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Printing on Burlap - a Meh Review

Melissa Bastow

how to print on burlap

I was really excited about this project and had already planned multiple holiday burlap prints in my head, but then the whole thing came out kind of blech and now I'm not sure I'll be doing it again.  Here's what I did, so you can either repeat or avoid my mistakes.

I ran across these laminated burlap sheets while I was at Walmart one day (we live in a small Walmart-only town, so I'm not sure where else these would be available) and I couldn't wait to use them.  I was already planning on painting on some burlap for Halloween decor, so the idea of just printing it?!  Wowzers.

I created a printable to use, and took extra time to get my spiderwebs just right.  You can use my printable if you want, but you might want to finish reading the post before you decide to print on paper or burlap.  (Just right click the image below and select print or save to get the free printable.)

Halloween printable decor

The burlap went through my printer just fine.  I have a 5 year old canon printer that doesn't usually disappoint, so it handled the thickness and rough texture just fine.  Make sure when you're loading your burlap sheet that you will be printing on the rough side, since the smooth side is intended for stability.

After the excitement of no jams during printing I pulled out the finished burlap and realized that it wasn't so good.  The lighter colors didn't really show up at all, and the black smudged ALL OVER.  It was almost unreadable.  And when I touched it, I got black ink all over my hands and desk.

I needed to come up with a way to salvage the project so I decided to print the same thing on white cardstock and line the two up in the hopes that the contrast of white and color would be enough to show through the burlap.

The idea worked ok.  Not awesome though.  But at least this is a Halloween project since it's the ideal holiday for flaws and imperfection.  Maybe someone will even think I put all the black smudges all over on purpose to look more scary - but that might be pushing it.

Here are the things I think I will try differently if I do this again.

1- No light colors.  I guess this should have been obvious, right?  Chalk this one up to stupidity.

2. Less details.  I think that smaller things (like time consuming spider webs and lots of text) are not such a great idea.  But bigger images and blocks of color would come out better.

3. Less black.  I don't know if it was the black ink in particular that was smear happy, or if it would do this with any color?  It would be an experiment for sure.

4. Don't expect perfection.  I mean, it IS burlap after all - maybe set the bar low and be pleasantly surprised it worked so well, instead of the reverse. 

how to print on burlap


If you like the Halloween clipart used in this project you can get it in our shop!

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