Did you know that you can transfer an image onto fabric without transfer paper? This step-by-step tutorial shows exactly how to transfer an image onto fabric napkins to create unique designs. This photo transfer method works well for other types of fabrics, including pillow covers, t-shirts, jeans, and quilting squares.
The photo transfer method I'm sharing today is one of the easiest ways that I've found, to print your picture on fabric. The best part is that you can use your home printer with regular printer paper. This project is so easy and suitable for all skill levels. Even the kids can get involved.
Easter napkin inspiration
The inspiration for this post came from the pretty paper napkins that I used to make Easter baskets a few weeks back. I loved those cute Easter bunny designs and was eager to see what else I could transform them into.
Fabric napkins printed with Easter designs can be pricey, and I'm reluctant to spend the money, especially when I only get them out once a year! That's why I've been experimenting with a new (to me) craft medium to find a budget-friendly way to create the Easter napkin designs I love.
The best part is that I've discovered a simple method to transfer images onto fabric without using photo transfer paper, parchment paper, wax paper, or any other type of fabric transfer paper. Don't worry, there's no need to get your ironing board out for this craft project either!
This easy Easter craft is perfect for beginners. Even the kids could make some cute Easter napkins in next to no time using this fabric transfer method.
Table of contents
Follow these simple steps to create unique dinner napkins for your Easter table.
Supplies for transferring an image onto fabric
Throughout this post, I've included affiliate links to some of the products I use and love for making DIY Easter bunny baskets. As an affiliate, I may earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links, although there is no extra cost for you.
- An Easter image* (I used a paper napkin)
- Plain white dinner napkins
- Color Laser printer (not an inkjet printer)
- Mod Podge photo transfer medium
- Scraper tool
- Something to protect your work surface
*Choose an image that best suits the type of fabric you're using. A light-colored image works best for dark fabrics and a darker image for light-colored fabrics.
★Tip★ An inkjet printer is unsuitable for this project as the ink will smudge, so for the best results, use a laser printer instead. Laser-printed pictures will stay crisp and clear when you transfer them onto fabric.
Places to print photos
Don't worry if you don't happen to have a laser printer at home. You can get photos printed relatively cheaply at a copy shop or print shop.
There are even online printers where you can upload your photo or image and have it printed and delivered to your home.
Search for 'Places to print photos onto paper' in your usual search engine and you'll quickly get a load of results.
Instructions for transferring prints to fabric
Print and cut the image
Using a laserjet printer, make a photocopy of the photo or image you want to transfer. Use regular printer paper for this.
If there is writing on your image, remember to reverse it in a photo editing program first (make a mirror image), otherwise, it will come out backwards when you transfer the image to fabric.
The section of the image you'll use for the image transfer should be carefully cut out, and the excess paper should be removed.
Apply Photo transfer medium for fabric
I'm using Mod Podge transfer medium for this project but transfer gel is also a great option.
Spread your piece of fabric out onto a flat surface.
Decide where the image will be placed on the fabric and cover that area with a transfer medium.
Apply transfer medium to the image using a small paintbrush.
★Tip★ If you are transferring a photo onto a fabric pillow cover, remember to slip some wax paper inside the pillowcase to prevent the transfer medium from seeping through to the back.
Transfer image to fabric
Turn the image over and position the printed image right-side down onto the fabric.
Smooth the image with a scraper to remove any air bubbles (best done on a hard surface). Use a scraper or a damp cloth to remove the excess transfer medium seeping out from underneath the image.
Allow the image to dry for a few hours (I let mine dry overnight).
Expose the image transfer
Press a damp sponge onto the image a few times or spray it with water so that the water softens the paper.
Using the sponge, gently rub the image over a small section of the image transfer until pieces of the paper start to come away from the image. Rub softly so as not to remove the transfer image. Continue doing so until the top layer of paper is completely removed.
Seal the image transfer
Once the image transfer is dry, you may notice that the colors look less vibrant than when the image was wet. It's because there is still a thin layer of paper over the image, which becomes opaque when dry.
Adding a protective layer of photo transfer medium over the top of the image will seal it and increase its vibrancy.
I have not washed these napkins yet; I'll do that after Easter. However, when I wash them, I will put them in the washing machine with other light-colored fabrics on a cold or delicate wash cycle, which will be less harsh on the photo transfers.
Photo transfer to fabric ideas
Whether you are looking for unique photo transfer napkins for a special celebration, a way to print pictures on clothes, or cute keepsake ideas for birthdays and holidays, there are various ways to use your own images for fabric transfer. Here are some of my favorite photo printing ideas:
- Transfer a picture to fabric tote bags
- Print pictures on fabric for quilting
- Transfer an image onto fabric for embroidery
- Use the photo transfer method to put pictures on jeans
- Transfer a picture onto a shirt
- Create a vintage look with a photo transfer onto canvas
- Transfer pictures to fabric pillowcases
- Make a custom t-shirt for friends or family
There are lots of different ways to transfer a color image onto fabric, but this method of printing onto fabric is one of the best I've found so far. You can transfer photos onto fabric even if you don't have iron-on transfer paper to hand. All it takes are a few simple steps to transform plain table napkins into unique table accessories that you can use year after year.
This DIY photo transfer to fabric method is a great way to create napkins for special events like weddings or christenings without breaking the bank. You could use a printed photo of the happy couple, an image of intertwined rings, or an image from a vintage magazine, for example.
Of course, you could always get an image printed onto fabric at your local print shop, but when it's so easy to DIY at home, why not save some pennies and give it a go?
I hope you enjoyed learning how to transfer an image onto fabric without transfer paper with me this week. Good luck with your project, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
Happy crafting, I'll see you next time!
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Barbara at Mantel and Table says
What a brilliant idea Jayne - I can't wait to try it! Thanks for the great ideas, and Happy Friday!
Jayne Westerholt says
Hi Barbara! Definitely try it, these turned out much better than I expected!
Carol Karl | Living a Real Life says
I found this very interesting and am keen to try it. I have used this method to transfer onto glass, etc (using tape instead of the medium) but it wasn't particularly successful. Can't wait to see if this works for me. Thanks for sharing.
Jayne Westerholt says
Hi Carol, it looks very good so far although, I haven't washed them yet!