Old Lace Detail
Detail of old lace, and artist book by H. Kurzke, photo: Studio Ernst

Sometime you want to print on paper that is not stiff enough to be fed through your printer: for example on tissue paper. For example when you want to make a large scroll using thin paper. Or to later use the image in a collage. In the photo above you see a detail of my book old lace. The text and the image of the lip stick were both printed onto this paper and then I used white and creme coloured acrylic paints to glue it onto the carrier paper.

There is a rather simple way to do it: choose a piece of paper that does feed through your printer (usual office paper for example). It has to be at least the same width like the paper you want to print onto. Place the tissue paper on top and use masking tape to attach it to the leading front edge only. Then print as usual.

how to print on tissue paper 01
Load the design on to a file on your computer. This is a scan of one of my drypoint etchings. As you can see I am using word. Anything where you can control size and placement on the paper is fine. Try to keep the design away from the edges to leave space for the masking tape.
how to print on tissue paper 02
Then print out the design on office paper. Check that the image has has the right size and is placed such that you can easily put the tissue paper in place. I decided to turn the image by 90° to get a shorter leading edge
how to pritn on tissue paper
then place the tissue paper on top of the design. I was able to easily see where the fish will print as the paper is see-through. Then put masking tape onto the leading edge and feed the paper through the printer (leading edge first, of course, that’s what I mena by leading edge)
how to print on tissue paper
Voilá, the fish printed onto this elefant poo paper. Maybe not the best combination of motif and paper, but, well, I hope it will do as an example. My printer would never have printed properlz on the thin and britte elefant poo paper alone.
nachtmahr box with scroll attached
nightmare box with a parchment scroll on the side

Use the same method to print on pieces of paper or material which would be too small to be fed through your printer: To print on the small pieces of parchment that I used for the nightmare boxes, I first printed the text on usual office paper. Then put a piece of parchment on top. Again attach on the leading front edge only, and print. – Works like a charm!

And if your printer is happy to also take slightly thicker paper (most are) this is also a way to print short grained paper when usually your printer will only take long grained.

die stadt spine detail
The text on this miniature book was printed with an injet printer directly onto the book fabric.

Another thing to try with your digital printer is to print on fabric. It does not seem very well known, but you can print with an injet printer onto book fabric and get quite decent results. You can print photos, sketches – anything. You can print on white fabric, but of course also on coloured. That gives a tremendous amount of design possibilities for book covers!

If you are using paper backed, industrial book fabric, chances are that you can feed it through the printer just like it is. If it is slightly floppy, only starched, or backed with too thin paper, then the carrier sheet method is being called for – just like described above.

how to book fabric
Sample print on white book fabric with a paper back, fed through the printer without a carrier sheet
how to fabric
Sample print on white cotton fabric. This was fed through the printer on a carrier sheet.

For the second example above, I used simple fabric attached to a carrier sheet like described above. The transport didn’t work perfectly, and the colour alignment is slightly out of sync. This gives it a screen printed feel which could be appealing if you are looking for it. I disliked it, and would try to pin down the fabric tentatively with a piece of masking tape on one of the side edges, toward the middle – the carrier sheet went through faster than the floppy fabric.

In any case, I hope I got you interested – happy experimenting! And don’t forget to let me know about any results you get 🙂

3 replies on “Play with your digital printer: How to print on tissue paper and fabric”

  1. Interesting,Hilke.
    I think I would use double-sided tape the side edges;that might hold it better. Something useful to know, so thank you.

    1. Mh, I guess double sided tape would do, too, in many instances. It is more expensive, though, and masking tape seems less harmful to some materials. And covering the leading edge with masking tape can help to avoid a catch when working with thicker materials like parchment.
      Using too much tape (like on the side edges) is a very bad idea, since to top and bottome papers are not always transported completely evenly. If you fix the top layer too much, everything will warp and crinkle and in worst case even ruin your printer (though that would probably not happen when using tissue paper).
      Just the front edge to make the printer take the paper, but leaving it otherwise as free moving as possible.

  2. Thanks for the tips! I actually knew about the tape-to-paper trick for tissue papers, but have not tried book cloth or untreated fabric.

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