How to print on transfer paper for t-shirts?Learn from this step-by-step guide

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
January 19, 2024

Transfer paper is usually referred to as t-shirt paper because it’s mostly used to transfer letter, numbers, images (or a combination of these) onto fabrics.

The application of transfer paper is, however, not limited to t-shirts only. You can use it to transfer your desired images on other fabrics such as cotton bags, aprons, tablecloths, pillowcases, and even on hard surfaces like wood.

If you’ve never used a transfer paper before, you can learn to do that in minutes. Follow our handy guide below that explains how you should print your image on a transfer paper correctly.

In this guide, I’m assuming you’ve already created the artwork you wish to print on your transfer paper. So, I'll jump straight into how to prepare the image and print it on the transfer sheet.

Should You Use a Specific Printer Ink For Your T-Shirt Transfer Paper?

For many beginners, they’re often confused on the suitable ink to use with their t-shirt transfer papers. Unknown to them, this concern is unfounded as any ink can work just fine. The top secret to a successful transfer process lies in the paper you’re using, and not the ink.

So, there is no suitable ink for transfer paper as long as you’re using an inkjet printer.

The Different Types of Transfer Paper:

There are two main variations of Transfer papers, namely the light and dark papers. It’s crucial that you pick the correct paper, depending on the color of the substrate you wish to print on.

As a general rule, images printed on the light transfer paper tend to provide a vibrant and more accurate image when used on white and other light colored fabrics. The ink is translucent and not visible unless you lay it on white or extremely light colored backgrounds.

Dark fabrics, on the other hand, require the dark transfer paper. In such a paper, a white background is transferred with the ink and actually blocks out the color of your fabric from coming through the ink.

Subsequently, the images tend to act as block pictures or images the white area can cut away since they will appear on your shirt when the transfer process is complete.

How To Use The Transfer Paper:

So your artwork is ready. You've got a functional inkjet printer,  and you’ve got the right transfer paper for the job. What’s next?

Printing the image on the paper should be the next step.

Reverse Your Artwork First!

You should start by mirroring or reversing your image (in cases it contains numbers or text). Most people tend to forget this step, and you can guess what happens to the end product they print. You’ll need to reverse your image and then print it in mirror mode.

The image will be placed facing down on your garment, and when heat transfer pressed, it will appear the correct way. In case you’re using the dark transfer paper, you should place your image facing up on your shirt before transferring it. This way, there will be no need to reverse your image.

The reversal process is pretty simple and can be achieved directly from your printer’s settings or by employing a simple image editing software.

Printing On Your Transfer Paper

You want to be 100 sure that your image is ready for printing and will appear the way you want it to when printed on the shirt. So, make sure you print a sample of the image on a standard piece of paper before you print it on your transfer paper.

This enables you to see if the entire image will be printed or your printer will cut out some sections. It also helps you see if the image will appear on the paper in the same way it does on the desktop.

When you’re fully satisfied with your image, go ahead and print it on the correct side of your transfer. This part is usually marked, but in case you don’t see any marks, make sure you print on the coated side.

Once you’ve successfully printed the image, you can now transfer it to your garment using a heat press t-shirt printing machine.

Important Note: Remember to place the transfer paper (with the image) facing down your garment so that the final product appears as expected. Also, remember to position your paper correctly to ensure you transfer the image to the correct part of your shirt.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Using Transfer Paper:

  • Don’t forget to reverse the image before printing it on your transfer paper
  • Make sure you print on the correct side of the transfer paper (that is, the coated side)
  • Make sure you buy the correct paper, depending on the color of your fabric
  • Run a test print before you actually print on a transfer paper so that you can note and fix any issues with your artwork.

Final Thoughts on How to Print on Transfer Paper

While learning how to print on heat transfer paper is technically easy, it can be an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s often in the seemingly simple things, that some people find themselves so baffled.

Learning how to print on transfer paper can open a world of possibilities for you. It’s worth the time and effort (and maybe some sacrificial shirts and heat transfer paper) it would take to acquire this skill. Besides having the freedom to customize the graphic design on your shirts or any clothing material you may have, printing on t-shirt transfer paper will make the process easier for you.

Of course, you can learn how to print on a t-shirt without transfer paper, but the accuracy of printed transfers should be more than enough to convince you that this is a more efficient way of printing custom designs.

One thing we have to let you know is an Ink-jet printer is preferred for this type of work, so you better set your laser printer aside for now.

The guide above walks you through the basics of a transfer and how you can successfully print your image on the right kind of paper. We really think that it is a very simple-to-follow guide on how to print on t-shirt transfer paper that everybody should try it out, especially the beginners.

If you follow this guide, you’ll have an easy time transferring all your artwork to your transfer paper and preparing it for printing.

Bookmark this post now and visit again and again before you start your project to ensure you follow all the necessary aspects.

Read related article: How To Use Heat Press Machine- Step By Step Guide