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Sublimation printing with disperse dyes…say that three times fast!

Hi everybody.
I decided to do a little experimenting with art materials right now, and I ordered myself some disperse dyes from a dye expert manufacturer here in the UK.

What these are are coloured powders which mix with water for a watercolour like consistency, or with water and a gum arabic type thickner for acrylic type consistency. Then you can paint a design on to paper and then transfer the design, using heat, onto fabric. The painted powders disperse into gas and resolidify onto the fabric. This is called sublimation.

So here I am all geared up for toxicity (as per leaflet warning).
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this is any more toxic that my oil paints, but it is a complete unknown to me.

And, as usual, I have very little idea of what I’m about to do.
So let’s just get our fingers gloves dirty, shall we?

Here are 5 of the colours mixed with a little water.
The leaflet didn’t say how much water, but this looked pretty ok to me.
The colour mix doesn’t look anything like the colour it represents, so that was fun. I kept mistaking the brown for green and the blue for black. ๐Ÿ˜€

The leaflet also didn’t say what kind of paper, so I started off with a piece of Japanese printing paper and painted this moth on it.
This paper turned out to be really absorbent!

Then I tried with, (clockwise starting with the moth on the Japanese printing paper), regular, cheap sketch paper (grass), Yupo paper (woodpecker), tear-off palette paper (mushroom), and vintage onion skin paper (moth)

Next step was to heat the whole thing up.
Now I don’t happen to have a heat press hanging around, so the trusty old iron will have to do.
I also didn’t have the required polyester fabric, but a piece of some synthetic white pillow case (maybe polyester or rayon or something like that) would have to do for this experiment.
So, the sandwich went like this: cotton sheet on floor (not to make a mess), newsprint, painted paper, fabric, plain paper and iron on top.

So look! Piece by piece I sublimated the paintings on paper onto this fabric!

If you think they look a little fuzzy that’s because they are! I didn’t account for the wiggle caused by the iron and the edges are not sharp. Live and learn…huh? Either way, I’m super thrilled that the whole process worked.
By the way, I managed to fuse several of the palette sheets together with the iron, so I may have to rethink that! LOL.

And then, because there was still some time in my day, I mixed a couple of the watercolour consistency dyes with the thickner into more acrylic type consistency.
Got that a little wrong too because it seems like you cannot stir a little in and try to add more without making lumps.
But I still had plenty of paint to use, so…

I painted a couple simple designs on paper and sublimated those.
Hey, now I’m getting some more and deeper colours.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a useful and fun learning curve. And also that I’m bound to figure it all out.
Right now I have visions of giant, colourful flags and curtain-like wall hangings.
But maybe I’ll start by getting some proper polyester material and figuring out these dyes. ๐Ÿ˜€

Acrylic prints are a rage these days and you could learn more about prints here.

Comments: 6

  • April 20, 2018

    Very cool! Could open up a whole lot of possibilities!

  • April 21, 2018

    Did you test if the images on the fabric will wash away or fade if you get the fabric wet? How did the yupo work? It doesn’t always like to hold the paint or dye. This sounds like fun, I’m always open to trying new art processes.

  • April 21, 2018

    Stunning, absolutely! Thank you as always to opening our eyes to so much more x

  • Daryl

    April 25, 2018

    oh what a fun and fruitful experiment … especially love the goggles!

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