Monday, 17 October 2011

Iron-on transfer on leather

Those of you that have read my blog for some time know that I don't just publish photos of things that turned out well. This is one example of something that didn't turn out as well as I'd liked. But something that did give me valuable experience for the next time I want to try it.

I wanted to try the image tranfer technique for leather, which Sherri Haab describes in her book Designer Style Jewelry. She uses iron-on transfer paper for dark fabric. I didn't have that and wanted to have the leather show through in the background so I tried it with "regular" t-shirt transfer papers (e.g. for white/lightly coloured fabric). Tip: Black text doesn't show up well on dark purple backgrounds...

Note: If using transfer paper for white fabric, you will get a shiny film between the coloured areas. See photo above and how the film ends next to the first and last letter, creating a visible seam or edge. Solution is to trim as much as you can around the image or cover all the leather with the transfer paper so it gets evenly shiny. Or just not see it as a problem. This is not an issue with papers for dark fabric as all white areas are transferred to the leather, giving it an even, opaque finish. While cheaper, I don't recommend papers for white fabric to begin with -- unless you are ok with the edges.

First thing I learned was that my choice of leather was bad. I used this thick painted lace as it was intended for a contest where I had to use this product. Not good: the iron almost melted the paint in places. Normally leather is dyed or stained, but this wasn't which probably made it a bad choice. Not sure if it was the painted surface or the leather itself that also made the transfer slide when I rubbed it with the hot iron. Lesson to myself: apply iron from above, pressing and lifting to heat section by section. Do not "rub" back and forth as when ironing clothes. Not even a little.

Second problem can be blamed on the instructions. The book said to refer to the paper manufacturer's instructions, but these didn't mention what heat setting to choose (only to choose a setting appropirate for the t-shirt -- which of cause comes with care symbols unlike the leather). I don't know what heat is ok for leather and still hot enough to transfer the image. So I just set it somewhere in the middle or just below the middle. At one point I heated the leather so much it hardened and curled. D'oh!

I did probably over half a dozen transfers and the one you see in the first photo (top of post) is the only one that's anywhere near neat and clean. Most annoying part: when making a bracelet with two transfers, the first one being turning out very nice, the second totally messed up. Grrr!

But I'm not giving up. I still believe in this technique and to show that it can indeed be successful, I took a photo of some leather "tiles" my sis have made.

(Cats on the photos are: Figge, Mimi and Rostan, followed by Randi and Isse below.)

Much better than most of my flops. The slightly grainy appearance says more about her (and my) camera and print out than the transfer method. She also  had the same problem with the image distorting when ironing it less than meticulously.

Looks pretty ok -- until you focus on Randa's head!

I'm not trying to deter anyone from trying this. In fact, it's a great method if you are careful and know what you are doing. I don't know that many transfer methods for leather so I can't compare this with other techniques, though. Just be prepared that the first transfer might not be as good as you hoped. But when it works, when you lean what the pitfalls are, it looks good!

What will happen with the "dreaming of dragon" transfer I showed initially? When I get good scissors for cutting heavy leather, I'll trim the edges, punch a hole in each and use as focal/connector in a bracelet. At least that's my plan at the moment.


  1. I, too, believe that it's good to show the things that come out less than 'as expected' opens a new window so many times. Others can comment and help; or just in showing and talking about the piece it occurs what to do with it, anyway. And of course, how to do it better, next time. Love the kitties, too!

  2. Have you tried TAP (Transfer Artist Paper)? I'm curious to know if that will work...

    1. I've heard of TAP, but so far I haven't tried it. Might have to add it to my way-too-long wishlist of products to try, though. ;-) (Had to google to see if it could be used for inkjet printers -- so many transfer methods only work with laser/toner prints, which I don't have access too.)

  3. For leather try this


A few words can mean so much. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

PS! Feel free to email me if you don't want to comment publicly -- look under Contact (under the header)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...