how to print on transfer paper for t-shirts

How to Print on Transfer Paper For T-Shirts

Whether you’re looking to start a business or simply print your own designs – learning how to print on transfer paper for T-shirts will come pretty useful.

If you aren’t familiar with this type of printing, then doing it without guidance can be messy. So we decided to make a guide so people like you could learn.

Let’s say you don’t have a single item at home, and you need to prepare everything from the ground up.

Well, that’s what we’re going to teach you today – from the items you need to the process and a little more.

Are you ready to find out? So scroll down!

7 Steps to Print on Transfer Paper

How to Print on Transfer Paper for T-shirts

You will find every single step and factor that matters when printing on transfer paper. Pay close attention to each step and make sure to follow it to the letter.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Choose a Proper Heat Press

First, you’ll need to get a heat press that works for your demands. This means getting a heat press machine that fits your desired print size, operation, and overall adjustments. We’ll explain how these factors matter:


Let’s say you want to print a small design of about 11 by 15 inches on a T-shirt. Do you need a large heat press for that? No. Then get a small one.

Otherwise, you may need to print something not too large but not small either at about 16 by 15 inches. If that’s the case, then a regular heat press will do the job.

But if you need to print something larger than 20 by 32 inches of up to 50 by 50 – then you’ll need a large press.

Still, remember that you can print small, medium, and large on the most convenient models. They’re just more expensive.

Temp, Pressure & Time Adjustments

Another factor you want to consider is how easy it is to set a timer and change the temperature. Remember, some prints may need you to stay for at least 2 minutes pressing on a T-shirt.

Others will need way less than that. How can you ensure that you never go over the limit? Easy – use a timer.

The same happens with temperature. Not all designs will print with the same heat, so you need to set the ideal one depending on the paper/fabric you’re printing. Otherwise, you may mess up the whole design or the material.

And last but not least, consider the pressure adjustment. Not many people tend to think about this, but it matters.

This will let you set the ideal pressure on the machine depending on what paper, fabric, or type of design you’re printing. With adjustable pressure, achieving a great result will be a lot easier.

As you see, you must pay attention to the type of press you’re getting if you want a decent print. Otherwise, you may not like the final result.

2. Pick the Transfer Paper

Select the Ideal Fabric

Once you have the heat press figured out, you need to pick an ideal transfer paper. Here, you will find two types to consider.

The first type will be light paper. A light transfer sheet will allow maximum color printing and more vibrant results. Sure enough, it also works wonders on light-colored or white fabrics, making it difficult to know that it is a transfer print.

Then you’ll find dark papers. This transfer paper is more opaque and thicker than standard light paper, making it ideal for printing on darker fabrics.

However, it works on almost any fabric color, as it blocks fabric colors from passing through the print.

So it is safe to say that if you want to print on white or light fabric, then go for light paper. But if you’re printing on darker fabrics, or just don’t care about the background much, the dark paper will do the job.

You should get at least 20 transfer papers ready for testing.

3. Select the Ideal Fabric

Select the Ideal Fabric

After picking the paper, it is time to select the fabric. Here, you’ll need to consider what type of T-shirt you prefer and/or what you want to make.

The result won’t change much in different fabrics, but the heat-pressing process does. So you must have an idea of how each fabric performs.


Works well, but it is recommended to use low temperature as cotton can burn pretty quickly.


Holds heat really well and prints almost perfectly. But it may take a little more time to print on polyester than in other fabrics.


Similarly to polyester, it may take some time for the print to transfer. Luckily, most designs look amazing afterward. Be sure not to use thin nylon shirts as they could shrink/tear in the process.


Leaving spandex on a heat press for slightly more time than required will burn it or melt it. Be sure to use the right temperatures and time when heat-pressing spandex.


Due to how thin lycra is, there’s a high chance of tearing or burning it. But if you do it correctly, then it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

4. Design & Prepare the Image

Now you have the heat press, the paper, and the fabric ready. But what are you going to print? Here, you’ll have to design, print, and prepare the image for the heat-pressing process. Here’s how to proceed:

Design the Image

Look for a computer with Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or a similar design program. Then either create the design from scratch or look for an image to edit. These programs will let you control everything on the image before printing it.

But you should make something that meets your needs. For example, if you’re printing on T-shirts for a business, then create the business logo.

If you’re printing for just fun, then make a message/image you like. And if it is for an organization or event, then be sure it has the proper slogan.

After designing whatever you want to print, then you’ll have to reverse it. Remember, you’re printing something on transfer paper first – so you’ll have to make sure it prints in reverse, so it looks correct on the T-shirt.

Print the Design

Once you have the design, you’ll have to print it. Here, you’ll need an inkjet printer. You could either get a new inkjet printer or eventually take your design and print it on a supply or stationery store.

If you haven’t reversed the image yet, you can do it here. It is a simple process, as the printer will ask you to reverse it before printing. Just before you print, however, make sure you place the transfer paper correctly on the machine.

And if you place it with the non-coated down, then that will be the part the printer prints on. The non-coated area does not transfer the image when heat-pressed.

So be sure to place it correctly on the printer tray. Some transfer papers will let you know with a mark.

Once it is out of the printer, make sure it looks exactly like what you made. If not, you may think to tweak or print again. In case the print looks neat, then you can print at least 20 more (or as many transfer paper sheets you have available).

5. Set up the Heat Press

Set up the Heat Press

After making sure almost everything else is ready, you need to set up the heat press machine. This process depends heavily on what type of heat press you chose.

For example, some models will have temp settings, time settings, and pressure. Others will just have a small timer and one or two temp settings.

Make sure everything matches the fabric you want to print on. Otherwise, you may mess up the whole process.

For example, the thicker the fabric you’re using, the more temperature you can set. Similarly, if the material is resilient and doesn’t adhere well with the print,

you may need to set the timer higher – or lower if it is a thin fabric. Sure enough, pressure also works this way.

Once you’ve set up the temperature, timer, and pressure – you’re ready to start printing.

6. Test Print First

Before you print anything once and for all, we recommend doing a test print. This will let you know if the machine is set up correctly, and if the design has proper margin, size, and color.

With the different transfer papers with the designs printed, you need to start testing the machine. You’ll need extra pieces of fabric or a thick piece of paper you can print on (at least 5).

We recommend using these pieces of paper/fabric for print tests so you can adjust everything correctly. Here are a few things to consider:

Proper Side

Remember that the transfer paper has only one side to transfer the image with. If you place the transfer paper on the wrong side, then the image will not transfer into the fabric but into the press or somewhere else.

At the same time, make sure the design is printed correctly on the transfer paper. Sometimes, people print the image on the wrong side of the paper. This makes the paper not transfer the image to the fabric no matter how you print-press it.


With this test print, you can find out whether the margin on the image is too much. For example, if you used dark transfer paper, then it will leave a visible margin. So if the image has too much, then it will be more visible on the fabric after printing it.

If the margin is too much, then you will have to cut the remaining part on another transfer paper with a scissor or utility knife. Then check again to see if it looks better.


Alongside the side and the margin, you’ll have to consider the placement of the print. This will let you know whether the image fits correctly in the center of the T-shirt or fabric.

If not, you will have to move it around the press and make sure it is in the right place. Remember that you’re test-printing, so you can take your time to make sure it fits perfectly before printing for real.

Once you’ve appropriately tested and the image looks superb on fabric, you can bring the design to the T-shirt or whatever you want to print on.

7. Start Printing

In this process, you will get the design printed on the T-shirt. So you need to be careful and be sure that after testing everything fits correctly to your demands.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Make sure the timer, pressure, and temperature on the press are set as necessary.
  • Open the machine and place the T-shirt (or whatever you’re printing on) in the bottom part. This should be a flat and smooth surface.
  • Now place the transfer paper facing down exactly where you want the design to print on the T-shirt. Make sure it is in the right place – tweak as needed before finally heat-printing. Use a heavy object to flatten everything down.
  • Once you’re done setting it up, then you can bring down the heat press lid and turn the machine on. It should heat-press the print on the fabric for a few seconds until it prints completely.
  • Finish by checking that the design looks neat. If it does, then you’ve successfully printed on transfer paper.

Tips to Remember before Printing

Here are a few additional tips to consider before printing on transfer paper:

Laser or Inkjet?

Some transfer papers only work with laser printers, while others are specially made for inkjets. We prefer inkjet printers for the quality of the print. But if you have a laser printer, then make sure you get the right paper.

Trim if Necessary

You may think that the background part (usually white) on the design is necessary for the design to look well. But most of the time, it is not. Trim with scissors or a utility knife as needed.

Wash the T-Shirts Afterward

Once you’ve printed one or two T-shirts, we recommend washing them to check that the design doesn’t fall off.

As transfer paper is pretty fragile, you’ll have to do this by hand – especially if you’re doing it in less than 24 hours after printing.

If the design peels off, then it means you need to print with a higher temperature and pressure.

Start Printing on Transfer Paper Now!

Printing your favorite designs on T-shirts and other fabrics is a total pleasure. But for that, you’ll need the proper transfer paper, the ideal printer, and a quality heat press machine.

Once you get all that, you can follow or guide for setting everything up for a superb result.

You won’t regret printing designs on T-shirts. Whether it is for a business, an event, or just for fun – make sure you do it right.