Sunday, October 25, 2009

Citra Solv photo transfer

Today I experimented with a photo transfer process I'd heard about that uses Citra Solv, a citrus-based cleaning solvent. The Citra Solv website has information about this and several other applications for artists here. I had trouble finding this product in my local grocery stores, but finally located it in an upscale Harris Teeter supermarket near me.

Let me walk you through what I did. First, I took this old 1940s photo of my dad (on the right) and my uncle, and flipped it horizontally (mirror image) in Photoshop, and printed it out about 4" wide on my laser printer.

Then I photocopied this image, using a photocopier with toner (inkjet and laser don't work) on the “photo” setting. I pinned it face down to some Pimatex (tightly woven 100% cotton fabric by Robert Kaufman), and then placed it on top of a fairly thick layer of old newspaper:

I brushed on the Citra Solv. The image starts to appear on the wrong side of the paper because the solvent makes it more translucent:

Once it was saturated, I burnished it with a spoon to transfer the toner (made liquid by the Citra Solv) onto the fabric. The newspapers are a good surface because they are not too firm, so the spoon can sink in a bit as you rub:

Here’s the finished result. It’s a bit light. Perhaps I didn’t burnish it enough? Or use enough solvent?

Hmmm.... let’s try again. I started with a photo that has lots more dark areas (yep, that’s me, younger and wrinkle-free!). This photo was taken by Patrick Schneider (the same photographer who took the fun photos of me wrapped up in my quilts):

I did the same thing as before, but applied more solvent and burnished harder and longer. Much better results!

After this, you are supposed to iron the piece. The directions in the link from the Citra Solv website say that it is then machine washable (and won’t even come off with bleach).


  1. Very cool. Did it affect the hand of the fabric?

  2. Not at all, Melinda. I'm thinking it might be neat to go in with watercolor pencils and add some color. Or you could try transferring onto Lutradur or a very sheer fabric, and then layer it over or under something else.

  3. I have done many of these in the past. It works especially well with line drawings that do not have a lot of toner. You can do text, too. I use a wooden spoon to do the burnishing. I will have to try the metal spoon.

  4. I did a series of quilts years ago too transferring text to fabric. Citrasolve was a much better alternative to some of the toxic solvents people had been using to make transfers from toner images back then.

  5. We used to do something like that but I forgot what we used. I hate the stiff fabric sheets, would be nice to do my own.


  6. I learned this technique in a class taught by Lyric Kinard, but have been unable to find the Citra Solve. Which Harris Teeter did you find it at?

  7. I think I got Citra Solv at my local 99¢ store! Thanks for posting your lesson on transfered photos. Very inspiring. Its much funner to create than clean the kitchen. Citra Solv looks so much more enticing now.

  8. I've used Citra Solv for a long time as a natural cleaner but now that I found out that you can use it for transfer art I'm thrilled at the idea! For the ones that ask where it can be found on their site they'll locate a shop near you or address you to a site that sells them. Here's the link
    Good Luck!



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