Monday, March 23, 2009

HP Vivera Inks on Fabric

There have been some questions (and confusion) on a group list that I'm on about printer inks, and which ones can be used on fabric. Of course, everyone recommends the Epson pigment inks for both water resistance and light-fastness.

Since I love to print on fabric, I wanted an Epson printer that uses pigment inks for Christmas. My lovely partner wasn't quite sure what she was looking for while shopping. The salesperson apparently assured her that the new HP Vivera inks were pigment and not dye inks, and that these were comparable to the Epsons. So, I got an HP Photosmart C8180 All-in-one printer for Christmas.

I love this printer for all its features and for the quality of the prints. I've been happily printing away on fabric until someone suggested on the Yahoo list that HP inks—even the Viveras, whether dye or pigment-based--would run as soon as water touched them. I immediately had visions of all the color in my printed-fabric journal and art quilts melting away if they ever accidently got wet.

I started doing some research, and it turns out that HP calls both its pigment inks and its dye inks "Vivera." My printer uses the # 02 cartridges and a 6-cartridge color system. I assume that the inks are dye-based, since I found this information in a review of the C8180 at

There's been a lot of discussion over the relative merits of pigments vs. dye-based inks. The longevity of HP's Vivera dye-based inks when used on HP's Premium Plus photo paper exceeds 100 years, according the tests by Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc.

That mates the dye-based Vivera inks to a swellable sheet that should not be handled right away. We let them sit for 24 hours, actually, before framing or stacking them. That's quite a bit less convenient than Kodak's pigment-based system, which lets you handle the prints right away (and doesn't have tabs that have to torn off the 4x6 sheets).

Doesn’t sound good. Does this mean I can’t use my printer for printing on fabric? I decided to do my own tests for water-resistance (I'm not sure how to test for light-fastness without comparing an HP-printed image to an Epson-printed image over a period of time; since I don't have access to an Epson printer, I can't check for this).

I used Photoshop to create a double-image, then printed this out onto a Jacquard Inkjet Printing Cotton Sheet (I’m going to duplicate the test with my own Bubble Jet Set-treated fabric in the future).


I waited for about 18 hours, then heat set the entire image with an iron on the highest setting.

I cut the image on the right side into 4 pieces, and wrote notes on each piece. I rinsed the first piece of the image in warm water, then let it dry. The second piece will be rinsed in warm water after two days; the third, after one week; and the fourth, after one month. The idea is to test how much ink rinses out of the fabric, and whether curing time retains more ink.

The first results (image dried for 18 hours, then heat set) show very little color loss between the original and the rinsed piece. There is a slight color loss, but not as much as I expected, give the rumors. I’ll post additional results over the next month showing the other three tests.



Given the results of the first test, I would recommend that fabric printed with HP Vivera inks be heat set, and that it be rinsed thoroughly so that any “loose” ink will be washed out before using the fabric in a quilt (otherwise, if the quilt gets wet, the inks may bleed or run into each other).

I can't tell you, though, how happy I am to know that the color in my printed-fabric quilts won't melt away with water, and that I can continue to use my wonderful printer!


Melissa and Emmitt said...

oh what a fabulous post!
thank you for documenting all of this.
:) melissa

Aimeslee said...

What a great blog. Love the paper towels entry and all your printer research.

Question about your HP: does it have like 5 separate cartridges? Cuz I have a Canon and am sick of all those cartridges, one is always acting up. Costs a ton of money!

Rosie said...

Thanks for sharing this info! We use an Epson for high quality photo prints, purely because they are supposed to be fairly light-fast! However I have been happily using my HP 7300 all-in-one series for printing onto fabric, even doing water-transfers of images to fabric, so I can't complain! I always heat set anyway, but I haven't yet washed any of my HP pieces...
Thanks for taking the bull by the horns, though, and wroting a very inform ative blog post about it! =)

Pam Tucker said...

Thank you so much for your comments. I belong to that same group you are speaking of, and the comments re: HP have had me upset. I just bought a new HP C550 All-in-One and I love it. I have printed out pictures of my late Mother onto fabric sheets for a memory quilt and was envisioning all sorts of nightmares. Thank YOU!!!

Pam T.

Carol said...

Firstly I would like to thank you for visiting my blog.
Secondly. I have only ever used Epsom printers. It is only the Dura Bright ink that is waterproof and light fast.It is suposed to be light fast for about 70 years I think. I was really anoid because I bought a new printer thinking my old one was not working, told the salesperson what I was looking for which was one that also took heavyweight paper/card (the one I have is DX6000 and will only take thin weight paper) When I gotthe new one home and started using it I noticed it used Claria ink! Luckily I discovered that my old printer was still working. It is fine for my cards but I can't put fabric through it unlike my fist printer.Hopefully when I get the next one I will be able to get it right. It was interesting to hear about your printer as I had theought Epsom were the only ones that did lightfast/waterproof ink.

Fannie said...

Hi, TT~

Thanks for sharing your experiments with printing onto fabric using vivera inks. I, too, recently purchased an HP printer that uses vivera inks.

Excellent post!