What is the Difference between Light and Dark Transfer Paper

(Or, When was the last time you changed the white ink cartridge in your printer?)*

Inkjet transfer paper is used to transfer images or text onto a wide range of suitable fabrics. Often used on t-shirts, it is commonly referred to as t-shirt paper. The product is available for light or dark fabrics and so it is not always clear whether your fabric falls under the dark or light categories and which one will suit your project better.

The Difference Between The Two

(or Is my garment light coloured or dark colour)

Ink relies on a white background to be visible and produce accurate colour reproduction.  If you replace the white background with something dark, ink becomes translucent and on black backgrounds, it is totally invisible.

So if you are going to print a white t shirt you clearly require the light transfer paper.

If the colour of the shirt is other than white, but not too dark (pink, yellow, light blue etc) the light transfer paper can still be used with some images.  Black text and dark graphics will still work well.  If however the image is also light in colour and contains pastel coloured images, the colour of the shirt will start mixing with the colour of the image producing results different than what appears on the paper.

The decision of which paper to use on garments other than white lies in the combination of the colour of the shirt and the colour of the image.  In general terms, a dark image works on light coloured shirts but a light image will only work well on white.

When using coloured garments, in order to guarantee the image appearing on the garment exactly in the same colours as appears on the paper, you need to use the dark transfer paper when printing dark garments.

It works by transferring the white background together with the image.  When transferring an image printed on the dark transfer paper, the image on the garment will look EXACTLY as it appears on the paper, INCLUDING all the white edges and spaces in between the image.  As a result of this, images which are suitable for use with the dark transfer paper on dark garments are limited by design and should be either block images or ones that can be cut around to remove the unnecessary white areas.

You could also design an image with a solid background or try to match the background of the image with the colour of the shirt to solve the limitation of the dark transfer paper.

Both papers can be printed on an ordinary inkjet printer with ordinary inks.  They are transferred with the aid of a domestic Iron or heat press and will work on a wide variety of substrates and garments.  The packs contain all you need to achieve great results

*And yes, you were right.  There is no white ink in the printer, hence the two different transfer papers.

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104 Responses to What is the Difference between Light and Dark Transfer Paper

  1. M.R.Nagar says:

    Thanks for sharing invaluable tips.

  2. Bilal says:

    Hi i was wondering what if the fabric is like a very soft fabric will it get all wrinkly and creased up if the iron gets too hot

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      The fabric must respond well to the ironing process. Look at the label at the back for specific restrictions on washing and ironing. Thank you.

      • Anita Wright says:

        what’s best to use on hot pink t shirt ?

        • Jaxx says:

          Unless you just want a black image, use dark transfer paper, otherwise the colours in the image will be either invisible or almost invisible.. Especially white, that will show up as transparent, or in your shirts case, hot pink..
          But if you just want to print black onto it, black will show up on hot pink without problems using light transfer paper.. But if there are other colours in your image, use dark transfer paper.. :)

          • Joseph Eitan says:

            Hi,

            Not something we’ve come across ever with our transfer paper but I suppose if you press hard and give lateral pressure it might spread the transfer a little. Thank you for the comment.

  3. joseph says:

    hi! how about if i use the dark transfer paper on a white tshirt?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, That is possible., though dark transfer is slightly dearer in price. I would recommend using the light transfer on light fabrics. Thank you.

  4. scarlet says:

    Thank you for making this so clear. Much appreciated!

  5. Marcus says:

    Hello! can i print a white image on a dark blue shirt? if yes do i use the dark transsfer paper or what do i do? thanks for your help!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      What can be done, though not perfect solution, is to create an image with white print and a colour background with the exact colour of the shirt. As the transfer is an opaque white sheet, the letters will remain white and will be on a coloured background sheet which has the shirt colour. It is better to trim the image as much as possible as after all the the transfer is of a different structure than the shirt

  6. Jaxx says:

    You forgot to mention that when ironing on dark transfer paper onto dark fabrics to be careful when ironing the edges if they aren’t a solid white, because the paper is thicker than light transfer paper, and also thicker, when you melt it to the fabric, some of the white underneath the ink can bleed out and leave an unwanted white line.. I know from experience..
    Maybe I ironed outwards over the edges, maybe that’s why I had this problem, next time I’ll try ironing inwards over the edges and see what happens.. 😀

  7. JKT Designs says:

    Hi,

    I was wondering, if I had a red shirt and only needed to print a black ink logo onto it, what transfer paper would I use? Remember it’s just black lettering and small logo on a regular red color shirt.

    Thank you!!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      In general terms, when using a light transfer paper on coloured garments, the image needs to be SIGNIFICANTLY darker than the background onto which it is printed. Consequently, depending on the shade of red, a black logo can be printed using the light transfer paper. You will need to trim AS MUCH of the unprinted transfer as possible, (getting down to 2 – 3mm of film around the image, otherwise the unprinted areas of the transfer will be visible.

  8. Dee says:

    Hi. If I were to iron on a white logo onto a black t shirt, can I still use the light transfer paper to avoid unwanted background of the transfer paper sheet? What is the best way to apply a white logo on a black shirt that shows just the logo, and not the background. Thanks.

  9. Joseph Eitan says:

    If you use light transfer paper on dark background, nothing will be visible. The light transfer paper unprinted is almost totally see through.

    If you want to transfer a white logo onto a dark garment, you need to print the logo in outline onto the dark transfer paper and then cut out ALL areas which are not required to be visible. You can ten press the unprinted area on the garment and it will remain visible.

  10. Kaila says:

    Hi so I make bows and I just bought transfer paper but it was for dark fabrics and it has a black white lining under it and I need that to be clear so it is easy to cut out.. Which one should I use light or dark?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      Depending on the colour of the bows. If the bows are white or very light in colour, you can use light transfer paper. If the bows are dark, you can only use Dark transfer paper. The dark transfer paper will transfer the white background so your image needs to be compatible with that or one that all the white areas which are not require, can be easily weaded out. I hope this helps.

  11. Rebecca H says:

    Hi! So I have a red crew neck sweatshirt and I want to put white and black letters on it. How do I go about this?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, the dark transfer is better as long as ALL THE NON REQUIRED WHITE AREAS CAN BE TRIMMED AWAY as they will be visible on the shirt once printed.

  12. Sara says:

    Hi,

    I have light-ish green t-shirts and only light transfer paper. Is there any way to make any image show up on the green t-shirt with this paper or am I doomed?

    Thank you for writing the article :-)

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      The rule is that the image needs to be darker than the background. dark black text for example will work on the light green shirt but if the image is pinks or yellows for example, it will not.

      • Sara says:

        Thank you for your reply! I will experiment tonight, I am hoping that if I make the picture black and white it will look okay (i.e. the white will turn to green right?)
        I am trying to make t-shirts for an elections campaign so budget is tight. Thank you for all your help :-)

  13. Terrie McCreary says:

    I have a OKI 711wt I’m having problems with the dark transfer. When I press on my designs and let cool. When its time to pill the transfer paper off the white comes off on the shirt I have the laser dark no cut transfer paper. I’m not sure if something on my settings might need to be changed.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, Sorry we only carry the Inkjet dark paper, I am not familiar with the laser dark no cut transfer paper.

  14. Nicky says:

    Hi,
    I have a pink top, not too dark not too light, and I want to print a yin yang symbol on it which is black and white. Which transfer paper should I use for this seeing as my design is neither light or dark but both?
    Thanks.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      You must you use the dark transfer paper if you want the white areas of the image to be white. On a pink background, you can get away with printing a black image BUT!! What is white on the image will turn pink. When using a dark transfer paper, you must be aware that ALL the visible white areas on the paper, will also be visible on the shirt once you transfer and any non require white bits will have to be trimmed away. Thank you for the comment.

  15. Zara says:

    Hi,

    I just tried transferring a black image onto a maroon fabric using the inkjet transfer for dark fabrics. But the image came out completely white. Instead of black on maroon, its white on maroon now. Am I using the wrong transfer paper?

    Printer used – Epson Stylus SX610FW

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, Sounds like a problem in the process. I think you put the image face down on the garment instead of peeling it away, placing it FACE UP, then covering with Silicon and ironing. I hope this helps.

  16. Melanie says:

    Hi, I was looking to print black text onto a pink t shirt. If I cut out the strip of text as a rectangle and use light transfer paper, will the unprinted area around the text be noticeable? Will there be sort of a clearish rectangle around the text? Thanks!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, The unused areas will appear white (which is the colour of the paper). My suggestion is to trim as much as you can ,leaving minimal unprinted areas. I hope this helps.

  17. Kelly says:

    Hi, I have used sublimation ink – it seems to have worked OK – would this normally be recommended on transfer paper? Is there any reason why I should not use it?
    Thanks.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Inkjet transfer paper does not work with sublimation ink. The transfer method in the transfer paper is a film that holds the ink on the garment whereas sublimation ink is a reactive process that requires a Polyester content in the substrate in order for the transfer process to occur. Therefore we cannot recommend it.

  18. Sophia says:

    So technically, the dark transfer paper is the universal one that can go on either light or dark fabric?

  19. Sophia says:

    I have a light grey sweatshirt and my image has a grey saturation. Can i still use the light transfer paper (because it is cheaper) or is it still best to use a dark one?
    I also have another image that is really colorful, but can I still use a light transfer paper because I am using a light grey fabric?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, You can use light transfer paper on grey shirts ONLY IF THE IMAGE IS SIGNIFICANTLY darker than the background (Shirt). If your image is grey then you cannot print in on a grey shirt using the light transfer paper. Please be aware that when using the dark transfer paper, ALL VISIBLE WHITE areas on the transfer will be visible on the shirt unless trimmed away. I hope this helps.

  20. Ron says:

    Happy Easter- I purchased a mix package of JooLees Image paper from Michael’s. The package has LIGHT FABRIC paper and DARK…..neither is marked.
    Simple question….how can you tell the difference? Please help me with this dilemma…..thank you!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Ron,

      You’ll need to ask the good people at michaels. Normally, the back of the paper (where you see little squares) has one colour for light and a different colour for dark. Maybe the instructions you receive will help distinguish the two. I hope this helps.

  21. Lauren says:

    Hi,

    If I want to transfer this image onto a light grey fabric, which paper is best to use? I don’t want white marks all around the image

    http://images.wikia.com/assassinscreed/images/archive/8/8e/20110509151451!Ezio.jpg

    Thanks

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      The problem with this image that it contains a lot of grey colour which will be lost when printing on the grey. The white sleeves of the image will also not be visible. All the other colours will work. If you use the Dark transfer paper, ALL the white areas around the image which are not required, will have to be cut out. A bit of a job but possible as apart from the hands, everything else is easy. The sillouhette at the base of the image is a problem on both papers as it is difficult to know where to cut it using the dark paper but will be totally invisible when using the light. Thank you for the comment.

  22. Tiffany says:

    Hello.. I have friends that race and i want to transfer checkered flags onto a black t shirt but i dont want the white around it. so i found a picture of the checkered flags on a black background. My question is can i print the flags on the black background onto the light transfer paper or do i need to use dark transfer paper?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, If you are printing on a dark background, you cannot use light transfer paper and only the dark transfer paper will work. You will need to trim off ALL white areas which you do not want to appear on the image when using the dark transfer paper.

  23. Anastasia Dinda says:

    It was my first time using transfer paper, and after ironing it the image became a bit wrinkly. Can anyone explain to me why this happened?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      To try and help, we need to know was it the light or dark transfer paper? and what surface was the transfer done on and what is the fabric makeup (Cotton, polycotton etc)

      • Anastasia Dinda says:

        Thank you for replying,
        I used dark transfer paper, used an ironing board as the surface for the transfer, and the fabric was made of cotton.

        • Joseph Eitan says:

          Hi,

          Ironing board should never be used in the process. In order for this product to work it requires maximum HEAT and PRESSURE to be applied directly to the transfer. When using an Ironing board, the mesh under the fabric covers acts as a heat dissipater, reducing the heat applied to the transfer. Furthermore, an Ironing board is springy and not as solid as a worktop or table top. Both these issues will cause a problem during the process.

          You MUST use a solid working surface such as a table top, work counter or cutting board, lined with an old t shirt or pillow case, as per the detailed instructions that were supplied with the items. I hope this helps.

  24. Allie says:

    Hi, I am printing red writing and a photo on to a black tshirt, but because it is hard to cut around writing would it work if I changed the background colour to black and then printed it on to the paper?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Allie, making the background roughly the same colour of the shirt will work with this paper. Thank you.

  25. Jill says:

    I have a logo with white in it. I want to print the logo onto darker colored tshirts and I want the white in the logo to show on the dark colored tshirts. Will I get this result using the dark tshirt transfer?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Jill,

      You’ll need the dark transfer paper. You might find this video helpful on the differences between dark or light transfer paper. Thank you for the comment.

  26. Anurag says:

    Is there any different PRINTING technology using that I can trim off ALL white areas which you do not want to appear on the image when using the dark transfer paper.

    I am tired enough to find any answer for this. HOW TO GET RID OFF with this unwanted WHITE? cutting using the blade cutter is not fast as well as fine way (If I cut digit 8, 2, or 3 etc) to adopt to do do.

    Please suggest me! Customers are demanding ONLY to print the DIGITS over the T-shirt on DARK stuff.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, there is no technology for inkjet printers the self weeds the image, leaving only the ink on the shirt. In order to achieve this, you need to use laser transfer paper of certain types. We do not deal in this technology so I am unable to offer any specific solutions. Thank you.

  27. Tina says:

    If you want to have a image with a black background color on it, do you need to use the light transfer or dark transfer paper?

  28. shah says:

    hi there, is there a way to remove the white background of the transfer paper as it leaves an unwanted texture on the t shirt.
    thanks

  29. Brian says:

    Hi, I want to print the following image on a light or medium gray t-shirt…

    http://i484.photobucket.com/albums/rr207/forensiccheek/blog_shirt_front1.jpg

    I have already taken the image and mirrored it so the text prints in the right direction. I also made the background transparent in a photo editing program and saved it as a .png (verified that pasting the image on a page with a dark background allows the color to show through). I want the white in the image to be transparent so the color of the shirt shows, leaving only the black text and the black silhouette.

    Am I correct that I can use light transfer paper for this, as the only color in the image is pitch black, and I want the color of the shirt to come through the areas that would otherwise be white? I assume this should work with light transfer paper on all but the darkest shirts, correct?

    Thanks,
    Brian

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, You can use light transfer paper on garments which are significantly lighter than the image – this will work on grey shirts. I do however recommend that you trim AS MUCH of the unprinted areas as you reasonably can as the clear film will be slightly visible on the shirt and the less of it left behind, the better the overall result will be. Thank you.

  30. Atiq says:

    Hi,

    I need to print pink text onto a black t-shirt. Do I use a light or dark transfer paper? Also, if i wanted to print a black image on a slightly larger white background, again, light or dark please?

    thanks

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, to transfer onto a dark / black t-shirt always use the dark transfer paper. Black image on white background is going to prove tricky because domestic Inkjet printers haven’t white ink. Can we see the image?

  31. Kristine says:

    Hey :) I’ve got a bottle green shirt, and I am hoping to use the dark transfer paper to print my design. However, there is already some print on the shirt (of the professional type), and I was wondering if overlapping the prints would work, or if the transfer just wouldn’t stick to the shirt, as it wouldn’t be able to ‘melt into’ the fabric?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, you can only transfer onto the non used areas, otherwise there’s nowhere for the design to transfer to. Thanks for the comment.

  32. Penny says:

    Hi
    I know which paper to use on shirts. Problem is I have lots of both types of transfer paper. But I cannot tell which one is the dark and which one is the light paper. One has a blue line down the back and the other has a red and blue line down the back.
    Thanks Penny

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Penny, we should be able to tell you. Were these purchased from Photo Paper Direct? I ask because different brands use different colours. Best if you email sales@photopaperdirect.com with your order number(s) or username on site so we can check for you. If you haven’t purchased from us, let me know, we’ll try and help you in another way.

  33. dedena says:

    Should i use dark or white transfer paper if i am printing a saturated green/white/brown/ black
    Image on a light grey sweatshirt?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, I am inclined to suggest the dark, but if you have an image of the design and the t-shirt I can reconfirm this recommendation. Thank you.

  34. Kellee Hart says:

    I am just starting out and I’m using a Epson Stylus Pro 7880,printer and I would like to be able to use the same transfer paper for light and dark garments, what do you reccomend?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, I recommend the dark. The dark transfer can be used on both light or dark fabrics, but the light transfer can be used only on light fabrics.
      Thanks.

  35. Daniel Cramer says:

    I really want to make a Twitch.TV themed purple hoodie. I will use the logo from the website. The logo will be white on a darkish purple hoodie. I would think I would need dark transfer paper, so please just respond letting me know which I would need.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Daniel, because of the colour shirt been dark’ish you should use the dark transfer paper. Note, your printer hasn’t white ink, but the dark transfer paper is actually white. The white areas in the image might appear slightly plastic because the white is the transfer paper white material, not ink colour white. I hope this makes sense.

  36. Henry says:

    Hi, I want to print an inscription on a dark shirt and I want it to appear as white writing, but the font for the inscription is an italics corsives. How would it appear on the black t.shirt since I can’t cut through all the curves lines in the font?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      This is extremely difficult/impossible to do with inkjet. If you use the dark transfer paper and print the text in outline, you will need to cut away all white areas which are not required on the shirt. Depending on your artwork this could be possible but not in intricate italic font.

      You could create a black box as a background to the text but that black box will be visible on the shirt as it will not be the exact shade of black. The dark transfer is really designed for transfer of block images where the excess white areas can easily be removed.

  37. Cindy Dee says:

    A friend of mine used the wrong transfer paper (light instead of dark) and wants to know if there is an easy way to remove the white square around her design, or is she going to have to scrap the shirt. Thanks for any advice you can give.

  38. sommer says:

    Hello! Im making stocking for my kids this year to save some money! I bought dark transfer sheets, but then bought a light green stocking. Is this going to be okay?!?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, If you trim around the unprinted areas, you can get away with it. Dark transfer can be used on light fabrics, the other isn’t true, so you are in luck.

  39. Dylan Harris says:

    Say I’m using a dark transfer sheet and have black letters that i want to put on a light grey sweatshirt then I go to iron it on the sweatshirt will the white from the transfer sheet be on the sweatshirt or does itshow up at all.
    Thanks

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      When using the dark transfer paper, ALL the white areas which are visible on the paper before transferring onto the shirt. If you do not want the white to be visible, it all needs to be cut away.

      Bear in mind that if your shirt is a light gray and the image is black, you can also use the light transfer paper. If you do that, it would be good practice to cut away as much of the unprinted areas of the transfer leaving a small margin around the image. The more you cut, the better the image will look.

  40. Nicole says:

    My shirt is black, my image has black, red and white designs. I use the dark transfer sheet correct? Do I have to cut around the design, or letters? I also want to print a picture, light in color onto a dark colored shirt, do I need to do additional cutting?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, with the dark transfer paper, what you see in the print is precisely what will appear on the t-shirt. So, any areas that you don’t what transferred, like unprinted areas, should be cut. I hope this helps.

  41. nicole shaye dichoso says:

    hi just wanted to ask which is better or works on both dark and light colored shirt, the light transfer paper or the dark transfer paper?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      The dark transfer is suitable for both dark and light fabrics. On the other hand, the light transfer is suitable ONLY with light fabrics.

  42. Ana says:

    Hello!
    I bought light transfer paper because I couldn’t find dark transfer paper and I wanted to use it on darker fabrics… I know it’s not the right transfer paper to do that, but if the images I print are bright (red, blue, etc), will it work? Thank you!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, Without the white background, images printed on the light transfer paper are translucent and will not show on dark backgrounds. You could get away from printing very dark colours on very light coloured backgrounds, but if your t shirt is dark, all the colours are going to be near invisible.

  43. Melissa says:

    Hello.. If I accidentally already ironed a light transfer onto a pale blue garment, not knowing it wouldn’t look great, could I iron a dark colored transfer of the same image over top? Would it stick? Or am I screwed?

  44. Eric says:

    I work in an I.T. department for a school and I have a teacher who started doing this as a class project, bought both light and dark paper followed the instructions but the printer (hp enterprise m-750) will print fine on the dark paper but prints no image on the light paper. we use the same tray and as far as I can tell the proper settings for each and only load 1 at a time for test purposes. Do you know if this is a problem inherent to this printer or maybe the brand of paper?
    -Thank you for the articles and information Mr. Eitan.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Eric,

      If you print both paper as Normal Paper and normal resolution then both should print. The printer cannot tell what paper you are feeding. I think you might be setting the printer to Transfer paper when printing the red grids (trying to mirror the image) and if it does not actually print, there might be an issue with the driver. Try mirroring the image in the software and set the printer to normal paper. It will print then.

      • Eric says:

        Thank you for your quick response Mr. Eitan. I talked to the teacher and she had no idea what the red grids meant (nor do I for that matter I’ll do some research) but that printer according to her doesn’t have transfer paper as an option so she tried both labels and normal paper. the normal paper printed on the dark but not the light. I’ll look into the driver because I believe that’s where the issue is due to some new found information. as soon as she reorders some light paper if you want I’ll let you know the outcome.
        Thank you again!

  45. Emily says:

    Hello,
    So without knowing that there are different types of transfer sheets, I ironed my design on a black shirt using a light transfer sheet. The design is barely visible, can I iron on the same design again using the correct dark transfer sheet? I want to use the same shirt, any suggestions?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      It is technically possible to iron the black paper onto the transfer made with the light transfer paper, but the image will be significantly stiffer and harder that would have been had the dark transfer paper was used directly onto the garment.

  46. kisha says:

    Hi if I’m using the Dark transfer do I mirror the image?

  47. me says:

    I want to print white letters on a light pink shirt. What transfer paper do i use?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, printing white on Inkjet isn’t possible as Inkjet hasn’t white ink. Light pink will suit the light transfer or dark transfer, dark being the better option of the two. Thanks for the comment.

  48. Suzia Bolman says:

    If I want to print on a stripy fabric (black&white) a black background pict with white letters which transfer paper shall i use?
    M thks

  49. Julia says:

    We have noticed that the process for light and dark paper is very different. You iron the light image down and the dark image up. With the light the image is under the paper when finished and with the dark it is ontop of the paper – makes a big difference. The dark has provided better colour transfer even on white fabric.

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