How to Feed Tricky Substrates Through Your Printer

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Please enjoy these handy tips on how to print photos, illustrations, and more on all kinds of substrates, to up your art quilt game! These tips are taken from Wen Redmond's Digital Fiber Art.


You can print one photo on two substrates, such as in this example of handmade paper, top and cloth on bottom.

Thick Substrates

In general, most printers will have little trouble with most of the techniques and substrates covered in this book. But before you print, make sure the thickness of the substrate will pass through your printer; it probably needs to be thinner than a dime. Read the manual to find out what thickness the printer allows, and be sure your substrate is thinner than that. You don’t need very thick layers to achieve textured results. Also, some printers can be adjusted for different heights. If your printer has an envelope setting, try it to see if it helps with thicker substrates.

Height-Check Bars

If you plan to use thicker substrates, make yourself a set of height-check bars. Use two flat bars, metal or wooden slats, or rulers. Place something between the bars that is the maximum thickness the printer accepts. (I use a penny thickness for one printer and a dime thickness for another.) Tape the bars together with a spacer between them at each end. Insert your substrate between the bars for a trial run to see if it will go through the printer without scraping. If the substrate doesn’t fit between the bars, it’s too thick. If the substrate is too high in just a few places, try lightly sanding those areas or pressing them with an iron on low. Use a sheet of parchment paper on both sides of the substrate to protect it, the iron, and the ironing board.

Check substrate thickness with height-check bars

Slippery Substrates 

If the substrate isn’t feeding into your printer evenly, try using a piece of masking tape on the edge of the substrate that goes into the printer first. Place the tape at the edge so that half of the tape is on the front side of the substrate and half is wrapped over the edge to the back side. Remember to plan the placement of the print in order to avoid a portion of your image being printed on the tape. Another option to try is to tape only the back of the leading and top edges.

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