Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric

DEC 15, 2017

Calling all photographers! If you’ve been dreaming of a unique and affordable way to print your photos, we’ve got just the thing for you. With the help of Spoonflower team member Todd, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of printing your precious photographs on fabric to showcase your memories, and all for a fraction of the price.

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog

Todd: Printing your photos on fabric is easy as pie! The design is there… your photo… you just need to work out the sizing. With SF tools to center or size, this project is made really easy. I love seeing my photos as large as possible and Spoonflower let’s me do this much more economically. Also, I have never had this tactile experience with my photos before. Holding and viewing your photo on fabric is very different than holding and viewing a print.

Choosing the Right Fabric

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog

I picked fabrics where I could maximize the size of the fabric in relation to my print. Most everything I shoot is a 2:3 aspect ratio because I use an SLR which is native to that aspect ratio. So, when choosing my fabric, anything that had at least a 54” width was what I targeted.

However, I also have a collection of Polaroid photos that are essentially squares, so any fabric used would “maximize” the width for those. Other digital cameras have different aspect ratios, like 3:4, 16:9, among others, particularly if you are grabbing a frame from a video or iphone. This would affect your fabric choice if you plan to have your image fill the entire piece of fabric. 

I’ve tested Lightweight Twill, Eco Canvas, and Satin. Each one has its own characteristics but so far, I love the satin as it makes the photos look like a glossy print. That shiny sheen is just gorgeous! I just need to listen to the photograph and it will tell me what to use.

Picture Perfect

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog

So far I’ve used photos from past photographic shows I have had in the area as well as personal favorites. This includes my series from the NC State Fair (pictured in this post) as well as Polaroids from all over. 

I was very happy with the integrity of the color from what I worked with in Photoshop to the printed fabric. Looking at the finished product, it is extremely close to the original file uploaded. Blacks were black, reds were punchy and whites were pure but keep in mind the colors can vary depending on your fabric base. Of the three fabrics I chose, the satin added to this vibrancy. If you’re not sure how your photo will print on fabric, starting with an 8″x8″ sample swatch of your design is the way to go.  

Getting the Right Size

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog

To get my designs just the right size, I create a file that is exactly the measurements of the intended fabric, play around with the image placement in Photoshop and then upload the file to my Spoonflower account. For example, if I want my photo to be 54″ wide x 36″ tall, the same size as Satin, I create a file in Photoshop that’s 54″ x 36″ at 150 dpi. There’s lots of helpful design resources on the blog if you’re new to working in Photoshop. 

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog
Sizing your Photoshop file to the size of your fabric is key!

Either way you go, make sure you are previewing the image with the fabric type you intend to use selected in the drop down list.

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog
A 54″ x 36″ yard of Satin is the perfect size for printing photos.

The Price is Right

Budget-Friendly Tips for Printing Photos on Fabric | Spoonflower Blog
When it comes to printing your own photos on fabric, think BIG!

I can make my fabric prints BIG at a fraction of what “photographic paper” would cost. Plus I wanted to look cool like everyone else in the office that has fabric hanging on and off their desks. At the sizes I am using at Spoonflower (54″ x 36″) a photographic print would be $200-400. Then I would have to frame them for an additional $300-500. With fabric, I can simply hem the edges or make my own stretcher bars. 

I plan to explore finishing materials like lacquer, or other sealants that could give the fabrics longevity, but also give a glossy appearance to twills and canvas type fabrics. This process would be perfect with “mounted” photos, like on a wooden frame

I am looking forward to working with my photos on Spoonflower’s wallpaper next. That is chapter 2 of this blog. When I learn how to sew, the possibilities will really open up! That is chapter 3 or 4.

But my number one tip? Use your own photos! This is much more satisfying.

Ready for more? See what else you can do with your photos printed on fabric here!

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  • It appeared that your file size was greater than the 40 MB maximum. How did you get around this limit?

    • Great question, Patti! The size of the file is over 40 mb when in Photoshop (what is shown in the photo above) but when you save the file to a JPG it is less than 10 mb.