Jessica Jones is a graphic designer in Chicago, Illinois. Jessica also writes How About Orange, a craft and design blog. Check it out to find DIY tutorials, free printables, fonts and wallpapers, quizzes, decorating ideas, and more.
I love the idea of screen-printing my own textiles and t-shirts, but I’m not excited about buying special equipment. Splattering my tiny kitchen with ink while cleaning up screens doesn’t sound ideal, either. So I became curious about Inkodye, a product that creates permanent designs on natural materials like cotton, wool, raw leather, and unfinished wood.
Inkodye is permanent, water-based, and activated by the sun. Dyed areas exposed to sunlight turn bright colors, while unexposed areas remain unchanged. It’s easy to make shadow prints on dyed surfaces by blocking light with placed objects — leaves, doilies, and safety pins work well. You can also use photo negatives to create photographic prints, and that’s the project we’ll do today.
You will need:
Digital photo (bold, high-contrast images work best)
Printable inkjet transparency film
Foam brush (any brush or roller will work)
Portable waterproof work surface (cardboard wrapped with a plastic trash bag works well)
Prepare a photo negative from your favorite image. There are a couple ways to do this. Download the Lumi iPhone app to order custom negatives delivered to your home, or print your own transparencies with an inkjet printer.
If you are printing the image yourself, doctor your photo using an online image editor like Pixlr. Choose “Open image from computer” to upload your photo. From the top menu, choose “Adjustment”>”Desaturate” to make the image black and white. Then choose “Adjustment”>”Invert” to create a negative image. You can also play with brightness, contrast, or levels to get dark blacks and bright whites for good printing. Finally, choose “File”>”Save.”
Print the image onto transparency film, following the directions on the package for feeding the sheet through your printer. I used an old box of 3M CG3460 inkjet sheets I found in my closet, but there are other brands to choose from, and Lumi makes their own transparency sheets you can purchase, too.
Smooth out your fabric and tape the edges to your work surface. This holds it in place while you brush on the dye.
In a dim room away from direct sunlight, shake the Inkodye well and pour a little into a cup. You can dilute it with water to get lighter tints, or mix colors if you like. Then begin brushing it onto the fabric. The goal is an even surface coat; it’s not necessary to soak the fabric.
Blot the fabric with a paper towel very thoroughly to soak up excess dye. Too much moisture can cause condensation on your negative, which could result in imperfections in the print.
Lay the negative on the fabric, waterproof side down, printed side up. Use one or more thumbtacks to hold the print in place, depending on how windy it is outside.
Place the print in the sun. You’ll see the dye immediately begin to change color.
Expose the print for about 10 minutes (much longer if it’s a cloudy day.) Inkodye works best when the sun is strongest and directly overhead, around noon or early afternoon. When the print is fully exposed, bring it back indoors to a dim room and remove the negative.
Wash the fabric with hot water and fabric detergent, either very thoroughly by hand or in the washing machine. All the unexposed dye needs to be removed or the light areas of your print will continue to develop.
Rinse and dry the fabric. The dye is permanent, so the print can be washed regularly from now on.
I turned this fancy lady into a zippered pouch. Finished prints can be sewn into pillows or bags, used for upholstery, or framed in embroidery hoops. You can also print directly on clothing or totes.
If you’re in the Chicago area June 22, visit the Etsy pop up at West Elm in Lincoln Park — curated by Jessica of How About Orange! See which Etsy sellers will be there with their wares, get all the details and RSVP here.
All photographs by How About Orange.