How to make heat press transfers for t-shirts easily at home

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
February 9, 2024

Now it’s possible to add customer transfers to your garments (t-shirts, jackets aprons), tote bags or other craft items without necessarily hiring a printing company that requires high minimums and can only offer you one to two colors transfers.

You can easily decorate all your garnets with images you’ve designed on your own and printed from your desktop and get a unique new item. All you need is a transfer paper, transfer images, and the list of instructions provided below…

Step by step guide on how to make your heat press transfers:

1. Buy Transfers At Your Local Stores

The simplest way to make a transfer is by purchasing an already packaged transfer kit at your local crafts store, art store on the big box retailers. These kits usually come with everything you need to make your transfers- from image software, transfer paper and sometimes even a t-shirt!

You can opt to use these store kits or create your transfer image as explained in the following steps…

2. Creating Your Heat Press Transfer

Start by looking for or creating an image you’d like to use for your transfer. There are three ways of doing this- find a picture on the internet, create one using a software program, or just scan a picture into your computer.

If you go with the first option, make sure you've got the full rights to reuse the image.

When selecting an image, keep in mind that images containing dark colors tend to show up better on fabrics compared to those with light colors.

It’s also important to note that a simple at home printer does not print the color white- it assumes the paper you’re printing your image on is white, thus leaving the area blank. Meaning the fabric color will appear in any part of your image with color white (rather than the color itself).

If the image you chose has extremely light colored parts, they may look discolored and distorted after ironing the image into your fabric. So, be sure to go for images with dark, dense colors for the best results.

3. Edit The Image

You’ll need to manipulate some aspects of the image you’ve selected so that it suits your needs. With the aid of a basic image editing software, you can resize your image, change colors, add effects, and make other necessary corrections until the image looks right.

4. Mirror The Image

This step is necessary ONLY IF you have words or numbers on your transfer image. If you don’t mirror (or flip) the image containing words or numbers, they will be moved to the fabric in a backward manner.

Flipping an image is incredibly easy! Just use your image software and click on the “Flip Image Horizontally,” “Mirror,” or “Reverse” commands to mirror your image successfully.

5. Get The Correct Transfer Paper

Did you know that there are different variations of transfer papers? There are transfer sheets that should only be used for light colored clothes and sheets to be used for the dark colored fabrics.

By selecting the right transfer paper, you’ll get the best results from your transfer process.

i. Transfer Paper for Light Colored Fabric

Transfer papers for light fabrics are meant for fabrics with colors yellow, white, light gray and any other color that’s naturally light. This type of paper is transparent, meaning that all parts of your image containing color white will appear after heat pressing the image on your garment.

It's recommended that you use medium to dark colors when using this kind of paper to ensure that the image does not look distorted and discolored on your t-shirt.

You can also trim near the edges of your design to ensure the transparent areas of your paper surroundings do not appear on your fabric.

ii. Transfer Paper For Dark Colored Fabric

The paper is meant to be used on fabrics with colors: dark gray, black, dark blue and other naturally dark colors. Unlike the light colored fabrics above, these papers are thicker.

They’ve got a white backing that ensures any light colors on your image shows up distinctively on your darker fabric.

When using this type of paper, any background sections of your image will appear instead of translucent. This means that you’ll need to be careful when cutting around and inside your design elements (e.g. letters) to ensure the color of your garment shows through certain spots instead of the color white.

6. Print The Transfer

Now that you’ve successfully created a design that you wish to print on your t-shirt, the last step involves printing it on the transfer paper.

But before you can print this transfer, it’s important you test the image by printing it on regular paper to see if the image colors are what you expect them to look like when printed on your fabric. It will also help you see if your printer will print the entire image or it will cut off some sections.

NOTE: Sometimes the image may appear differently when printed than when on the computer.

When you’re satisfied with your image, go ahead and printing it on your transfer paper. Make sure you print it on the right side of the transfer sheet- the paper is clearly marked.

If you plan to print your design on a laser printer, note that you’ll need to use special transfer papers for laser printers.

Usually, an inkjet printer works best when printing the transfer image.

Enjoy the video to learn "How to make heat press transfer paper for shirts"...

Heat Transfer T Shirt Final Thoughts....

Now you have an idea who to create your heat press transfer how to edit it correctly to match your needs, and how to select the right type of transfer paper.

After you’ve successfully printed your heat transfer t shirt, the next step involves applying the image onto the garment with the help of your heat press machine.

If you follow all the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll end up with a design that transforms any ordinary, plain garment into an eye-catching piece of fabric!