A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Here we go...!

The basic technique is as follows. 

  1. Mix your disperse dye according to the directions and/or mix your transfer paint
  2. Paint your paper (Let dry thoroughly)
  3. Iron onto your fabric
  4. Enjoy the results!

There doesn't seem to be a lot of available reading about transfer paints/disperse dyes - a lot of people seem to use it, but almost none seem to talk about how they do it. I ordered a booklet from an artist who offers courses in the technique, but was quite disappointed with the result - the directions were pretty much what I gave you above, and lots and lots of pictures of what she did with the technique, and no information as to how those results were achieved - other than labels like "layered disperse dye".  *ahem*  Nonetheless, I found four or five people online who gave sketchy outlines of what they did, cobbled them all together and gave it a whirl.

As is my usual impetuous style I dove right in. I conducted a couple of unsuccessful experiments before I realized I needed to figure out what was going wrong, so I backed up and made the sample chart, above.

The lines are as follows:
  • Transfer paint diluted with water to the consistency of thickish watercolour paint
  • Straight transfer paint (which is surprisingly goopy and thick)
  • Transfer paint mixed with (Speedball) base extender
  • Disperse dye with base extender
  • Disperse dye with base extender and water
  • Disperse dye with water
(in all cases I used 1/8 tsp disperse dye to 1 tsp base extender, where water was used, I used two tablespoons of water).  As you can see, there were no "failures" in the mix, but the most intense colours were produced using either transfer paint straight out of the bottle or disperse dye with base extender.

The paper above is plain bond.  There was no difference in how the dye transferred from bond or sketch paper to fabric, but the bond paper tended to curl under the weight of both paint and disperse dye so my preference was for the sketch book paper.

You can also see from the pic above how goopy the paint was - and how difficult it was to tell which colour was which.  In light of that, I suggest you label each paper so that you know what colour you have - I did some plain solids in purple, cherry red and black and couldn't tell which were which when they were dry.  Surprise!

I cut some of the painted and dried paper up, laid it out on my 60% polyester fabric, ironed ruthlessly and hoped for a good result.

Although I ironed FOR-EVER with good pressure this was the sad result I got. I tried it with other man-made fabrics I had in my stash, and got equally poor or even no results. For kicks and giggles, I also tried transferring on cotton and silk  and got zero result. It was like nothing happened.

Sylvia Naylor (one of the artists I read who uses this technique) suggests using only 100% polyester, acrylic, etc.  My intent was to go out and buy some different fabric the next day; but luckily, I found a piece of 100% polyester curtain fabric from the 80's in my white scrap bin and:

Eurkea! Well - except for where you can see that I held the iron still. Keep that iron moving!

Initially, I wasn't trying to do anything fancy - I just wanted to see what the paint/disperse dye did, so I did a number of tests like the one above - just to see what intensity of colour I ended up with once the

Make sure your paper is COMPLETELY dry before you iron, or you'll end up with burnt blobs of paint as above. 

then I tried a little paper resist:

and then I tried layering a solid colour paper over bits:

A note about ironing:

Every iron is different, and will produce different results, but you need to iron without steam, on high heat, apply pressure [the more pressure and heat, the more vibrant the result] and you have to keep the iron moving, otherwise you end up with steam vent holes. I ironed on a padded surface, with craft paper under the painted paper and fabric, and tracing paper on top of it all to protect the iron. 

So. I think that's enough for today. :) Next week, I'll show you some results with different fabrics, and some layering effects I tried.

Have a great weekend - and if you try this - link up in the comments!



  1. I plan to try 100% POLYESTER. This is a polyester process. I think your results are dependent on the percentage of polyester.Also DMTV has a show about transperse paints and the book by Linda Kemshall "The Painted Quilt" had step by step instructions about transperse paints. I'm off to Joannes next Wednesday for polyester fabric as well as lunch with my, art friend, Rosalita. Maybe I can scan the instructions and post them on this blog!! What an idea!!!

  2. Hey Beth, I actually OWN "The Painted Quilt" but haven't yet read it. lol I've also never heard it called "transperse" paints - the other day I just thought you'd made a typo lol.

    Anyway - I don't think we should scan the instructions without their permission, but I'm certainly willing to find the instructions and see what they have to say. :)


  3. In Holland you can buy something to mix with the transfer paint, and then you can use it on cotton and other natural fabrics.
    I've also done some experiments with transfer paint, but I find it difficult that the color of the paint changes. You never now how it looks on the fabric.
    I'll learn I guess if I do it often enough

  4. OK -- I have placed my order with ProChem -- I'll be up and running as soon as it gets here. This looks like a lot of fun!

  5. I played with disperse dyes when Shelagh Folgate was our guest artist. It's a cool technique but I found it way too much trouble for me!

  6. A great resource is Linda Kemshall's 'Color Moves - Transfer paints on fabric'. she has some great tips and projects in this book. I do like your results!


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