Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to Prevent Smudges and Bleeding when Using an Inkjet Printer

Look familiar? A decoupaged bird I made long ago that bled pink onto the wooden block.

Here's the conundrum: You love the convenience of inkjet printing your collage sheets at home, but hate that your images smudge when applying a decoupage-type glaze. Happily, there's several tricks you can use to seal your collage sheets and keep them looking crisp and beautiful. These tips were developed through trial and error on literally tens of thousands of test products by myself and several amazingly brilliant piddix customers who have agreed to share their trade secrets.

The core issue that causes smearing is that the ink used in most inkjet printers is water-based. If you put a drop of water on the print, it will run or bleed. Glazes such as Mod Podge and Diamond Glaze are also water-based (do you see where I'm going with this?). Thus, when you add these water-based glazes on top of your print, it can cause the images (especially the red colors) to bleed.

Most of the solutions to this issue revolve around two techniques. You can: 1. Add a water-resistant barrier between the ink and your glaze so they can't mix and thus bleed, or 2. Make your ink and paper as dry or fixed as possible before applying the glaze. Here are some specific ways to go about it:

1. Acrylic Spray Fixatives. After printing out your collage sheet, you can seal it with a permanent, matte acrylic spray fixative. Plaid Enterprises (the company that makes Mod Podge) recommends spraying one very light coat of fixative, waiting for it to dry, then spraying one additional coat. Read the specific instructions on the cans for drying time (normally 2-3 hours) and spray distance. You'll want to find a spray that is 1. permanent, 2. non-yellowing, 3. moisture-resistant. Examples include: Krylon Spray Finish; Folkart Clearcote Acrylic Sealer; Patricia Nimocks Clear Acrylic Sealer; and Print Guard Spray.

2. Polyurethane. Ryan of Littleput Books, who has sold tens of thousands of Scrabble Tile and Lucky Penny pendants, uses this process to coat her inkjet prints and has kindly agreed to share her secret. After printing the collage sheets with an inkjet printer, she brushes on several coats of a clear polyurethane with a foam brush, allowing for time between coats to dry. One benefit I've found to this process is you don't seem to get quite as many fumes as you do from the spray fixatives.
Butterfly Lucky Penny pendant by LittleputBooks.

3. Nail polish. In a quick fix (you know, when it's 2 am and you really need to finish that necklace for your friend's birthday) I've been pretty happy with one coat clear nail polish used as a sealer. You do run the risk of the polish yellowing over time. I made some pendants as gifts this way about year ago and they're still looking good, but I'd definitely try to avoid the super-cheap Wet-n-Wild-type brands.

4. Hairspray. Another good quick fix recommend to me by Laurie's Custom Thingz is hairspray. Laurie uses VO5 Extra Hold that came from her super-crafty Mother. Rumors around art schools say to use the cheapest aerosol can you can find, but expect that the images will yellow over time.

5. Freezer. I had never heard of this tip before Molly Smith wrote this super-sweet blog post and shared her secret for preventing smudges. Molly prints out her collage sheets and then puts them in her freezer for six to twelve hours before applying Mod Podge. I am quite excited to try this one myself. See below for how beautiful her prints turned out:
6. Oven. Another DIY trick for drying your prints is to put them in the oven at 250 degrees for five minutes, then let them cool off before applying glaze. This suggestion comes from Linda and is another one I haven't tried personally, but seems promising.

7. Drying Time. Most inkjet printers (especially ones under $100 or that come free with your computer) come standard with dye-based, water-based ink. According to Annie Howes, who is probably the most knowledgeable professional I know when it comes to this type of work, dye-based inkjet prints become more stable the longer they're allowed to dry. Annie says "My HP Photosmart Inkjet printer works great after two weeks on glossy non-fast-drying paper (fast drying paper has a film that can be troublesome)." The paper drying time varies by printer and paper brand and may take some trial and error to perfect. If you're making pigment-based inkjet prints, however, Annie has found you can speed up the whole process with only a 24-hour waiting period. Especially for making glass tile pendants, this "waiting" option will cause the most professional looking results since the various spray fixatives and varnishes mentioned above can stay tacky under the glass and never fully cure, resulting in a slightly fuzzy appearance.
Crisp & clear glass tile pendant by Annie Howes.

There are two more things to keep in mind. First, the type and quality of ink, printers, and paper can definitely affect how smudge-prone your print is. There's tons of information on matte vs glossy, paper weight, quality of printers, etc. that I may go into at a later point, but generally, the better the paper and printer, the better the results.

And finally, if all of this sealing just doesn't sound worth it to you, print with a laser printer. The printers at most print-shops (Office Depot, Staples, Kinkos, etc.) use toner, which essentially melts into the paper and creates a more permanent, water-resistant print that you shouldn't have to seal before adding glaze.

For any of you who've tried to fix or prevent the dreaded inkjet smudge, I've love to hear your suggestions (or horror stories). I am always so appreciative of the amazing piddix customers (like Annie, Molly, Laurie, and Ryan above) who help the rest of us by sharing their creativity and tips. Thank you!

45 comments:

Molly Smith said...

Fabulous information to know, Corinna! Thanks so much for the mention. I am enjoying all your customers' shops, seeing how they use your collages :)

hugs from Texas, xo
Molly

The Altered Paper said...

Thank You For Sharing the information,and great tips!
Bleeding has been a big problem when sealing with mod podge. Now I have some options to stop it. Tee

Kate said...

I purchased a fruit dehydrator at Goodwill a couple of years ago and use it for speeding up drying time on various decoupage projects as well fresh out of the printer sheets. It's a gentle, even heat. It's speeds things up but doesn't get me in trouble with too much, too fast. I think I paid $12.00 for my unit.

Thanks for the article Corinna!
Kate Smallwood, aka ZeldaSnow

JoaniB said...

Thank you so much for all this information! I have also read that white glue is a good sealer before using resin or mod podge.

GrayFlannel said...

Excellent post and tips. Thank you!!

piddix said...

Thanks for all the comments. You've brought up some great ideas I'd totally forgotten about---like the white glue. And some I'd never thought of---like the dehydrator. Brilliant. It reminds me that I've also heard of using clear packing tape. No idea how that would work, but perhaps worth a try. Thanks again all.
-Corinna

Joyce said...

This is sooo exciting. I can hardly wait to try these tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

susan said...

Thanks! I've been looking for some solid tutorials on how to get started with all this. So your site is a huge help.

Darlene said...

Great informative post! I blogged about the article here:

http://cinnamonpink.typepad.com/cinnamon_pink/2011/02/check-out-the-pulp-newsletter-from-piddix.html

http://cinnamonpink.typepad.com/

edmund said...

Wow! this is so impressive .I been looking for bleeding solution for such a long time .Thank you for sharing this information. I found the details very helpful.

EnginerdLisa said...

I wasn't able to get any of the methods I tried to work for me. Acrylic spray, polyurethane, and nail polish all caused the paper to become somewhat translucent, which ruined any areas where images overlapped. Baking, 24 hr waiting period, and hairspray didn't do anyhthing for the bleeding. Guess I will keep looking.

piddix said...

Hi Lisa,
Perhaps trying a different paper might help? I've had issues with see-through/shine when I've used glossy or too-thin paper. This post might be helpful:

http://piddix.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-kind-of-paper-works-best-when.html

Best of luck,
Corinna

Cari said...

Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

CaraSmiths ... said...

Nicely done! I found out about Krylex/ink printer trick by trial and error, and it worked, so looking forward to the other ideas!

MCOUSINS said...

Mod Podge now have a paper selaer that works, Ive used and my paper images did not bleed. But I love this info.

Wicked Karma Jewelry said...

I print my sheets out at Wal-Mart (I don't have a printer and when doing the math it was cheaper to print them out there at $0.09 a piece than to buy a printer and ink. I print them out on matte paper (the glossy prints tended to have runs and streaks in the glaze, still have that issue with some but it's much less with matte). It bleeds the pink color too. So would these tips work for this too? I'm going to try the freezer thing, cause I have one of those, lol! =)

Jason said...

Just to say: the freezer thing works -- as in perfectly. I thank you for bringing it my attention and just left a longer gleam of glowing gratitude on Molly Smith's blog. With the stuff I want to do inkjet is really the only option so this was driving me crazy.

Feather Mishap said...

I tried the hair spray and that didn't work for me, but in a quick pinch the nail polish did. I had some spray varnish, it was glossy, but I tried it anyway and it worked as well. I just bought some tacky spray to try next. I'll also give the freezer a shot. Anything to get that red bleed thing to STOP! Thank you for the information!

Laura Iverson said...

I find the type of paper you print on makes a big difference. I have an epson printer (their claria inks are water resistant) and use 100% cotton rag paper. When I used glossy paper, the ink ran but not with the cotton rag.

tll said...

What a disaster :( As a new Mod Podger I did not realize that the inkjet ink would bleed. Even after letting it sit for 24 hours. I managed to salvaged my gorgeous striped background paper and hopefully the art canvas and will reprint and seriously seal the printed paper before I try it again. Thank you for sharing this information and I sure wish I'd thought to check before. I haven't seen anyone comment on this problem in the craft blogs I've read so didn't realize it could even happen. *Disappointed*

Melissa Mermaid said...

Lightbulbs going off in my head. I'm a newbie and trying to do something "innovative." (Like I'm the only one.) You just may be helping (yet another) "craftapreneur." TYVM!

GinaW said...

Clear packing tape works great!

piddix said...

Gina, I've heard about the packing tape, but have never been brave enough to try it myself. It doesn't look funny under the tape? I'll have to try it.

Annie Howes said...

Corinna was so nice to include my comments in her post above about ink jet prints smearing. Here I am a couple of years later with a new product that addresses this very issue.

Glamour Seal is a marriage between glue and glaze, in that it has a strong bond and dries crystal clear. For glass pendants and inkjet prints, it's an ideal solution. For best results, I recommend using matte paper and not glossy. Glossy paper is kind of plasticky and slows the drying time. With matte paper, the glaze dries in a few short minutes. You can make a glass pendant in a pendant tray and be wearing it in 15 minutes.

For Scrabble pendants, brush a thin coat of Glamour Seal on the surface and top with your favorite glaze or resin.

xo,
Annie

kitty4940 said...

There's a YouTube video by Kelly who owns the beading/jewelry shop called Off The Beaded Path (offthebeadedpath channel). Kelly has a video where she demonstrates making a resin pendant and uses the clear packing tape to seal her photo. It turned out well, and it's a no muss, no fuss solution.

Anonymous said...

Im new to this decoupage, just made a small hanging plaque printed on tissue paper, I should have probably mirrored the images then used the other side to do the glueing, I used a clear spray I had in my attic I only did one coat think maybe a few might have helped there was a little bleeding but does not spoil it, well pleased as it was my very fist attempt at it. I love the idea of the freezer will give that and the hairspray a try.. Thank you for sharing the infomation xx

RubySlip said...

There is a Judkins product called Microglaze that works wonderfully as a first coat to seal the image.

Annie Howes said...

MicroGlaze is a wax and wax repels water. It's going to be problematic when used with water based glazes. Glamour Seal is not water based and won't cause this problem. It's designed to be compatible with inkjet prints, laser prints, and water based glazes and resin products.

piddix said...

Hi RubySlip and Annie,
I asked Judi (of Judikins) about microglaze at the last CHA since I'd heard mixed things about its effectiveness. She said the trick is to put the wax on lightly and consistently (not too thick). Yes, it repels water, and I'd guess it works similar to the clear-tape solution to basically create a barrier between the image and the glaze. Don't know personally how it would work with water-based glazes.

On the Glamour Seal (by Annie Howes), I have it on my shelf to try soon but haven't yet, but just received this amazing, unsolicited review from one of my customers who tried Glamour Seal and says:

"Just wanted to let you know that I've been using the Glamour Seal and I absolutely LOVE IT! No smudges, much less fighting with bubbles, and it sticks better than the glaze I was using so the edges are not separating from the glass when I cut the image out. Very happy with it. I'm using it for the pendants in my [etsy] shop that I just opened back in February. So far, it's the best thing I've tried. If I had a complaint, it would be that the image clouds up when I glue it into the pendant tray, but that disappears within 24 hours and that's good enough for me."

Seems very promising. Can't wait to play around more.

Innah | Ink Cartridges Cheap said...

It is important to finish printing tasks without dealing with so much difficulty and mess. Thanks for sharing tips to make printed outputs smudge-free!

Gayle Bodine said...

Thank You So Much! Had been very frustrated about bleeding from ink-jet prints. So Helpful!

tim watson said...

Great tips. I can now print well.

Scrappin*Fun said...

I wanted to use some amazing photos to make greeting cards, but I was afraid if they got wet any time they would smear/bleed. So I came here looking for answers and have to say you all are awesome! I printed 4--3.5 x 5 pics on one sheet of Lexmark Perfect Finish photo paper; they were gorgeous! I have a can of Mod Podge spray acrylic sealer, I took my photo paper outside to my porch and sprayed a light coat. It worked perfectly, no smudges or bleeding! I gave it a second spray just in case LOL!! Now I can create all the cards I want without them being ruined! Thank you all so much for the info!

madmadmama said...

I'm a little late to the party huh? haha! ;) I'm excited to try some of the solutions you provided! It is SO hard to find any info on bleeding!! I almost lost. my. mind!!! I had to comment as Judykins Micro Glaze was brought up. I began using it 2 weeks ago. I LOVE IT!! I have a cheap ink jet printer and use cheap printer paper too. After applying a thin, even coat of Micro Glaze, no more bleeding! NONE! Here's what I don't agree with...that it wouldn't work with water based application. I cover these prints with Mod Podge! No issues whatsoever. The image looks fantastic and there is zero difference between where the glaze was applied and wasn't. I originally tried spraying my prints with Mod Podge Acrylic Spray as it was what I had on hand. Thin coat, thick coats, one coat, several...NONE worked for me! I tried hairspray...nope. I'm here to sing the praises of Judykins Micro Glaze! It's inexpensive (the tiny container will easily cover 500 pages) and it WORKS! Thank you again!!

Julie said...

Hi,
Do any of you know if there's a tutorial please on how to use Judykins Microglaze? I can't seem to find any info on their website.

I mainly use it on emails etc that I've printed on my HP printer. It's ok but all I can see is where it's been put on.

I think if I can't get it to work properly I'll go back to using Epson Durabrite ink which is waterproof. I really regret buying an HP printer.

Julie said...

How long does it take to dry?

Also, what does it mean to buff the document? I don't have a clue how to do that.

I'd really appreciate some tips on it please:)

Slim Shaddy said...

thanks so much for all this info, I wish the people that worked at michaels were half as knowledgable as everyone here. I lost so much time and money due to the fact that no one every told me that the best glue to use when collages is one that is acid free. Also I used packing tape it does work really well, but if the item you are working on is larger than the width of the tape you will see a line where the tapes meet together.

Lisa Agaran said...

So glad I came across this blog post. The information is so helpful despite it's been 3 years ago. Here is what I've uncovered through a year of trial and error.

Sun and Moon Glass Glaze: Worked perfectly with my inkjet prints on glossy paper. I just sprayed on 2 layers of UV Varnish. Practically every one worked perfectly producing crisp images without a glitch or bleed. Now let me emphasizes that was in the Winter.

Come summer with the heat & high humidity, this glue no longer worked and every print was bleeding. So I changed over to Matte paper with the same UV Varnish spray. No bleed, but the image still wasn't as crisp as my original batch with a slight cloudy look. Also I had to spray the back before gluing to the bezel tray.

Nail Polish: I tried this on inkjet print on gloss paper. Appeared to work in terms of sealing the ink with a little yellowing, but after completely drying, the print easily peeled off. In other words the glue did not adhere to the nail polish.

I heard great things about Annie Howes Glamour Seal and ordered some. I will keep you posted on how that works.

This has been an extremely frustrating process and is not conducive to high quantity sales :/

Lisa

Lisa Agaran said...

Okay. Wanted to update on my discoveries. Printing inkjet on Matte Photo Paper is key! It really eliminates the issue with bleeding. Plus I don't have to wait 24 hrs for it to thoroughly dry. Like I mentioned, I spray a UV acrylic (to prevent fading over time) on the print and let it dry. I tried Annie Howes Glamour Seal and found the end results to be equal to Sun & Moon's Glass Glaze in terms of clarity, bonding and no bleeding or cloudiness. Annie's Glamour Seal is thicker and doesn't spread as easy when you press the glass onto the print, so you need to add more glue for coverage. Versus Moon's Glass Glaze only requires a small amount for coverage.

Another tip. I discovered that rubbing alcohol works great for removing the print from the glass cabochon if you get bubbles or you messed one up. If you soak it in the alcohol it dissolves the dried glue and you can literally clean the glass entirely to use again. This has saved a lot of wasted glass cabochons.

Anne-Marie Holland said...

Very interesting post and comments. I'm about to start some projects with inkjet images. I'm in the UK and glamour seal and mod podge spray acrylic sealer both sounded great, but I can't find any in the UK and bit expensive to get from USA. Does anyone know of any products you can buy in the UK that would seal inkjet images? Thanks.

Julie said...

Hi Anne-Marie,
I'm in the UK too & am also finding this problem.

I think Amazon sometimes have those products, it's still quite expensive tho.

One idea I've had is to have the items photocopied onto archival paper on a laser printer/copier. I tried it at Rymans & it worked ok:)

Dontpanik said...

I just wanted to say I tried my very first Mod Podge project today. I only have an inkjet and no aerosol hairspray or sealant of any kind. I used inkjet, glossy photo paper and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours. It worked great!

Cl!ck said...

I used acrylic spray on photo that was set in a antique copper tray. It was fine the next day but now a week later the person i gave it to sad it turned blue and bubbled.
What happened?

lee woo said...

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Emilee said...

I just glued some inkjet printed images to wood tiles. Can anyone give me a recommendation on a spray finish. I would like the paper to be sealed to the wood but it doesn't have to a glaze. It isn't going to be jewelry. I don't want the ink to run and I would just like the paper to be sealed to the wood so that it wont peal up or rub off with handling.