

Steps to follow for transferring your image to the fabric using the face-up method:

Make the muslin piece for the cover panel (panels are not washable in a washing machine). The muslin is cut 1 inch larger around than the finished size. For example, if the finished panel is 8 x 6 inches, then you would cut the muslin 9 x 7 inches.  Press and hem the sides of the panel. I’ve used a double hem on all sides of the panel for a little more durability. If you plan to use buttons and buttonholes to attach the panel, then add a buttonhole in each corner before adding the transfers to your panel.

Set the panel aside for now.

Choose the elements for your cover and size in the software. The eCal software uses the .PNG format for print 2 cut. The .PNG images have a transparent background so you can layer to create a scene. Place as desired. Make sure the print size will fit in the area designated for the design on the muslin.

Using copy paper, print the image you want to transfer to the muslin. The best quality print option should be selected. I prefer to use the FACE-UP method – it’s a method that has been used for more than 20 years with success for print and original hand-painted images.

Let the print image dry for about an hour. If the colors are really bright, allow drying for 12-24 hours before applying the first coat of Mod Podge to the paper over the top of the color image.  Apply 3 additional coats of Mod Podge with the foam brush; allow the Mod Podge to dry between coats.  (About 30 minutes is generally a sufficient time between light coats).

If desired, fussy cut the image(s) to remove most of the copy paper from around the edges of the image.

Turn the image over and place it on a piece of freezer paper, plastic, or a clean Teflon craft sheet. The side with the Mod Podge should be face down. Dampen the backside of the paper by dabbing a wet finger on the back. When wet, the image should be visible. Do not over wet the image. Carefully, begin rubbing the paper from the back of the image. The paper will peel from the image. The image should be clearer. This will take a bit of time – so be patient. You may need to re-dampen the image to complete the process of removing the paper from the image. Be careful on the edges and small areas as they may tear if you’re not careful.

Once the paper has been removed, carefully, apply a light coat of Mod Podge to the fabric panel and lay the image face up on the panel. Smooth out any bubbles. Apply another coat of Mod Podge to the top of the image making sure the image edges are also covered. I used Matte Coat to seal the image to the muslin. Add any additional embellishments. To secure the panel to the pillow front, add a bit of Tack it Over and Over to each corner. Following the manufacturer’s directions, allow for drying. When dry, set the panel on top of the pillow front, and with your fingers, lightly press the corners of the panel onto the pillow top.

Steps to follow for the mirrored image technique:

Apply 3 or 4 light coats of Mod Podge to the printed image. Fussy cut the image close to the edge of the image. After the last coat has dried, apply one more coat and place the image face down on the muslin.  Let dry (about 1 hour).

Lightly wet the back of the paper and begin the rubbing process to remove the paper as shown previously, leaving the image visible. Be careful not to rub too hard and tear the image. Once all the paper has been removed, seal the image with a light coat of Mod Podge to seal the image to the cloth. The image color will not be as intense as the original print. This is not my preferred method, but it does work.

Now that your images have been applied to the panel, add any additional embellishments as desired and apply the Tack it Over and Over to each of the four corners of the panel. Following the manufacturer’s directions, allow for drying.

It’s possible to make several panels for any holiday, family event, or just because. Make an extra set for the perfect gift for a friend, neighbor, or family member!

This method has been used for many years and with great success if you’re willing to take your time. We hope you’ll give it a try and share your results with Creative Fabrica.

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Joyce Migliore

February 9, 2021

Thank you for this tutorial! I had done something close to this years ago and lost the directions, now I can try again!

Jan Hunter's profile picture
Jan Hunter

February 10, 2021


Hi Joyce. So happy to hear that you're ready to try again! Can't wait to see!

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