Photo Imagery

by Marion Coleman

Using photographs in my work began with a desire to make a memory quilt for my mother’s 70th birthday. Since that time I have actively sought old family photos, begged them from family and friends, bought them at estate sales and took photos of a variety of subjects. So in today’s electronic age scanning and digital photography are the gateways to creating imagery for textiles. Most of us have historic and current photos of family, friends and the world around us. All of them can be used to create striking work for textiles of any size.


1. Choose one or more photos to use for the project. This is an original photo that was downloaded to Photoshop Elements. You may also scan a photo into the photo program. Save the original then resize it to fit a postcard. Any size 3.5″ or smaller should fit nicely. Save any changes you make to each photo type to prepare for printing.

Original Image

2. For visual interest manipulate the photo using the Image Adjustment features.

Posterized adjusted photo

3. Threshold adjusted photo.

Threshold adjusted photo

4. To print photos you may purchase photo transfer fabric sheets or prepare your own fabric using Bubble Jet Set photo transfer solution. Follow the directions on the bottle. I prepare my own sheets using Bubble Jet Set with high thread count PDF (Prepared For
Dying) cotton, both solid white and previously hand dyed, and silk fabric for sheer (see through) transfers. Attach the prepared sheets to a fusible product of your choice. I have used Wonder Under but Steam-A-Seam II and Misty Fuse also work nicely. I cut the fused transfer sheets into 8.5″ x 11″ to fit my printer.

5. I insert multiple images into a Word document to optimize the number of images I can print on a sheet. Printing multiple copies of an image on one sheet maximizes use of the fabric I’ve prepared and allows for quick changes in creativity while I’m working.

To duplicate images:
See the “Insert” feature at the top bar, select “Picture” from File. Browse to locate the photo, select and insert the photo. You may resize the photo by clicking the photo, place the cursor on the right corner square and reduce the photo down to the desired size. To duplicate the same photo after it has been resized, click the right key on your mouse and choose copy. Leave space to the right of the original photo and paste the duplicate photo in the space available. Duplicate this process until you have the number of photos you want on the page. You may also insert different photos on the same page by going back to the Insert feature and inserting a new photo in the page.

Note: This is also a way to include text in your work. Experiment with using text and photos. Type any text you want on a page. Print the sheet. Decide on images you want on a page then reinsert the printed text sheet and overprint it with an image. Do not remove the paper backing until you have completed the last printing.

6. Using sheer fabric will add a nice see-through dimension to cards. Using multiple images increases the design interest. These are samples of cards using posterized and threshold photos printed on white cotton, hand dyed fabric and silk. All images were cut and fused to other layers of fabric.

You can see the cotton fabric pattern through the silk on the face of the model. Two smaller posterized photos are on the side.

Larger image printed on silk and smaller image printed on hand-dyed cotton. #2 & 3 of 4 card series. This is a great idea for a stationery or gift card set. Don’t you love being able to see right through her face?

Threshold and color adjusted photo printed on hand dyed cotton.

7. When using photos in your work remember to experiment with all of the photo adjustment tabs on your program. In Photoshop you should experiment with the Adjustment Tab and the Enhance Tab. You will be able to try different colors and feature changes.

As you can imagine, I had fun experimenting with creating as many different cards as I could using the same image. Have fun making your own photo mini series.