Mastering rubber stamping fabric opens you up to a whole new world of craft! Decorate napkins and dish towels, make your own custom fabrics or use them very practically for adding compliance labeling to your handmade products.
The most important tip I can give you is to practice on scraps! Practice until you have a handle on the perfect amount of ink, practice until you know exactly how much pressure is perfect for your material, and practice steadying your hand so you don't get off and edge prints.
Now that we've got that established, let's take a look at the different ink options available. After extensive testing, the conclusion we've come to is that there is no perfect ink for all fabrics. Some inks perform better on natural fibers and others perform better on synthetic fibers. We'll start off with a flour sack towel stamped with the labeled inks, before any washes.
After one wash, it is already starting to be clear which inks aren't good contenders.
Here's a comparison of the top three contenders with a compliance label stamp.
And again after one time through the washing machine and dryer.
Memento Luxe - Memento Luxe is a thick and juicy pigment ink. Like Versacraft, it's formulated for many surfaces including fabric. It is a great ink for bold imprints, and is somewhat color safe on fabric. Memento Luxe is a newer formulation for Tsukineko, and in our experiments it stood out as more universal than the other inks. It may not be the best ink for any fiber type, but it performs relatively well on all fiber types.
Palette Hybrid Ink - Palette is a hybrid ink meaning that it is meant to have the ability to soak into material like an archival dye but with the opacity of a pigment ink. While that soaking in ability causes it to bleed through lighter materials, it definitely outperformed all other inks on synthetic fibers.
Versacraft - Versacraft Chocolate is all of the same info as Versacraft above, just in Brown. Black is a very dark color that can show through on lightweight fabrics, and a slightly lighter color can sometimes be a better option. The ink pad I used for this test was already a little dry, so it doesn't have the vibrance that a newer ink pad would have.
Stazon - Stazon is a solvent ink formulated for closed pore surfaces like glass, metal, plastic, leather and ceramics. It is not recommended for fabric. But, I'm testing it anyway because this is my experiment. It's actually my ink of choice for stamping muslin bags, but I suspect that as a solvent ink it could break down fabrics over time. So it is likely not a good choice for clothing.
Versafine - Versafine is a quick drying pigment ink that is designed to pick up very fine details. It is excellent for small text and logos that have a lot of fine lines. It is also somewhat color safe on fabric, but fades even faster than Memento Luxe in my experiment.
Delicata - Delicata is a beautifully opaque metallic ink on paper, but somehow becomes matte and translucent on light colored fabric. It has always bummed me out because I think muslin bags stamped with metallic inks would be beautiful!
Fabrico Ink Pens are formulated for fabric, but really designed for crafting. They are unfortunately not fine tipped enough to make writing on clothing tags easy. I haven't tested them on tags myself, but am told that they do well on satin tags and bleed and feather some on twill tags.
While staying power is obviously a primary factor in selecting an ink for stamping on fabric, bleedthrough is also something to consider. Especially if you are stamping very lightweight, light in color fabrics, you may experience some bleedthrough to the other side. One option for compliance labeling is to stamp scrap fabric and then tuck the sides and sew it in like a tag.
This is the backside of the flour sack towel after stamping before washing.
One way to prevent bleedthrough is to offprint your stamp once before printing on fabric. That means inking your stamp, printing once on scrap paper or fabric and then printing on your clothing. As always, practice practice practice first before attempting on finished products!
Another way to prevent bleedthrough is to work with lighter colored inks.
And again after one wash.
Stamping on dark fabrics can be done as well!
You'll see more examples of dark fabrics in the synthetic fibers section below!
So far, all of the examples have been on natural fibers. Can synthetic fibers be stamped? They can indeed! We tested a slew of synthetic fabrics with differing results on different fabrics with different inks.
As I mentioned above, it's really important to nail your technique on scrap fabric before attempting to stamp your finished products. The first thing to practice is inking. Start with a light hand! Especially when stamping fabric, it's very helpful to try to ink just the raised portions of the stamp and not the background. Pushing the stamp into the ink pad with a lot of pressure will get ink everywhere and make it much harder to not put ink everywhere when stamping. Tap lightly on the ink pad until the raised portions of the stamp are evenly covered. With especially juicy inks, it can be helpful to stamp off on scrap paper once lightly before stamping your fabric.
When printing, be sure to evenly distribute pressure so that you don't end up with one portion of the imprint darker than others or double prints. Press straight down on to your fabric, angled pressure or rocking the stamp can cause edge imprints.
Once you've created the perfect imprint, you need to heat set it to protect it when the fabric is washed! Give the ink a few minutes to dry before you apply an iron to it. Once dry, apply the iron and hold it in place for 15-30 seconds. I prefer not to slide the iron around while doing this, because then I am certain each part of the imprint got the same amount of time and heat.
This can be an issue when working with delicate fabrics! There are two techniques you can try. The first is to use a piece of scrap fabric over the delicate fabric. The second is to use a blow dryer for a good 30 seconds.
Some people recommend heat setting in the dryer, but in my experience you can end up with echos of your original imprint on other portions of the fabric if you throw it straight into the dryer.
Remember that nothing lasts forever. Even screenprints and fabric dyes fade and disappear over a long enough time. But, if properly heat set with the right inks, your imprint should last for a long time!