Tutorial: Citra-Solv Photo Transfer

January 28, 2017

The work I do as a mother involves a lot of delayed gratification. When I escape to the studio and put on my artist’s hat it can be nice to see some instant results. Solvent photocopy transfer is one of my favorites. You need only a photocopy, fabric,  Citra-Solve®, and a few seconds of elbow grease and viola!The good people who produce this environmentally friendly cleaning product have included an ARTISTS’ PAGE on their website. I’m honored to have been included among other textile artists I admire such as Jane Davila and Jane Dunnewold.

I encourage you to take a peek over there – lots of interesting things being done. It makes me think that I have some experimenting to do. Dissolving pages from National Geographic magazine? Hmmm. Wonder how I can do that on fabric.

Want to join me in a little playtime? Here are the instructions for moving the ink from a photocopy onto paper or fabric. Wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area. The stuff is much more pleasant than the paint stripper I used to use but it IS still a solvent.



  • Citra-Solve®  (find where to buy it here)
  • Cotton ball
  • Metal spoon
  • Non-porous smooth surface
  • Masking tape
  • Fabric or paper of your choice
  • Photocopy

1. Find a copyright free black and white image. I love to use vintage family photos.
2. Make a photocopy of the photo, sizing it no larger than 5″ x 7″.
3. Cut away the background if it detracts from or competes with your image.
4. Draw in any lines that need emphasis or add in some fun scribbles. Maybe Grandma always wanted a tiara or your puppy looks great in polka dots! You can digitally manipulate the photo as well.
5. Make a final photocopy. (Note: Inkjet prints DO NOT work with this method.)
6. Tightly tape a piece of fabric or paper to your glass or non-porous surface.
7. Tape the photocopy face-down on your paper or fabric. Don’t let the tape cover the image.
8. Dampen the cotton with Citra-Solve® and squeeze it out. Rub it on the paper until you see the ink show through. It should be barely damp – too juicy and your image will bleed and blur.
9. With the back of the metal spoon, rub, rub, rub hard and like crazy in all directions. You are moving the ink from the paper to the fabric.
10. Pick up one corner of the paper and peek. Look for spots that haven’t transferred yet then put the paper back down and rub some more in that spot.
11. Toss the paper in the trash and let the solvent evaporate.
12. Feel free to play around with the image. Color it in with colored pencils, ink, paint or whatever you have on hand. Be creative! Have fun!

The only tricky part is finding a photocopier that works. If you are using Citra-Solve® (the other orange solvents I’ve tried have not worked) and you are rubbing and nothing is happening it is most likely the copy that is at fault. I test any copy I make right at the copy center. Dampen a cotton ball with the Citra-Solve® and stick it in a little zip-loc bag in your pocket. Make one photocopy then place it face down on another piece of paper on the counter, dampen with the Citra-Solve® then rub it a bit with the scissor handles on the counter, the back of your thumbnail, whatever you have there. If it’s going to work it will work right away. If not, no amount of rubbing will work. Find another copy center. Don’t leave the bag in your pocket too long. The solvent will eventually dissolve through the bag although it won’t really hurt your clothes. (Ask me how I know!)

If you’d like to see it instead of just read about it I demonstrate the technique along with a lot of other fun techniques in the Quilting Arts DVD Workshop “Surface Design Sampler Platter.”Here is a link to the first of several Tutorials on how to Photoshop your images.


  • Reply
    February 9, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Hi girls!
    I live in Italy and i am looking for Citra-solve for 1 year!! I try to buy it on internet but i pay and i don'r receive it! so they refund me!
    I 'll go to London soon but they don't sell..
    Is there someone who can help me to have it??PLEASE!
    I send you the money before and then you ship me…please!!
    my email is MBABI@TISCALI.IT

    Thank you,Babi

  • Reply
    January 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Dear Lyric, Sorry if I misread.

    I tried to reference 'comments' back to your instructions without taking them out of context,but not successfully.

    "5. Make a final photocopy. (Note: Laser and inkjet prints DO NOT work with this method.)"

    Other than big box stores not many other choices around here. Oh well.


  • Reply
    January 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Dear Farmhousesewer – I think You've mis-read just a little. Toner and Laser printers that use toner DO work! My laser printer is an old Lexmark and works beautifully.

    Unfortunately no – I have not asked specific types of printers that work. I believe ink and toner formulations change often so you need to test.

    I have had the experience of using the same copier and it worked one month and not the next. More than half of the copy machines I've tried have worked and it isn't really that hard to test.

    It's a fun technique and easy to do so it's worth finding a machine that will make copies that work for you.

    Best wishes!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Lyric, Brenda's post does not answer the question of exactly what type of copier works with Citra-Solve. Where you have been successful, have you asked the establishment the type of copier they have? If you knock out toner, laser and inkjet, there is not much left. Any help appreciated. I would rather not just test place to place. Thanks

  • Reply
    Michelle @ The Fab Faux, LLC
    August 18, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I have tried Kinkos and Staples to make copies and none of them will work. They said they were toner based copies but nothing transfered. Any idea where I might find a copy machine that will work? Where did you have your copies done?? Does the copy machine have to be an old relic in some momand pop grocery store 🙂

  • Reply
    June 30, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Hi Jenni – see Brenda's comment for a product she has used!

    Best wishes!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Hi I was just wondering if you knew another product that can be used instead of the citrasolve? as I live in Australia and haven't had any luck finding it.

    Thanks for your posting, as I'm trying to print onto the fabric using a variety of transfer methods which are not working the best.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you for this tutorial. Your links also helped me find a local source for the Concentrate.

  • Reply
    Brenda Gael Smith
    June 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    For you Australian readers, I have used "Orange Power Orange Power Sticky Spot & Goo Remover" to great effect – see here my blog. Also, all my photo transfers have been made using images printed on my laser printer. I have to burnish quite forcefully, kind of scraping with the spoon, but it works beautifully and is so much more satisfactory than any other photo transfer technique that I have ever used.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm


  • Reply
    April 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    toner – yes!
    some laser printers work… many of the new ones don't. You just need to test a copy from the machine to see.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    re: type of photo copy – so is a toner copy the best kind to use? (since you said laser and inkjet don't work, that's the only other kind that comes to mind)


  • Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I've had students use color copies – often it works. Gotta just experiment to see. You get some fun color shifts sometimes.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! Can color images be used as well?

  • Reply
    Diana Trout {Nan.DT@verizon.net}
    March 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Ohhhh. I've always wanted to try this. Great tutorial! I love that whimsical birdies piece!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    It will fade if you wash it but not entirely away. It hasn't ever run when I've washed it.

    I don't use the technique on the utility (but still artfully made) quilts that get use and washed.

    My suspicion is that different toners from different copy machines will behave in different manners.

    you make me laugh. Mostly because my first thought was "huh?" I'm dim.

  • Reply
    Deborah C. Stearns
    February 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! Is the transferred image washable, or will the ink run or fade dramatically when washed?

  • Reply
    Jane LaFazio
    February 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Is that a cotton ball of citrasolv in your bra, or is it cold outside?

  • Reply
    February 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I think it is just the technique I need for a project that is currently still in my head!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Congratulations on being featured on the artists' page! I love using Citrasolv for transferring images. It works beautifully!

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