Monday, December 13, 2010

Easy Peasy Holiday Gifts

A couple of months ago I discovered a technique for transferring black and white images onto fabric.  My mind boggles with the possibilities.  Just think: customize plain fabric totes, clothing and pillows with whatever images you can find...for next to nothing!  So far I have only used this technique to make quick and easy kitchen towels to use as Christmas gifts for a few of the people on my list.

This is what the final product looks like.
This set was for my English Mother-in-law.

The star player in the play is a product called CitraSolv.  It's a concentrated cleaning product, that when used at full strength, will transfer black and white images onto fabric.  Your best shot of finding this stuff is at a health food store or on the web.  I found mine at a local health food store for $12.00 but it will last you forever.  I also figured if I didn't end up using it to transfer with I could always actually clean with it!

Supply List:

Fabric of choice
Painters tape
Cotton balls
protective gloves

So here is the super easy tutorial:

1.  Start with a close knit fabric { i.e. no burlap  :(  }
      I started with a pack of white flour sack towel from good ol' Target.

2.  Print out a black and white image of your choice.  The The Graphics Fairy has a great variety and they are all free!

3.  This is the only tricky part...get the image copied using a laser printer.  The process will not work unless you use a laser image.

4.  Place the fabric on top of a few sheets of scrap paper or newspaper to protect your work surface.  Then place the image (image side down) onto the towel then secure the image in place using the painter's tape. 

5.  Make sure you wear plastic gloves to avoid skin contact with the CitraSolv and lightly dip a Q-tip or cotton ball into the solution and LIGHTLY rub over the image.  If you use too much the image will bleed.

6.  Burnish the image.  Basically this mean rub the image until it transfers.  The best thing to use is the back and side of a metal spoon.  Rub all over for 2-3 minutes.

7.  Place an old towel over the new one and iron the towels to allow the leftover CirtaSolv trapped in the fabric to evaporate.

Ta-Da!  There you are...easy, inexpensive gifts for all the people on your list.  They would make a great gift for teachers, hairdressers, hostess gifts, holiday exchange gifts, etc.


  1. How cool!!! I would have never thought of something like that to transfer images!! Amazing!

  2. Aaron, Love the decorations! Love the idea for the black transfer!!!

  3. Thanks so much for linking. I've seen other bloggers do this, but your explanation is really great, especially on where to get the cleaner...

  4. Oh I love this idea! And thank you for all of your awesome tips! I didn't know that Target had the flour sack towels! I am so excited to try this!!! Merry Christmas to you!
    by the way...your mother in law is going to think you rock when she sees those towels! Not that she doesn't already think you rock ;)

  5. Great tutorial! The images are wonderful. I've been wanting to try this for awhile. thanks so much for the great instructions, and for linking up with VIF!

  6. Great idea and beautiful tea towels!

  7. Now that does sound Easy & the Results are Beautiful.... May have to go buy some Citrasolv
    Thanks for sharing

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic tutorial! I am bookmarking this to visit later. Wonderful idea! Have a Merry Christmas!

  9. Hi there, you are many wonderful uses for this technique. Thanks for sharing...can't wait to give it a try! Visiting from VIF :)
    Merry Christmas, Laurel@chippingwithcharm

  10. Thanks for the step by step. I will add this to my ever growing list of projects to try :o)

  11. I have a question.
    Can you wash it after? does it look ok? I was thinking about using the same technique to make an "elmo" t-shirt for my son.But I would have to wash that one quite often.

  12. Anonymous,

    I have made several tea towel for myself and haven't had a problem. My towels faded slightly the first time I washed them but only slightly and I've washed them a dozen times. Just remember you can only use black and white RED elmos. Also make sure you use a very dark, saturated image. If the image starts off light black or dark grey then you might have a problem

    Hope this helps.


  13. Wow, I gotta' get some of that Citra-Solv. That is sooo cool!! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Oh that's neat! I can't wait to try it...I know Mod Podge will also work to transfer an image...but this looks easier:-)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Very, very cool new technique! I can't wait to try it!

  16. I need to do this! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I hope they sell this Citrosolv in Australia! Fingers crossed :)

  17. In the 1990s my graphic design buddies and I used to do this with the "Design Art Marker" brand of markers - in particular, one called the "colorless blender." Then the company discontinued that line (probably because they were quite noxious) and it didn't work with the other brands on the market. I haven't found a marker since then that does the trick.

    It was pretty easy, but not foolproof - all you had to do was print the reverse of the image you wanted via a laser printer, put the printout face down onto the paper/cardboard/whatever you wanted the image on, saturate the printout with the marker, and burnish the image. There was always a bit of lip-biting anticipation when you removed the paper. It seemed magical at the time! I remember many wonderful and unique birthday cards that incorporated this technique.

    I look forward to trying out this version - thanks for publishing it!

  18. I was taught this technique in a college art course using lacquer thinner. With lacquer thinner it was supposed to work for colour images too.

  19. I've done this with nail polish remover as well. Not sure if this stuff is more or less toxic, but definitely good to know!

  20. do you leave the paper on THEN place the old towel over it to iron or remove the paper after the image has been transferred then place the old towel on to be followed with the ironing?

  21. Citrasolve sounds like a solvent. Is it toxic? Esp. the fumes when ironing.

  22. This is the best stuff to clean with ever!!!

  23. It is Organic and not toxic

  24. Thank you for the photo. Now I know why mine failed:) I used the spray cleaner. I am going to try it again with the concentrate. Thanks again.

  25. I'm going to try this.
    I found the CitraSolve at Vitacost for around $6

  26. what about if you need to wash it if it gets dirty? what would happen?

  27. Before washing.....dip in white vinegar to set the ink. Less ink will wash away if you do this and then HEAT set with the iron.

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  41. Can't get this to work at all! Used Citrasol and backside of a spoon for a long time. Plus the newspaper bled onto the back side of the fabric. I had a very dark transfer, a laser printer and got nearly nothing on the canvas drop cloth fabric. Suggestions?

  42. This is the easiest method I have ever tried, and I have tried many! Awesome!!! Thank you!