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Iron-on transfer paper is a fantastic, affordable, and relatively simple method of transferring an image onto a fabric. You can use iron-on transfer paper with an at-home printer (inkjet is most commonly used). Simply print your image onto the iron-on transfer paper and press the image into your material—like a cotton T-shirt—to transfer the printed image using a heat press or an iron.
We reviewed, researched, and tested a bevy of the most lauded iron-on transfer papers and assessed them for ease of use, color vividness, resistance to cracking or fading. The Avery Printable DIY T-Shirt Transfers are a surefire choice for most skill levels and inkjet printers; plus, you’ll get access to the brand’s online design templates for free with purchase.
Here are the best iron-on transfer papers for designs that last.
Best Overall: Avery Printable DIY T-Shirt Transfers
This is among the most popular inkjet transfers—and for good reason. It delivers clear, crisp graphics and bright, true-to-life colors. The value is superb, too, considering the quality and the number of sheets included—a generous 12. This set works best with light-colored fabrics (think whites and heather grays).
A note to keep in mind: The instructions suggest 30 seconds for pressing; however, our tester found that a little bit more time delivers the best results. Ultimately, the value and quality of this product make it an excellent pick if you have an inkjet printer and a lot of projects you want to make. Avery also has its own design software that comes free with your purchase, so you can feel free to use any of its templates for your designs.
Best for Cricut: Silhouette Printable Heat Transfer Sheets for Dark Fabrics
The print-then-cut feature in Cricut Design Space allows for cutting out intricate images on all types of paper, including heat transfer paper. We love this one for its ease of use in how easily the Cricut fine point blade glides through the paper. Used with an inkjet printer and—if you have it—a heat press, you’ll be able to press finely-cut designs without any hint of white space or edges.
It’s worth noting that this pick is not technically “paper.” Rather, it’s vinyl that can be used with your printer, in the same way you’d use iron-on transfer paper. This heat transfer vinyl functions similarly to your traditional iron-on paper. However, it has a bit of a thicker feel to it and is designed specifically for use in die-cutters like the Silhouette and Cricut.
Best for T-shirts: Photo Paper Direct Premium Iron-On White and Light Color T-Shirt Transfer Papers
As the name suggests, this paper is designed specifically for use on T-shirts. You can expect crisp, clear image transfers on your T-shirts; simply print your design on an inkjet printer (make sure you print in reverse, i.e., mirror the image!) and press with a heat press or household iron.
This paper has a clear background, which is fantastic in terms of making the perimeter of an image look clean and less noticeable. (For the cleanest-looking results, try a die-cutting machine, which can cut images with optimal precision). Moreover, the image transfer is flexible and resistant to cracking or peeling. This paper pack comes with wonderfully detailed instructions—we advise you to follow them carefully for best results.
Best for Inkjet Printers: Jetpro Softstretch Heat Transfer Paper
While there are tons of inkjet-compatible heat transfer paper options, this one is among the best. It glides easily through most inkjet printers, and delivers some of the most vibrant colors of any heat transfer paper. It also holds up splendidly in the wash and is among the most fade-resistant of all the papers we’ve tried. It’s perfect for stretchier T-shirts, too, as it moves more flexibly than most and is resistant to cracking.
Approximately 35 seconds using medium pressure from an iron or heat press is all you need for a full image transfer; many users report that this stuff stretches the moment the image adheres—so feel free to pop on your new T-shirt as soon as it’s cooled down. (That said, as a general rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to give your new heat transfer creations some time to “set” and then wash them on a low setting, inside-out).
Best for Dark Colors: PrintWorks Dark T-Shirt Transfers for Inkjet Printers
Our tester found this option to be an excellent choice for dark fabrics in terms of value and versatility. The price is right (five sheets for $10, $2 per sheet), making it a great budget option that doesn’t significantly sacrifice on quality. For this reason, it’s an ideal pick if you’re planning on making a large batch of shirts—say, for an event—for numerous people. In addition to dark fabrics, this paper can also be used with light fabrics, making it a versatile option.
The images hold up well in the wash, too, which is a huge plus for heat transfer images. As a bonus, this paper set also comes with protective sheets to use between the shirt and your iron. This is one of those necessary steps that can halt your project if you realize you don’t have your protective sheets, so we appreciated the convenience of the included sheets in this paper pack.
Best for Laser Printers: Heat Transfer Paper Premium Red Line for Dark Fabric 25 Sheets 8.5 x 11
Heat transfer paper is typically made for inkjet printers, so it can be tough to find a standup heat transfer paper that’s compatible with laser printers. This one fits the bill. It has a premium, expensive-feeling finish that won’t rip, wrinkle, or tear during the transfer or printing processes. Best of all, it’s super versatile in terms of compatible fabric color: It can be used with dark and light fabric.
The laser printer is good for a range of materials, too, including cotton, polyester, and denser, coarser materials and items like tote bags. Each sheet is standard letter size (8.5 x 11 inches) and glides smoothly through any laser printer with minimal risk of jamming. The paper itself is flexible and easy to cut, making it a breeze for beginners to work with.
Best Versatile: NuFun Activities Inkjet Printable Iron-On Heat Transfer Paper, Light and Dark Combo Pack
Unsure whether you want to work with light fabric or dark fabric? As long as you have an inkjet printer, this pack of 50 iron-on sheets delivers the optionality to do either or both. This pack includes 25 sheets designed for light fabrics, and 25 sheets designed for dark fabrics. This set also comes with five sheets of parchment paper (necessary for transferring) and a detailed set of instructions. (Note: The instructions for the dark fabric differ from those for the light fabric, so be sure to identify the proper set of instructions for your project to avoid paper waste).
It’s also worth noting that this brand, NuFun, is one of the pioneers in transfer paper. The clear, vibrant, crack-proof results are a testament to the brand’s longtime experience in the space.
Our favorite pick, the Avery Printable DIY T-Shirt Transfers, is among the most popular inkjet transfers on the market. We appreciate that it prints clear, crisp images in bright colors–all at an incredible value. If you're handling darker fabrics, the Printworks Dark T-Shirt Transfers are ideal if you plan on making a large batch of shirts for a group of people.
What To Look for in an Iron-On Transfer Paper
It’s crucial to buy the right type of iron-on transfer paper for the type of printer you’ll be using. Most iron-on transfer paper sheets are made for use with inkjet printers. However, if you don’t have an inkjet printer and have a laser printer instead, look for laser-printer-compatible iron-on transfer paper. These are harder to come by than their inkjet counterparts, but they do exist!
Dark vs. Light Fabric
You’ll notice that iron-on transfer paper comes in one of two forms: light fabric and dark fabric (that said, there are a few iron-on transfer papers that work with both). If you’re planning to transfer a design onto a white T-shirt, you’ll want to look for a paper pack designed for white or light fabrics; same goes for dark fabrics (look for paper designed for dark fabrics). Iron-on transfer paper made for dark fabrics will have a white background, which allows the image to show up on a dark fabric.
For a clean, crisp look, it’s important to cut as closely to the edge of the image as possible to not have an unintentional white border or perimeter showing around your image. Iron-on transfer paper made for white or light fabrics is often transparent in nature in terms of the paper background itself. This allows the white of the fabric to show through and essentially “fill in” the gaps where white would be in the image. Since white or light fabric paper is often transparent, the image printed on the paper will not show up well on dark fabrics.
While iron-on transfer paper crafts are a fun and relatively easy hobby to learn, there is a bit of a learning curve in some instances. The temperature of your heat source (either an iron or a heat press) matters; furthermore, the ideal temperature can vary depending on the brand of iron-on transfer paper you’ve purchased—so be sure to take a good, hard look at the instructions prior to starting your project. It’s also prudent to print a test sheet on regular printing paper prior to using a sheet of iron-on transfer paper (which can be significantly more expensive than printer paper).
How long does iron-on transfer paper last?
In terms of how long an iron-on heat transfer paper design will last on a T-shirt, the answer can vary. Typically, a well-adhered iron-on transfer image using high-quality paper should last a few years before it starts to fade, crack or peel from your substrate (e.g., a cotton T-shirt). An important note: Iron-on transfer images adhere on top of your garment, material, or T-shirt (hence why it’s important to cut cleanly around the edges for the most polished, professional look).
Since the images are technically on top of your garment when transferred, they are not fully integrated with the fabric. Therefore, images transferred via heat transfer paper are never fully permanent and eventually tend to peel or crack. (Sidenote: Sublimation, a process whereby special inks are literally infused into the substrate, is a permanent and totally crack-resistant, peel-resistant method of image transfer. However, it's more involved and costly).
How do you stop iron-on transfers from peeling?
Often, a peeling iron-on transfer image is due to a heat press or iron temperature that is too low. Make sure you carefully read the instructions that come with your iron-on transfer paper, as each brand differs slightly.
It’s also important to consider your substrate; in other words, are you transferring an image onto a cotton T-shirt? A canvas surface? The material will make a difference in terms of how long you need to apply heat and at what temperature. Lastly, if you’re transferring onto a T-shirt or other wearable garment, make sure the first wash is on a low setting and that the garment is turned inside out.
Should you wash a shirt before using iron-on transfer paper?
If you want to, but it’s not necessary. If you do decide to wash your garment, avoid fabric softener, as it can create an invisible barrier that prevents full adhesion of iron-on transfer paper. Once your garment is dry, it can also be a good idea to give it a quick ironing out. That way, the surface will be smooth, wrinkle-free, and fully ready for applying your design.
Why Trust The Spruce Crafts?
Sophie Wirt is an NYC-based writer and editor, and has been penning product reviews, interviews, and investigative pieces since 2015.
We tested and researched a variety of the best iron-on transfer papers and considered the durability and quality of each on this list. We also considered value and ease-of-use, as well as printer type. Regardless of your skill level, budget, and even printer type, you’ll find a great iron-on transfer paper to suit your crafting needs on our curated list.