Thursday, March 10, 2011

Citra-Solv Photo Transfer Tutorial

Lyric here. The work I do as a mother involves a lot of delayed gratification. When I escape to the studio and put on my artist's hat it can be nice to see some instant results. Solvent photocopy transfer is one of my favorites. You need only a photocopy, fabric or paper,  Citra-Solve®, and a few seconds of elbow grease and viola!

The good people who produce this environmentally friendly cleaning product have included an ARTISTS' PAGE on their website. I'm honored to have been included among other textile artists I admire such as Jane Davila and Jane Dunnewold.

I encourage you to take a peek over there - lots of interesting things being done. It makes me think that I have some experimenting to do. Dissolving pages from National Geographic magazine? Hmmm. Wonder how I can do that on fabric.

Want to join me in a little playtime? Here are the instructions for moving the ink from a photocopy onto paper or fabric. Wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area. The stuff is much more pleasant than the paint stripper I used to use but it IS still a solvent.


  • Citra-Solve®  (find where to buy it here)
  • Cotton ball
  • Metal spoon
  • Non-porous smooth surface
  • Masking tape
  • Fabric or paper of your choice
  • Photocopy

1. Find a copyright free black and white image. I love to use vintage family photos.
2. Make a photocopy of the photo, sizing it no larger than 5" x 7".
3. Cut away the background if it detracts from or competes with your image.
4. Draw in any lines that need emphasis or add in some fun scribbles. Maybe Grandma always wanted a tiara or your puppy looks great in polka dots! You can digitally manipulate the photo as well.
5. Make a final photocopy. (Note: inkjet prints DO NOT work with this method - you need a machine with toner.)
6. Tightly tape a piece of fabric or paper to your glass or non-porous surface.
7. Tape the photocopy face-down on your paper or fabric. Don't let the tape cover the image.
8. Dampen the cotton with Citra-Solve® and squeeze it out. Rub it on the paper until you see the ink show through. It should be barely damp - too juicy and your image will bleed and blur.
9. With the back of the metal spoon, rub, rub, rub hard and like crazy in all directions. You are moving the ink from the paper to the fabric.
10. Pick up one corner of the paper and peek. Look for spots that haven't transferred yet then put the paper back down and rub some more in that spot.
11. Toss the paper in the trash and let the solvent evaporate.
12. Feel free to play around with the image. Color it in with colored pencils, ink, paint or whatever you have on hand. Be creative! Have fun!

The only tricky part is finding a photocopier that works. If you are using Citra-Solve® (the other orange solvents I've tried have not worked) and you are rubbing and nothing is happening it is most likely the copy that is at fault. I test any copy I make right at the copy center. Dampen a cotton ball with the Citra-Solve® and stick it in a little zip-loc bag in your pocket. Make one photocopy then place it face down on another piece of paper on the counter, dampen with the Citra-Solve® then rub it a bit with the scissor handles on the counter, the back of your thumbnail, whatever you have there. If it's going to work it will work right away. If not, no amount of rubbing will work. Find another copy center. Don't leave the bag in your pocket too long. The solvent will eventually dissolve through the bag although it won't really hurt your clothes. (Ask me how I know!)

If you'd like to see it instead of just read about it I demonstrate the technique along with a lot of other fun techniques in the Quilting Arts DVD Workshop Surface Design Sampler Platter.

Here is a link to the first of several Tutorials on how to Photoshop your images.


  1. I definitely have to try this! I have heard about CitraSolv for a while but hadn't played with it yet. I think I will go buy some today! :)

  2. Will this work for transferring an image onto a painted surface (acrylic), or will the solvent dissolve the paint?

  3. Thank you for the tute ! Once transferred to fabric, would it be washable and should you wash the fabric first to remove sizing?

  4. Does this work only with black and white toner copies, or do colored toner copies work as well?

  5. Last friday I finally found some citrasolv and bought it. I've been too busy to play with it, but next week I should have some time.

  6. sometimes it does dissolve acrylic paints - the product works great for cleaning off tables after we've painted on them.

    yes - wash the fabric first. It's only sort of washable. If you want it to be nice and permanent on fabric brush some colorless extender (Jaquard, setacolor etc - it's textile paint without any color in it) and that will set the ink into the fabric while still leaving it soft.

    Experiment away!

  7. Thank you for the extra hints about making the image more permanent! I have used this image transfer method on several pieces that will never be washed so I wasn't concerned about how it washes but now that I am going to teach this method at our state meeting, you have saved me lots of time experimenting! Thank you thank you!

  8. I have tried this twice in the last week. I do not understand how you rub with a spoong on the paper hard. If I got it right, the paper has been dampened with the citra-solv, it does not hold up to being rubbed at all, it just tears. Help?!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.