Choosing the Right Iron-On Transfer Paper

Epson iron-on transfer paper

Photo from Epson

Designing your own illustrations for eventual iron-on transfer to a T-shirt or other garment is a lot of fun as long as you follow the manufacturer's guidance and use the right transfer paper. The process is simple: You create your design in your favorite software and then print the image using your home printer onto paper that is designed specifically for iron-on transfers. Position the printed transfer paper on a T-shirt or other garment, apply heat with an iron, and pull off the transfer to admire your ready-to-wear design.

Buy the Right Transfer Paper

Most iron-on transfer paper is made for inkjet printers, but some are available for laser printers. Buying the transfer paper meant for your type of printer is important. They are not interchangeable, and ignoring manufacturers' recommendations can be disastrous. Using iron-on transfer paper made for inkjet printers in a laser printer can result in a hefty repair bill or even the need to replace the printer because the heat a laser printer generates can cause inkjet transfer paper to melt all over the inside of the printer. Check the box or label carefully to be sure you are getting inkjet transfer paper for your inkjet printer or laser transfer paper for your laser printer.

Most transfer papers are for white and light-colored fabrics. However, iron-on transfer papers also come in a version specifically for dark-colored T-shirts. For best results, buy the transfer paper specifically designed for the color of fabric you're using.

The many brands of iron-on transfer paper products available include:

Tips for Transfer Preparation and Finishing

Give your project a professional look by following a few tips:

  • Test: Before beginning the transfer process, do a test print on regular paper of the image you're transferring. This way, you can be sure that the image's size and color are what you want and that your printer settings and paper size are correct.
  • Launder: Wash, dry, and iron the fabric so that it's preshrunk and free of wrinkles to ensuring a smooth, even transfer.
  • Trim: Iron-on transfers sit on top of the fabric, adhered to it by heat. They can look and feel somewhat like plastic when transferred to your garment, which is acceptable for the design area itself but looks sloppy and unprofessional in unprinted areas. Trim the excess paper around your design before ironing it on to minimize this effect. Trim as close to the design as possible before applying the paper to fabric.
  • Peel: While many transfer papers need to be peeled off soon after ironing, you can wait to peel off transfers with cool-peel backing papers until after the transfer cools and prevent scorched fingertips. Look for this feature on your transfer paper.