I finally got my bat blockprint finished, so the next step was to test how it actually printed on fabric. I decided to take this opportunity to also test out a couple types of inks that are commonly used but which both have pro’s and con’s, according to reviews I’ve read online. The two types of ink I used were 1) a water-based textiles ink by Jacquard, and 2) an oil-based blockprinting ink by Speedball.

Water-Based Textile Ink
Below are the prints I made using the water-based textile ink. As with any new ink, it took me a few tries to figure out exactly how much to slather onto the block in order for the print to look right. The two thin strips of cloth on the left are linen, and the prints came out pretty nicely with a lot of color depth, especially after a couple tries. (Disregard the birdcage prints toward the top of the linen strips! hehe)

The wider strip on the right is a piece of muslin with 4 prints. As you can see, I got the print to look great after a few tries as well, but interestingly in some of the lighter prints you could see a directional texture, depending on the direction in which I applied the paint onto the blockprint with the brayer. I suppose this could work as an effect if you like the look of it.

Oil-Based Blockprinting Ink
Next I tried the oil-based blockprinting ink on two other strips of linen (the two center strips below, not the ones to the left). I also added 4 prints using this ink on the bottom half of the same piece of muslin used above. On the linen strips, the prints were extremely deep in color. In general, the oil-based ink tended to feel a little heavier, a little thicker and pastier than the water-based ink. (FYI, the little bone etchings in the bat’s wings show up better here, not necessarily because of the ink, but because I whittled more out of the blockprint between the two ink tests.)

Here is a closer look at the 4 oil-based prints on the muslin cloth.

And now here below, is what I REALLY wanted to find out – how the two types of inks held up in the wash. For both types of ink, I wanted to see how well the ink resisted fading, both with and without being heat set prior to the wash. Interestingly, after undergoing a delicate cold wash, all of these images seemed to resist any fading on the muslin. The 4 prints that were heat-set (using an iron) are designated with little x’s. Of course, it could be that the fade resistance of the heat set vs non-heat set images would become more apparent after multiple washes. (However, that was beyond the scope of this investigation hehe).


By contrast, the water-based prints on the linen showed a marked difference between the heat set and non-heat set. The heat set ones (the two leftmost images) maintained their integrity while the non heat set ones appear to have taken a stroll in the park and never come back! You’ll have to excuse the frayed appearance of the linen strips, I guess they were really thin pieces and without any stay stitching they came apart in the washing machine, even on delicate setting.

Lastly, here are the washed bits of linen using oil-based inks. The heat set images were the ones on the right. They held together more solidly than the non-heat set ones, but on the whole both sets of prints stayed relatively intact.

In conclusion, both water-based and oil-based inks can potentially be used on fabric and still survive the washing machine. That’s a nice thought, isn’t it? It keeps your options open. Sometimes you want to use water-based ink because it’s so much easier to clean up and it prints very nicely. Other times you want to use oil-based ink because it’s less runny and easier to work with, despite having to be more careful with the ink and requiring mineral oil to clean it up.

As you can see above, while the oil-based ink tends to stay put regardless, heat setting any image prior to wash is recommended for both types of inks to minimize fading. The amount of fade also depends on the material – the prints maintained their integrity more consistently on muslin than on linen. The best thing obviously is to test the inks out on the particular fabric you are working with and know how best to achieve the optimal results on it.

Written by devotchkaa

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