How to Transfer a Photo to Fabric


Did you know you can transfer photos to fabric without using iron-on sheets? I love this technique. It’s simple to execute and the end results are really pretty.

It’s another method for hand printing! I made some fabrics the other day and used them to add pockets to one of my wool skirts. Do you want to learn to transfer photos to fabric? I thought so… Enjoy!


-fabric (I used white quilting cotton)
gel medium
-paint brush
-a spray bottle filled with water
-the image you want to transfer

You can use *any* laser copied image or an image from a vintage magazine (that’s what I used) or newspaper. Remember that if your image has words on it, you will need to reverse it before copying as the words will print backwards.

How to transfer a photo to fabric:

1. Completely cover your image with gel medium. Use a heavy coat.

2. Press it onto a piece of fabric and let it dry for several hours or overnight.

3-4. After your image is completely dry, use a spray bottle to wet the top of the paper.

5. Rub the surface with your fingers until pieces of the paper start coming off. When pieces start coming up, your image will be revealed. Some pieces come up easily in clean strips and some are more time consuming to remove.

Be careful not to rub too hard as this can remove your transfer as well. Continue until all the paper is removed and the image is completely visible!

6. You’re done. If you want to display your fabric (for example if you are transferring to a canvas for your wall) you might want to add one more coat of gel medium to protect and seal your image.

Note: Don’t be alarmed if your transfer isn’t completely perfect. Some work better than others and you’ll learn a lot from experimenting on different surfaces! The final image is meant to be imperfect. Hand transferred fabric pieces should be considered “hand wash only.”

I would not put it into a washing machine. That’s one reason why I chose a wool skirt to add the pockets to, I would already hand wash this skirt.


Well, there you go! This method is so easy! I can’t wait to use it to make pillows, bows and canvas prints of our wedding photos!

Oh, and you can use this exact same method to transfer photos onto wood and many other surfaces. The possibilities are endless! Have fun creating…. xo. elsie

  • Thank-you, Elsie!
    I’ve been working on a little linen pillow for my grandsons 1st birthday and I think a little bitty image of momma and sibs might distract the eye from my lousy sewing skills…
    I love your choice of images and your darling little pockets.


    Can I do with image printed on inkjet printer?

  • Can you tell me if the fabric becomes stiff and thicker then when you first started. I did a transfer sheet on blue jean material and it was too thick to hand embroider. Thanks, Laura

  • Thank you for a great explanation. I was looking online for a similar idea and really appreciate it the way you transfer the photo on fabric was an amazing thing and i learn alot .
    I have one suggestion for you if you try DIGITIZING SERVICE
    You will find amazing designs which really help you.

  • I was super excited to see the pic transferred to cotton fabric.thanx so much for the tutorial.

  • Dear Elsie , this technique is wonderful. I will be creating two different transfers that will go on separate quilts one is a ” Donor Quilt” and the other is a “Recipient Quilt” This is to show appreciation to donors and their families for Organ Donations that save lives. Through the Grace of God I have received a Liver
    and a Kidney transplant in the past two years, Creating these transfers is my way to give thanks. Thank you so much for sharing this easy method for transferring. I am so anxious to try it out.
    God Bless
    Jim Harrington

  • Will this work for pillows too? I’m making a pillow for my best friend and i want to put a picture of when we were kids on it.

  • I tried this with wood as my material and it worked great! Thank you for posting this it was a great DIY project.

  • I have been wanting to do this on a scarf with the love letters my boyfriend sent me. But how would I do that with the words??

  • I just love this idea, I was wondering though do you put the picture facing the one you want to copy? The pictures you are showing are two different ones. Thanks for the idea and i will wait for answer.

  • is there a cheaper equivalent to the liquitex? I really want to do this, but don’t have tons of money to get liquitex haha

  • Your post really helped me creating something beautiful,you can look at it in my blog, before I didn’t know about this technique. Thank you

  • This is great! I wondered if you’ve tried it on different color fabic/medium? I found it here done on wood (super cute!):
    But would white transfer onto black fabric? (I imagine you have to print it a certain way)

  • Do you press the photo on the fabric while the gel medium is still wet?
    How does the image adhere to the fabric?
    Can’t wait to try this with heirloom pictures on pillows, etc.

  • Will this work with images printed via inkjet or just color xerox prints?

  • Can I do it with photo paper as well? I want to use my own images to print onto things, make some pillows or something. (: Thank you!

  • I am going to try this method to make my daughters a “deployment doll” I didn’t want to use the iron on transfers because the always crack and peel but this would be perfect! Thank you so much

  • Hi! I’m from Mexico, and sometimes I don’t get the supplies =( … for what you use the gel normally? maybe that way I can understand how is known over here.. thnx!

  • Hey I was just wondering what the finished result of the fabric is like? I’m looking at using a technique like this for a design project but I don’t want the fabric to become too stiff, does this happen? Thanks 🙂

  • Maybe a silly question: you say “laser copied” but will it work if I print the photo with a laser printer?

  • The photo/pic you want to TRX – do you put the image side down on the fabric and then spread the gel over it? Or do you put it image side up on the fabric and spread the gel over it? Not “mechanically inclined” here.

  • Hi, this looks amazing!
    I was just trying to understand the directions and wondering when/how to put the additional paper (or in your example the photo which you then tear off) on top of the desired image.

    Thanks so much!

  • Did you make your wool skirt? If so, could you post a tutorial? I love it!!

  • Awesome, in a surface design class perfect directions for an assignment I’m working on

  • Does the image have to be printed on laser paper with laser printer?

  • 札幌管区気象台によると、当時、現場付近は雪で、陸上でも風速7.6メートルの強風だった。沢田さんらを救助した登別市の「いぶり中央漁協」所属の漁船「第18幸峰丸」(4.9トン)の飯島弘孝船長は「海が急に荒れ、当時約4メートルの波が立っていた。5人の姿を確認したが、4人を引き上げるのが精いっぱいだった」と話している。

  • This looks like a lot of fun. Can you use inkjet prints or does it have to be laser?

  • ive had this in my favs forever and finally got around to making something. i decided on 3/4 wide leg pants in brown plaid with red ribbing for waistband and red bias binding on top of the 2 pockets. with 2 patch pockets. the pockets are illustrations from my “wizard of oz”diary.. so cute!! thanks for the idea!! i also made a cute matching skirt for my 8 year old daughter xx

  • does it matter if its gloss or matte? and does it matter if its heavy gel or super heavy gel?

  • It looks perfect! 😀 but, what kind of gel is this…I’m not sure where and under which name I can find this in my country :/

  • I want to try this, but I have some questions. Should I print my photo on photo paper or on regular paper? Do I have to transfer it onto fabric first or can I transfer it onto canvas and skip the fabric part? Thanks for your help. Janet

  • Is there a type of mod podge that will work? This is so great. Everyone is goona get a gift like this from me! Thank you!

  • Can I do this with regular picture photos? and do i place another sheet of paper ontop of the photo to rub off….Great idea your awesome

  • i just wanted to ask if i could use that gel on a different type photo fabric . i made a baby quilt with pictures but used the ink printing fabric instead . would the gel help seal it

  • not sure if my post took so here is my question again. I want to take real photos and use them to make a photo quilt for my daughters college graduation. Can I use your method above on real photos or is it best to use a copy of the photo which is copied on copy machine paper? I understand I will lose the photo itself as I’ve described using.

  • I want to make a memory quilt for my daughters college graduation but I only have the real photos. Can I use those as is or do I have to make copies of them on to copy paper?

  • I just transferred my first image from a magazine – it is indeed amazing!

    This technique is now going to spread all over Germany 🙂

  • Several years ago a friend used this method to turn a photo into a fabric Christmas ornament. I loved it!

  • This is amazing, and so easy!
    Just wondering though, when I tried it my transfers were left with a hazy white film over them, so the picture is really dull, and some you can’t really see. I thought it was reminant paper over the top, but it wasn’t, is it from the gel medium? Any other solutions? Do I need a gel medium with gloss?
    I put a layer of gel medium over the top when finished to try and enhance the pic, but that didn’t really work either…

    Thanks, beautiful website as well, very inspiring.

  • Can’t wait to try! I’m an artist that does big oil paintings on canvas. Do you think this technique would work over a canvas primed with flat house latex paint? Or even over oil paint? Thanks for sharing!!

  • would like to try this. but cant find the gel medium anywhere. is there something else that can replace the gel medium? 🙂

  • ahh! i love your blog. it’s full of awesome crafts, tips, fashion etc.
    i can’t wait to try this out, it’s super amazing.
    ps your vintage boutique is such an inspiration, i hope to visit one day.

  • Hi i’m sorry for digging up the old post! I’m really excited to make my own shirt using this method but is there anyway to protect the colours?

  • Just discovered this on Pinterest, & love the whole concept. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I love this so much! Cannot find a UK stockist of Liquitex anywhere though, quite heart broken. It means saving ’til I can bear to pay the shipping!

  • you mean glue .- L live in costa rica I down now what gel.- I am art professor. sent me the resolt to my email address pleace

  • My friend told me about this! It’s wonderful! I have a question though; I want to transfer the image of a large road map onto a t-shirt, do you think that will work with this process?

    Thank you! =)

  • What a cool idea!
    I have some cool pictures I wanted to print on canvas, but I will try this instead.
    I’m glad I found your blog.
    Elsie, you are a genius!

    Count me as a fan

  • This is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing this, but I have a question, does it last washing it?

  • I can’t tell you how excited I am to find this method! So many require an ink jet printer and I have a laser… Thank you for sharing this, you made my Christmas complete. I need to make a pillow for a DIL with an image of a photo she took of the Eiffel Tower and she will be so happy with this surprise gift!

    Blessings, Sherry

  • hi there,
    this is fantastic! can you tell me if this medium is the same as screenprinting paste?

    with love,

  • My photo was a laser print. I transferred it to a canvas. What did I do wrong if my photo came out really light. How can I fix this for next time? Was it that my photo wasn’t printed dark enough? Of course, I don’t know how to make it print darker unless I tried a brand new ink cartridge. Please help!

  • I really love your tutorial. I’ve been trying it now a couple of times and the other day I turned one of the transfers into a tote bag. Please have a look at it, I’m really happy with it! Thanks a lot for letting us know about this technique. 🙂

  • Hi, I love this, can you tell me if it ends up being washable at all and how long its likely to stay in tact on the garment. I would like to do it on clothing for my son and its going to need washing eventually…

  • Hi! Can you please explain what “Gel medium” is? We don’t have Liquidex here, so I want to try and find something similar. Thanks for all your wonderful tips and pics and tuts… 🙂

  • Nice idea!

    I’d love to try it, but I’m from Spain and I don’t know exactly what “gel medium” is… Can I use “Mod Podge Gloss”? I can get it over here…

    Thanks in advance!

  • This is so wonderful! I can’t wait to do a ton of gifts with this. So you don’t need the photo to be on transfer paper? Just normal paper is fine?

  • Really loved the idea…thanks for sharing!!

  • This is on my to do list since the day i saw it here! Reblogged and linked back here:

  • This is so awesome! but does that mean you can’t print out a picture and use that? like standard printing paper? and how does it hold up in the wash?

  • I’ve always wondered if this would work with images from an inkjet printer. The main advantage for iron-ons for me is that I can just print them out at home. Any thoughts?

  • Inkjet prints? Have you tried this? I have an inkjet printer. Seems like a very cool project.

  • where did you get these photos?so nice!i want the exact photo on the left for a school project

  • This is such a great how to ~ i can’t wait to try this to give some of my old tired clothes new life :3

  • This is truly amazing 😀 I’m playing recently with various printing techniques and can’t wait to add this to my list. Thank you for the tutorial!

  • I don´t understand what a “gel medium” is? Can you please explain? Thanks!

    • Gel medium is an acrylic medium used to thicken up acrylic paints for a more sculptural look. It is the same as gloss medium, only thicker, pastier. It is water bourn and easy to clean up.

  • This just makes my day. You know how long I have been looking for this? So excited. THANK YOU for sharing.

  • Can you use something other than Gel Medium to do this? I’ve actually never used that before. I’ll have to try it! Thanks for this post.

  • Love this! I used to do gel medium transfers to all sorts of things in art class, never thought of doing it to fabric! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  • When you say laser printed image do you mean an image printed off a laser jet printer?

  • This is one of my favourite DIYs you have done, I love the idea of making them into little pockets. I wonder if this technique would work on other surfaces. I’m thinking furniture, photo frames…? Worth a try 🙂 Thanks for the constant inspiration.

    x Rachel

  • i love the idea of photos on fabric. it opens up so many new doors to be creative. <3 thank you!

  • Very cool! I’m going to have to give that a try! =)

  • We use a laser transfer material and a heat press at work, but this looks like more fun!
    I especially like the idea of transferring to wood.

    Comedy T Shirts

  • Very clever, I’m in the print trade and we just use transfer paper, a laser printer and a heat press. But I can see the advantages of this method, for one you’ll not have the slight showing of adhesive where there is no print!
    I know in our trade we could not spend that much time on doing them, the labour time would be too high and we all know that price is king!

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  • I’ve seen this done with polymer clay, but didn’t realize it would work on other surfaces. Thank you for the tutorial!

  • I had NO IDEA! I have some project ideas I’ve put on the back burner, but now I can bring them to life! Thank you!

  • SO cute! Love this Idea, I have so many old photos I can do this with! Thanks!

  • Love this!!! …and especially love the design choices you made with the wool circle skirt update!

  • From the streets of Manhattan to Barney’s and Bergdorf, renowned style expert, Robert Verdi, always had a knack for design. Check out his journey to a fashion icon in Theodora & Callum’s Creative Factory.

  • Great idea!!! Going to try but can’t wrap my head around how to transfer to wood??? Going to keep thinking about that one!!

    • Using exactly the same technique. You can go to a wall, wood, fabric….just follow her instructions.

  • MAAAAAAANNN, that’s amazing. You’re like the Martha Steward of our generation.

  • Hi Elsie
    I just wanted to say that this is my favorite blog and I try to check it every day.
    This particular post is very cool too.
    Thanks for brightening up my days 🙂

  • My goosenest what a wonderful idea. I knew this worked on canvas but I didn’t know it worked on fabric!


  • Wow!! I had no idea that this was even possible!! Please never stop posting your brilliant DIY… they are amazing!!

    Much Love


  • I’ve wanted to try this for a while!! Just need to get access to a laser printer! 😀 Thanks for sharing Elsie!

  • this is definately something I would like to try! very cool 🙂

  • For UK information! Not sure if you can get that stuff here (have never seen it) but Dylon do a tube of similar stuff called Image Maker which works the same way from the looks of it – it comes in a tube.

    I love this technique! One of my faves. Sometimes if I want to give it a little something extra, I either hand stitch or free motion some embroidery onto it. Just outlines or if using a floral image, nice to highlight leaves etc. So much fun!!

  • I love this!! It reminds me a little of when I played with cyanotypes on fabric, only because it’s so different.


  • I haven’t done this in a while. Thanks for reminding me 🙂 There are so many fun ways to do transfers. I’m a big fan of photocopy transfers using acetone or a colorless blender like this one & rubbing the image til it transfers… you can even use a little heat from a craft iron to help it out. So fun! 🙂

  • Great idea! I can’t wait to try this! I’ve done something similar with acetone, but this may be a better option.

  • I really love this idea, and the photos that you picked are perfect! Do you know if there is anything special about vintage magazines, or would vintage books work, too?

  • GENIUS! Time to pin this! Thank you for sharing, Ms. Elsie!

    –Jaclyn T
    Nature Inspired Jewellery

  • Thank you so much!! I have wanted to do this for so long, but have’nt figured it out. Can I ask you where you found the vintage magazines?

  • How fantastic. I always wanted to do something like this, but i thought it impossible.Now, here you are making my dream come true, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. i shall try, and thank you so very much.

  • This may be the coolest thing ever. I may over-kill transfer onto everything. tfs 🙂

  • I do miss some of your blog’s old features, but all the DIY’s are great! So much creativity in one space. Do I see a DIY book on the horizon?

  • I’ve seen this method used for art journals. Thanks for sharing the technique.

  • Such a good idea! I’ve only just discovered your blog but I’m so glad I have, love it 🙂
    L x

  • Hi Elsie – looks fantastic – I’m having a go and am adding it to a little project of my own which will form a review of great ideas/techniques on my blog – only just started so you are my first project – will follow up when I’ve done it to share. Thanks for the idea.

  • Great DIY i did print and textiles design at Uni and used this tecnique on some of my work. Thanks for sharing it, love the ides of using it on pockets, so cute!

    Zoe x

  • YEY! This looks like so much fun. I see a whole world of creativity opening up before me.

    Thank you Elsie

  • oh my gosh ive always wanted to learn how to do this! Thanks so much! 😀

  • this is amazing and such perfect timing, I was just starting to plan my christmas presents to make and I think this could make for some amazing gifts 🙂

  • OMG, Elsie, this is a fantastic DIY!!! Thanks so much, I didn’t know that. I hope I can find a Liquitex gel where I live (I guess there’ll be an equivalent). Cheers!!!

  • This is so badass. How long will it last on fabric, and are there any special washing instructions? Are the instructions simply, ‘DO NOT WASH THIS’? I really dig it.

  • Wow. I’m so amazed with this DIY. I never knew we could do this!

    Fang Ting

  • This is really cool! Totally didn’t know about this.

    Has given me great ideas for Christmas presents for my family- old photos reused! Love it.


    For a display piece (i.e. pillow, etc) When you said to add another layer of the gel, do you mean on top of the already transferred photo (the final product)?

    • Yes, that’s what she means. But be careful, don’t goop it on too thickly. It’s meant to just be a skim coat for protection.

  • I love your DIY’s. Thank you! (that goes for rachel and kinsey too:)

  • I was just thinking about how I could do this!!! It was kismet that this is the recent DIY you posted. Thank you! Can’t wait to try it out!

  • I LOVE this diy. It is probably one of my favorites you have ever posted…and it seems so easy 🙂

  • I only started reading this blog 3 weeks ago and it’s quickly becoming my favorite! Thanks for so much constant inspiration. You are hard-working ladies!

  • This is such a great tutorial! Thank you for posting it. I would have never known you could do this! I must try it.

  • This is SO neat! I’ve always wanted to do this, but thought it took a bunch of steps! I can’t wait to try! <3

  • this is sooooo coooll!!! awesome idea – just when i thought i needed an inspirational technique! thank you sooo much elsie!

  • This is way adorable! I’ve been wanting to know how this is done for a while now, thanks!

  • what a neat diy! really cool and creative. 🙂


  • wow, SO cool! i have been dying to find a good way to put images on t-shirts! can’t wait to try it!

  • I am thrilled! Thank you for sharing this! I love reading all your DIY projects and this is one I know I’ll make!

  • Wow! This is amazing, I would have never thought to do something like this myself.

  • You seriously read my mind. I’ve been wondering how to accomplish this for a while. Thanks!

  • VERY coooool! thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • What a wonderful tutorial! <3 I love the idea of doing it onto pockets too! It looks so super cute! x

    • I guess I’.,m fudging by asking a question vs.making a comment, but this project means a great deal to us. We have a mural on a sheetrock wall. Since we cannot cannot take the wall this time, I want to photograph the mural then transfer its image onto fabric. If not in its entirety, then in parts, apply it to its new home.

      Please offer any suggested resources you think could be of use.

      thank you

  • i love it! This is amazing, i can’t wait to try it… 🙂

  • Wow!!! So totally didn’t know that you could do this!! Thanks so much – can’t wait to try it!

    Stephanie May*

  • Never thought that was possible. Absolutely loving it!! All your clever DIY tutorials are being added on to my to-do list. 🙂

  • WOW, I didn’t even know you could do this! I love it 🙂

  • Oh my gosh! I soooo didn’t know about this! I loooooove it! Lurrrrve it! I see pics of my doggies going everywhere! Hearts, Janna Lynn P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you for such amazing DIY’s!

  • Such a fun idea! It would be a great way to make someone a special keepsake gift for a wedding or anniversary, don’t you think? The pockets look great on your skirt too, I love the flower one!

  • very very cool thank you for the tutorial! super unique

  • That is amazing! I made a quilt with photos when I was in highschool using photo transfer paper (iron on) but it’s been ages since I’ve done it! Love that you can do it so accessibly! Thanks for the inspiration!

    A Collection of Passions

    • How exciting to hear of you doing this..I want to transfer regular photos 4×6 onto a blanket for my daughter for Christmas..what is the best material ??? I’m excited to do this…

  • Awe, this is so cool! 😀 I wonder what kind of fabrics are better to transfer pictures.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • I have used gel medium to make prints on canvas, but adding it to the wool skirt is a nice touch.
    Thanks for the tip!

  • That is so cool! I really like how you used yours on the skirt pockets!

  • Yes you are right..such a great idea to do with wedding photos!! Girl you just keep coming up with awesome little ideas.

  • so cool! i’ve been wanted to do this for a while but never knew how to! woo hoo!

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