Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Creating Doll Fabrics with your Computer

I happen to be up on the NIADA Doll Artists site today and saw an interesting article on making fabric designs with your computer. I was particularly interested in the author's use of freezer paper as the backing material. You can actually purchase fabric already prepared for the printer in packets but it is terribly expensive. I succeeded in mounting fabric to printer paper by using 3M mounting adhesive that is designed to allow multiple use so the fabric can be pulled off. However, the artist quoted in the article simply used the heat of an iron to cause the fabric to stick to the waxed side of freezer paper:

"I like to use unbleached, non permanent press muslin. The inexpensive kind you get at chain fabric stores. I’ve tried nicer muslin purchased at quilting shops but it tended to be a little heavier and so caused more printer problems. You can use bleached muslin if you want white in your finished fabric and light weight smooth silks. Avoid any fabrics with slubs or thick and thin places or very course weave.

Purchase freezer paper designed for craft work in 8.5 x11 or 12x15” sheets from www.darmatrading.com or search C. Jenkins freezer paper sheets from other suppliers. I prefer to use the sheets rather than freezer paper on a roll because once on a roll it never flattens out causing more printer problems.

I stumbled accidentally on the technique of using the fabric on the bias. This turned out to be important because the edges of the fabric do not fray so stray threads are not a problem to the printer. Lay the smoothly ironed fabric on a firm surface like Masonite or plywood, place a piece of freezer paper on top, shiny side down, and iron to the fabric with a hot dry iron. Trim, leaving about 1/2" of fabric all around. Turn over and press again making sure that any air pockets are pressed down and that the edges are firmly stuck in place. Use sharp scissors to cut away the excess fabric right next to the edge of the freezer paper. I prepare both 8.5 x 11 sheets and 8.5 x 14 sheets. If you have a larger format printer you can use the 12x15 sheets full size!" - Kathryn Walmsley, 2006.

She goes on to describe her successful efforts at creating unique fabric design by scanning natural materials like leaves and birch bark. She also emphasizes the importance of using at least 300 dpi images. If you find an image on the web that you would like to use but it is only 72 dpi, you might try resizing it in Photoshop Elements using the "Bicubic Sharpen" function. If you are trying to upsize an image, it is usually better to increase the dpi a little at a time. So try increasing it to 100 dpi then 150 dpi then 200 dpi, etc. The quality of the original image will determine how much resizing you can do before image quality deteriorates significantly.

Photoshop Elements is advertised as a "light weight" version of the professional image editing program Photoshop but I have found Photoshop Elements version 5.0 to include most editing tools I used in Photoshop on a regular basis. I have a copy of the full version of Photoshop but have found the intuitive interface of Photoshop Elements to be so easy to use and efficient that I now do most of my editing with Photoshop Elements. It can be purchased for only $99 or less ($72 new on Amazon ) - a real bargain compared to the full version of Photoshop CS3 that sells for over $600.

Historical figure artist George Stuart once commented to me that one of his biggest challenges is finding fabric with an appropriately scaled print. Printing your own fabric using computer graphics programs lets you scale a print to whatever size is needed.

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