How To Use Iron On Transfer Paper The Ultimate Guide

Iron On Transfer Paper is commonly referred to as ‘T-shirt paper’ because it is often used to transfer images, text or a combination onto fabrics. Applications however are not limited to T-shirts and the paper can be used on aprons, cotton bags, pillowcases, tablecloths and even on hard surfaces such as wood.

If you are looking for information on how to use iron on transfer paper we have put together this handy guide that summarizes some of the information on the subject.

Suitable printer inks

First time users are often unsure if their home (or business) Inkjet printer has suitable inks to allow the paper to work. This concern is unfounded, as normal inks will work just fine. The secret to the transfer process lies in the paper rather than the ink so there is no preference as to which printer or which ink you use as long as you are using an Inkjet printer.

The difference between light and dark transfer paper

It is vital that you choose the right paper for the colour of the substrate you are printing on. In general terms, images printed image on Light Transfer Paper will provide a vibrant and accurate image on white and light coloured fabric. Ink is translucent and is not visible unless it is laid on a white or very light coloured background.

Dark fabrics require the Dark Transfer Paper which a white background that is transferred with the ink and blocks out the colour of the substrate from coming through the ink. Subsequently, suitable images tend to be block images or images that the white areas can be easily cut away as they will appear on the shirt once the transfer process is complete. Here’s more on the difference between light and dark transfer paper.

Reversing the image prior to printing

A common mistake (and an expensive one due to the cost of the paper) is not  reversing the image prior to the transfer process where necessary. When using light transfer paper you must reverse the image and print it in mirror mode.  The image is placed face down on the garment and when the transfer process is complete, it will appear the right way round.

When using dark transfer paper, the image is placed face up on the shirt before transferring and as such, there is no need to reverse the image. Neglecting this stage will cause the images to appear the wrong way around. Reversing an image is a simple process that can be achieved directly from the printers’ own settings menu or using a simple image editing software. We have covered before a number of means to reverse the image using a number of tools.

If you are unsure whether your attempt was successful, print your project on a normal printer paper before printing on the more expensive one.

Washing the garment

Durability of the transfer will depend on how well the actual transfer process was done and how well you do to maintain and wash the garment based on some simple instructions.

When washing we recommend that you turn the garment inside out so the image or text do not rub against the machine or other garments. Next you should select a 40 degree wash with a full spin cycle. Most fabrics can exceed 15 washes and an average seems to stand on 20 washes. It is important to note that washing detergents that contain bleach will cause the image to fade prematurely.

Avoid common mistakes

Mistakes when using iron on transfer paper are frustrating and can be expensive. The most common mistakes to avoid are:

– Forgetting about reversing the image
– Printing on the non coated side of the sheet
– Ironing the image or text on an uneven or not solid surface  (use a table or worktop).
– Using an iron which is not hot enough
– Not ironing long enough
– Not applying enough pressure while ironing

There are a couple of more common mistakes however those above are the main culprits.

How to use the paper

No “how to…” guide is complete without a step-by-step video tutorial. The clips below will walk you through the entire process. Bookmark this page and come back to it again prior to starting your project to ensure you have covered all the various aspects.

Light Transfer Paper Step-By-Step:

Dark Transfer Paper Step-By-Step:

Budget Transfer Paper Step-By-Step:

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51 Responses to How To Use Iron On Transfer Paper The Ultimate Guide

  1. Nathan says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the information and the videos, they’re extremely helpful. I just like to be sure before I purchase anything, when applying designs on light garments using the light paper, will the background of the paper not be visible at all, not even in the slightest? I understand that dark paper will reveal the white background.

    Thank you.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      We recommend that you trim as much of the unprinted areas as you can. The remaining transfer paper film should not be visible on light fabrics, but if you look close enough you might see it.

  2. Helen R Scotland says:

    Hi, I used the transfer paper twice. One of my images was perfect but the other one was wrinkly when I checked it in the morning.. (It was really funny as the image was of a rock chick) Did I iron the second one too long?

  3. Denise Fletcher says:

    Can you tell me if these paper would work if you ironed them onto card or paper for Greeting cards?

  4. Vanessa says:

    Yes, I have a solid white image with little black details on it (not as an outline of the image), and wish to transfer that image onto a black shirt: What transfer paper would I use and how should the image be printed on the paper? What method would you recommend for me to do to accomplish my goal?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      The only paper that you can use when printing on black shirts is the Dark Transfer Paper. This product has a white background and ALL white areas visible on the paper before transferring onto the garment, will also be visible on the shirts. You will have to cut away all the white you do not want visible. Printing a black image on a black shirt however, will make the image invisible….

  5. Dayle says:

    I have a light pink shirt and I plan to print words with a doe next to it (all in white). Is it possible? I read somewhere that you can’t print out a white image using transfer paper.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      There is no white ink in your printer so you cannot put down a white image on a paper.

      Using the light transfer paper on a pink shirt is possible if the image is SIGNIFICANTLY darker than the background onto which you are transferring. Hence, a black image will work on pink but if your image contains white, the white will become pink.

      Dark transfer paper has a built in white background. When using this product, ALL the white areas visible on the transfer (including all the borders and edges) will also be visible on the garment unless you are able to cut it out. If your image contains white and is suitable for such trimming, you can use the dark transfer paper.

  6. Tracy says:

    I’ve purchased transfer paper for light coloured fabric, however I’ve got a black tshirt. If I cut all around the image & writing will that work?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      If you use light transfer paper on a black shirt, the image will be totally invisible. There is no white ink in your printer and without a white background, ink is translucent and will not show on a dark background

  7. Claire says:

    Hi, I have recently used the dark transfer paper to print images onto cotton bags. It has worked but a few days afterwards it seems to be peeling off slightly and not stuck down properly at some edges. Is this happening because the iron wasn’t hot enough, or is there another reason for this? Thanks.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Not enough heat OR pressure are the two common causes why you’d see this result. Make sure the iron is sufficient and apply as much pressure as you can.

  8. Vickey says:

    Is there any other way except with an ink jet printer? I only have a laser one.

  9. Rebecca Williams says:

    Hi, big problem here!! So we ordered 200 images on transfer paper for black fabric…. They printed it on the wrong paper ( light transfer paper) yes I know we need dark transfer paper but of course we need them done by tomorrow!! Could I press down the cut out dark transfer paper without an image on it, then over top of the white circle image press down the image on the light transfer paper??? Does that make sense? I hope you can answer this serious question for me and thank you so much!

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      This is unlikely to work as the printing face of the dark transfer is not really compatible with pressing on with another transfer. The light transfer paper requires fabric – something to latch on to – to work and the face of the dark transfer paper is not absorbent like this. Even if you do manage to adhere the image, I foresee a problem with the longevity of the image in the washing machine, it will probably wash off and bleed.

  10. Graham says:

    I have 25 red t-shirts and want to print the number ‘2’ on the back of each in white. I only want the number ‘2’ visible (football number style). If I were to use the dark fabric transfer paper and print a coloured text box with the number 2 being white, and then cut around the number 2 after printing, would this transfer as white?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Yes. If you print the number 2 in outline and cut it out, using the dark transfer paper, the number 2 will be visible.

  11. Emily McKenzie says:

    Can you remove a transfer from fabric if you have made a mistake?

  12. Doughlas says:

    Hi, I tried to transfer an image on a black T shirt using a dark transfer paper but the image could not appear. A white back round just stacked on the T shirt. Did I not applied heat enough or I place the paper wrongly on top of my T shirt.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      The dark transfer paper has to be printed normally, then trimmed to remove all the white areas which are not required. You then need to peel the image away from the backing paper and position it FACE UP on the garment, cover with silicon and iron. You place the image face down, following the instructions for the light transfer paper, which explains the results.

  13. alex1944alex says:

    Hi, do you sell transfer paper for laserjet printers? i tried looking on your site but i can’t find any…i may be looking too hard lol

  14. Laura says:

    Hi,
    would it be possible to use the transfer paper for light fabrics on a light denim jacket?

  15. Win says:

    I have just finished knitting a medium size jumper, can I transfer a photo on to it with the light paper many thanks Win.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      No. it needs to be a tight woven fabric such as a t shirt or a sweat shirt. In knitted fabrics, there are “holes” in the weave which means that the transfer has nothing to grip onto and this will result in poor adhesion and will not last more than one or two washes at best.

  16. Raj Kumar says:

    Can I use it on cycling jersey where material is described as 100% polyester?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, I suspect you are not permitted to iron over this jersey. Check the label on the back for any ironing restriction. If you are allowed to iron, the process should work. Thanks for the comment.

  17. William says:

    I’ve recently transferred an image with light transfer paper on to a t-shirt but it left a obvious outline on the tshirt where I had cut about a quarter inch away from the printed image and between the letters of the image where there was no ink. Is there a way to prevent this from happening?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, what colour is the t-shirt?

      • William says:

        I’ve done it on multiple colors. White, a light green and tan. Each tshirt has the outlined mark.

        • Joseph Eitan says:

          Depending on the background colour and the accuracy of the temperature of the iron or heat press used for the process, there will be some border visible where the paper has been trimmed. The extent to which it is visible is affected by the colour of the shirt and other parameters. Our transfer paper should leave a near invisible age on a white shirt but when printing on a coloured one, the result can only be seen once transferred so experimentation is required if you need to see what it will look like.

  18. Phoebe says:

    Hello,

    Would I be able to use transfer paper to put wordings on printed shirt? Something similar to a Hawaiian shirt but cotton material. Please let me know. I think it’s possible but I’m unsure.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, As long as they do not melt under a hot Iron, the process will work. Check the label on the back of the shirt for any ironing restrictions.

  19. Jill says:

    In your opinion, is it possible to put an iron on transfer onto a fabric box? I’m trying to figure out a way to number fabric boxes for my classroom that my students can’t easily peel off!

    Thanks.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Jill,

      It should be possible as long as you can iron over the fabric box without damaging it. I hope this helps.

  20. Ameshia says:

    Hi,
    Me and my husband is new to the iron transfer. We are running to when we print that the black is coming out very dingy as if someone has worn a million times and washed a million 3 times. It’s rather annoying. Could it be my printer or paper?

    Thank you.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, it sounds as if you are using the light transfer paper on dark fabric. Dark fabric require the dark transfer paper. I hope this helps.

  21. Rasmus says:

    Hi Joseph, i’m at somewhere where they have a printer and transfer paper, is it possible for me to print on to the paper there, and then apply it the day to my own clothing when i get home the day after?

    thanks

  22. Debbie says:

    Can I transfer photos to delicate fabric like chiffon? Or satin?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      The fabric of choice can include a wide range of garments such as Cotton, Viscose, Polyester, Silk etc as long as they do not melt under a hot iron, the process will work. Check the label on the garment for any ironing restrictions.

  23. Michelle says:

    Hi!

    Can I pre-print my iron-ons and then do the ironing a different day? I’ve got a large number of items I’m doing and I want to do it in steps.

  24. Jess says:

    I need to print pink writing onto a pale blue tshirt, but the writing is coming out more purple…..how can i change this so its more pink please?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,
      I guess you’ve used the light transfer paper? you cannot do this with light transfer paper. You need the dark transfer paper in order to do this.

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