printing on fabric

does anyone know a general drying time for printing on fabric (using rubber based van son ink on linen). Is the absorption rate similar to paper? It seems like since linen isn’t as dense as paper, there aren’t as many fibers to absorb the ink.

I’ve used slip sheets between each print as a precaution…it seems dry to the touch almost immediately after pulling it from the press, but any guesses on how long it could take to dry completely?

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When I had my shop in Framingham MA there was I screen printer above me very knowledgeable in that type of printing. I would suggest you find a local screen printer they would be able to help with putting ink on fabric.

If you intend to wash the fabric, screen print it.

That being said I have seen threads on printing onto fabric, I’d try searching and see if they mention drying times, but my guess would be it is a much trickier thing than paper as the surfaces and blends of fabric are highly varied.

Block printing on textiles goes back at least 2000 years give or take. I suggest that you might want to read these two books:

Textile Printing, Joyce Storey, 1974 Thames and Hudson Ltd. London. Published in the US by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York

Block Printing on Textiles, Janet Erickson, 1961 Watson Guptill Publications, New York

Modern Block Printed Textiles, Alan Powers, 1992 Walker Books, London

I’m sure there are many more books on the subject, but these are the three I have on my shelves. I also recall reading an article on the subject in Matrix, where the woman printer used a machine very similar to a Vandercook (it might have been a wallpaper article, but I think it was textiles).


I’ve printed on tshirts using oil based ink and it holds up great. Printing using an ink brayer > laying the shirt over the block carefully and using a heavy cardboard tube. If you have access to an adjustable bed Vandercook then lower the bed and do the steps listed above.

thanks for your responses so far. I already had a logo/monogram created on photopolymer for some stationery and the client requested printing a few linen cocktail napkins for her event.

I thought I’d give it a try since the clients wanted a subtle ‘vintage’ feel to it where they didn’t want the look of a heavy screen print sitting on top of the fabric. Believe me, I tried very hard to convince them that screen printing was meant for fabrics, and letterpress printing was more suited to paper…anyway, the prints actually look pretty good, and I’m just hoping that the ink dries in time before somebody sets their drink on it. The client has been forewarned regardless, but still would hate for any ink to run…

Oh boy… No, the ink will not run. Ink doesn’t usually do that. At least, mine doesn’t once it’s printed.
It won’t move around if water or condensation get on it, either. Even a little vodka isn’t going to make it move.
So… Don’t worry. Unless they’re serving naptha cocktails, your napkins will be fine.

For future reference, a bit of extra cobalt or 3 way drier in the ink will help it set/dry even faster than it already sounds like it is.

Good luck.

@cmcgarr :
I wanted to try out printing with woodtype on T-Shirts, do you used the paint straight from the can?
How about washing the T-Shirts? Did you fix the ink in any way after printing it on the shirts?

I print on muslin bags regularly, I just give it overnight to dry and it’s good to go! I do put a slip sheet inside the bag when printing or it will sometimes show through on the other side. I’ve also printed on linen napkins before, but they did take longer to dry. As suggested, I would also mix some cobalt dryer in if you are worried about it drying.
Gummistiefel - I usually use ink, not paint!


I once had to print t-shirts for the whole company of a Pantomime with one days notice.
I used hand held wood type and inked with a small hand brayer. The shirts looked fine and the black ink dried virtualy immediately. However I also used red ink which refused to dry until I dusted with talcum powder. All in all the experience was fairly satisfactory.

@paperstoneprinting: yeah, I not a native english speaker so sometimes I mix up some words.
So how about the washability of ink printed on cotton?
Would it help to fix it after the drying with a hot iron?
I also do screenprinting in my studio, but I would also like to print directly with woodtype.

I doubt that an iron would help much, but it’s worth a try as it doesn’t take much effort. What would really help is if you added a drier like 3 way or some cobalt drier.

There are also inks out there designed for printing tags, iirc, but harder to come by. There was a thread on here at one point about tag printing and this discussed printing on fabric on a cylinder press using inks that dried hard.