A step-by-step guide to printing a photographic Inkodye print on a 100% cotton t-shirt. Can also be used for prints on pillow cases, upholstery fabric and unprimed art canvas.
1. Choose a photo
Success with this project starts by choosing the right photo. An image with bold shapes and good contrast will create better prints.
These examples illustrate how contrast can help your subject stand out from the background.
2. Invert your image
Visit app.inkodye.com to use the free Inkodye app and create a negative from the image you selected.
A negative is a black and white, inverted version of your image. You will be printing this negative on clear Inkofilm.
Unlike small negative strips you might have used in a 35mm film camera, your printed negative will be the full size of your final t-shirt print.
Pro tip: You can also use image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to create your negative. Simply turn your image to black and white, and invert it. Adjusting shadows and highlights to give the image more contrast may result in a better print.
3. Print your negative
Print your negative on an inkjet printer using the included Inkofilm transparency sheets. You will need to print TWO identical negatives which will be stacked together in the next step.
Inkofilm has a smooth glossy side and a milky slightly tacky side. Print your image on the tacky side, this is the printable side which absorbs black ink.
Print quality: Set your printer to “High quality” or “Photo quality” and maximum ink usage. paper size: Inkofilm is 8.5 inches (216mm) square.
Paper size: Define a custom paper size in the paper settings or use the “Letter paper” size making sure your design is located at the top of the page.
Paper type: Choose “Transparency paper”, if that option is not available use “Photo paper”.
4. Stack your negatives
Line up your two negatives one on top of the other to create a single dense negative. By layering two sheets of Inkofilm the black areas will be darker ensuring the negative blocks sunlight effectively. This will lead to better overall contrast on your final Inkodye print. Use clear tape to keep them from separating.
Other items you’ll need :
- Push pins
- Paper towel or rag
- Painter’s tape (optional)
Find a workspace away from direct sunlight. A dim place inside a garage, a basement, laundry room or even under the shade of a tent in a park.
Inkodye reacts to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. The type of light that will give you a tan is what makes Inkodye develop its color.
Note: Inkodye contains ammonia, apply in a well-ventilated area.
6. Tape off print area
Use masking tape or blue painter’s tape to create a shape on your shirt.
Taping the edges helps you achieve prints with clean edges. It also makes it easy to create shapes such as the triangle print in this guide.
You can also brush, roll or splatter Inkodye for different edge effects.
7. Apply & blot
Place the project board inside your t-shirt. This will insure Inkodye does not bleed through, and will give you a surface to pin the negative to.
Shake your Inkodye packet, then snap it in half and squeeze. Use the folded packet to spread Inkodye evenly on the fabric.
If you have trouble reaching the corners, a foam brush or roller can help spread the dye.
Use paper towel to blot the excess Inkodye off of your fabric. Your print surface should be slightly damp to the touch, not wet. Don’t skip this step! If your fabric is too wet your print may turn out blotchy.
8. Pin your negative
If you used tape to create clean edges, remove that tape now.
Smooth out any wrinkles that may have formed when applying Inkodye.
Place your negative ink-side up on top of the coated fabric. The tacky, printed side of your negative should be facing up and the smooth water- proof side should be placed down.
Pin the negative into place using push pins or straight pins.
Pro tip: If your pins are causing shadows try using straight pins. You can also use a clear sheet of glass or acrylic to hold your prints down.
Hold on to to your socks! Things are about to get magical. Take your project outside and let the sunlight reveal Inkodye’s color. At noon on a sunny day your print should develop in about 12 minutes.
Don’t bring your print in too soon. Even if the color seems fully developed, those last few minutes help fix the color and ensure it won’t fade later on.
Cloudy day? Inkodye may take over 20–30 minutes to fully develop. If it’s windy make sure the fabric doesn’t move during exposure.
Pro tip: You can also use UV to expose Inkodye. Learn more at: inkodye.com/uv
Ready to see what you’ve created? Take your project back inside, away from direct sunlight or UV, and peel off the negative to reveal your print!
Note: Your fabric is still sensitive to sunlight at this stage. If it gets exposed to light the white areas could develop color.
Pro tip: Your Inkofilm negative is reusable. Wipe the waterproof side with a damp paper towel to remove any dye residue and store flat to keep it in good condition.
You’re almost done, but you still need to wash your print to remove the unexposed Inkodye.
Using Inkowash detergent, machine wash your prints on the HOT/COLD setting of your washing machine. For best results, wash your prints TWICE using Inkowash, after that you can wear and wash them as you normally would.
Pro tip: Doing several prints? Fill your washer with water and Inkowash, pause the machine and simply put each print in the water as soon as it’s printed. Start the cycle again when you’re done printing.
13. Bonus tip
Now that you’ve got some printing experience under your belt, there’s a lot more you can do with negatives. One easy technique to give your prints more pop is to cut out the shape of your main subject. This works especially well for images with a white background.