This week, I've been experimenting with transparency transfers. It's a technique I've used quite a bit in the past, but it's fun to play around with friends and see what new things can be done. In this method, you print an image from your computer into transparency, with a bubblejet (inkjet) printer. Then you use a polymer (acrylic) medium to transfer the image from the transparency onto fabric, by painting the medium onto the fabric and burnishing the image with the bowl of a spoon. Once dry, you heat-set the image by ironing it thoroughly.
First of all, we tried Golden gel medium, bought especially for this purpose. It's the medium that everyone raves about, in magazines and books, for this technique but it's been hard to buy in Australia until recently. This is what happened to my samples:
As you can see, the logo transferred, but with some blurring. It was unaffected by washing. So far so good.
Then I used a colour image:
This is a bit deceptive because I forgot to take a photo of the transferred image. The middle image here has been covered with a brown paint wash to disguise the many areas of white that showed through. The gel medium really didn't transfer the coloured image at all clearly, and the result was more like a watercolour painting than a photographic image. After all the sources saying this is *The* medium for transfers, I was quite disappointed. Some people had trouble getting any sort of print from the medium, and certainly none of them were clear. Some transparency sheets and some printers simply did not like the Golden medium at all. Mine were probably the best transfers, using Nobo transparencies and an Epson printer.
Here's another reason for my disappointment:
I've done a lot of PVA transfers in the past and, as you can see, you can get really clear images. I deliberately scrunched and roughed up the print when I washed it, because, for this particular project, I didn't want it to be too clear! Usually, there's not much loss of colour or clarity at all. After all, if I want clear photographic images, I'll print directly onto fabric from the printer. But if I'd used the Golden gel medium with this image, the faces wouldn't have been recognisable.
Another reason for my disappointment is that I had previously bought Chromacryl ordinary gel medium to try, and found that it made the ink run. It's a much runnier medium than the Golden gel medium, so I wasn't surprised that the image blurred. I did a print for contrast:
This medium really makes the ink run (there's a wash of ink around the outside of the image which was cropped from the photos), and, when washed, it turns a milky colour. I expected the Golden gel medium to be much better, and while it is better, it wasn't worth the outlay of more than twice the price of the Chromacryl. I'm sure it would be possible to thicken the Chromacryl medium, which might help prevent the ink running.
One of my favourite methods of transfer is metallic paints. I did a couple of samples, so the group could see what it looks like and experiment a bit. My first one was greyscale, transferred with silver paint, which in retrospect was pretty dumb. I'd already had a play with this image in Corel Photopaint, to blur the edges and that encouraged the grey print to fade even more into the silver paint. It looks a bit moody and interesting, just not quite what I wanted for my project! The transfer medium is Setacolor Shimmer Ash. I think the blueness of the middle image is a weird photographic thing - it basically didn't change when washed.
This one was a greyscale image, similarly blurred around the edges in Photopaint, but transferred with Setacolor Shimmer Gold. These paints transfer the image really well and I've used them lots of times before.
Of course you can transfer images with plain acrylic or fabric paints. This series shows the image transferred with red acrylic paints, and then overpainted with green textile paint. It's for one of my secret projects...
The fun part about playing like this is the unexpected. One member of the group had tried at home, with whatever she had on hand. She had found that mat spray, the fixative you spray over drawings in charcoal or other soft media, also gave a transfer. I laughed and said, "Oh I'm a cheapskate, I buy cheap hairspray to do that!" There was a stunned silence and I rushed for the hairspray can. Yes, you can make a very clear transfer with ordinary hairspray. This image was printed from a transparency that had previously been used for a not-very-successful Golden gel medium print, so it was just the remainder of the ink on the transparency. The ink just came straight off onto the fabric, without requiring much burnishing.
Sadly, it's evident that the print is not wash-fast. I plan to do some test samples onto fabric previously prepared with BubbleJet Set for straightforward printer printing, and I'm hopeful that a dyer friend will try using fabric pre-prepared with soda ash. There must be a way to make these very easy and cheap transfers wash-fast! Meanwhile, it seems like a very useful method for paper transfer, or for when you want your image to wash out afterwards, such as a guide for stitching.