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Add Photos to Your Next Quilt with DTG Printing

There's a new way to add photos to quilts. In the past, we relied on photo transfer paper to iron our photo onto our quilt block. Have you heard about direct-to-garment printing, sometimes called DTG printing? It's a great new way to get your favorite photo out of your scrapbook and onto your quilt block. Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a form of digital printing. With a cost of about $20,000, it's not practical to run out and buy your own DTG printer.

The typical price for a DTG print is $8 to $10. This process is a little more expensive than the traditional photo transfer method. That's partially because the technology is so new.

If you do decide to try a DTG photo on your memory quilt block, there are a few things to look for in selecting the printer who will do the work for you: 1. Make sure there are no chemicals needed to pre-treat your fabric first. Some DTG printers create an image that is more like screen printing. You don't want that look or feel on your quilt. The ink will be hard on top of the fabric and will eventually (sometimes much sooner than later) will start to crack and wear with washings. Ask your prospective printer to see a sample of something they've printed.

If you can feel the ink is raised above the surface in any way at all, it's probably a sublimation type process which requires chemicals to pre-treat the fabric. 2. Use a form of digital DTG printing offered by the Brother GT 541. There are no chemicals needed to pre-treat the fabric. The inks are bonded with the fabric's natural fibers, then heat cured to last.

The inks are water based, which helps leave a soft yet crisp image on your fabric. There are some downfalls to using DTG printing on your quilt blocks. One pitfall is color limitations. Since DTG printing is a form a digital printing, there is no white ink.

White is the absence of color. This means that you cannot print a photo on navy blue or black fabric. Digital garment or fabric printing is a CMYK format - cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. You can mix those colors to get a full spectrum of accurate colors - just not white. There are DTG printers that print white ink, but most of those require chemical pre-treatment of the fabric and will leave you with that thick surface print. The light-colored or neutral fabric you use must be cotton or a cotton blend.

The fabric must be able to withstand 350 degrees for about 30 seconds. If you are not working with 100 percent cotton or a 50/50 blend, ask your printer if the fabric will work. Size of your print may be a limitation. Most DTG printers have a printing field up to 14 inches x 16 inches. For most quilters, that size range won't be a problem. And speaking of printing fields, here's a hint.

Most direct to garment printers charge for a 14x16 surface. If your blocks will allow 2 or 3 photos to fit within that range, you could get them all printed for the price of one. Check with the printer to see if it's possible with your particular project. Like most technological advances, the price of digital garment (or fabric) printing will probably decrease over time. Maybe it will even be available on smaller printers for home and personal use.

Until then, see if you can find a DTG printer for your next photo quilt project. The results will look like custom fabric, which will be a great touch for your one of a kind quilt!.

Penny Halgren Penny has been a quilter for more than 26 years and enjoys exploring all aspects of quilting sharing her knowledge with all quilters.


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