If you’re looking to quickly get a simple design onto a t-shirt, and you own an Inkjet printer, then an iron-on transfer could be just for you! Iron-on transfers work as the name suggests: once printed out, you can then iron the design onto the chosen shirt, transferring the design onto the material.
Iron-on transfers can be fun, and while probably not the best option for mass-producing shirt designs, can be a quick and simple way to get an image onto a shirt for a special event or occasion.
On this page, we take a look at the steps to producing a DIY iron-on transfer, from designing to printing, to the transfer process itself.
Before we begin, it is important to note that printing iron-on transfers are not compatible with laser printers, or any printers that heat up the paper. This tutorial is specifically for Inkjet printers.
Step 1: Figure out the design you wish to transfer
There are many different designs that you can transfer. These can be word or slogan designs, cartoon pictures, or photographs. You may need to play around with this design a little bit in Paint or Photoshop, to ensure it will fit onto the shirt you select to print to. Make sure the design you end up with is high-quality for the best transfer possible. It is also important to note that you should create your design reversed so that when it is transferred onto the shirt, it is printed the correct way.
Step 2: Purchase transfer paper
Once you have your design, you can then figure out what size of transfer paper you need to complete it. If you have an Inkjet printer, ensure you select transfer paper that is suitable for Inkjet machines. Transfer paper comes in a variety of different sizes, although it’s commonly sold in size A4. Have a look around at different iron-on transfer paper to ensure you get a good deal.
Step 3: Select the item you wish to transfer the design onto
While t-shirts are a popular choice for transfers, you can choose to place your design onto any appropriate piece of material. The most important thing to consider when choosing your item to transfer your design to is that it’s compatible with your transfer paper. Make sure to check that this is the case before proceeding with your transfer. We recommend a simple, white t-shirt if you are a beginner to the iron-on transfer world.
Step 4: Print a preview of your design
Before you commit to printing your design onto transfer paper, consider printing it onto regular paper first to make sure it looks the way you want it to (but reversed, of course!). This can prevent wasted transfer paper, which tends to be more expensive than regular paper.
Step 5: Print Design
Having finalised your design and acquired your t-shirt, it’s time to get printing! Place the transfer paper into the printer, following the instructions you’ll receive when purchasing the transfer paper. This paper generally has stripes on the side that is non-printing, to ensure it is easier to place correctly. Select print as you would when printing a regular document. Assuming you have chosen transfer paper that is compatible with your printer, the process should go smoothly, and you’ll be able to hold your design in your hands! Double-check to make sure everything looks okay, then if your design is smaller, give it a trim (making sure not to cut too close to the design itself), so that it can comfortably lay flat on a shirt.
Step 6: Iron design onto the shirt
Place the transfer face-down on the shirt, and make sure the positioning is exactly where you want it. Most transfer paper instructions say to place a cloth on top of the transfer when ironing, rather than ironing directly onto the design, although it’s good to check with the instructions for the specific paper you have used. Some transfer papers have physical indicators that show when you can stop ironing, while others will explain the length of time to do this step in the instructions. For this step, it is very important to read the instructions that came with your transfer paper, to ensure the transfer process is completed fully and smoothly. Once applied, remove the backing paper.
Step 7: Wash shirt
Once you have transferred your design onto the shirt and admired your work (letting the clothing cool down), it’s time to pop it in the wash. Turn the shirt inside out and give it a wash – it’s probably best to wash your garment on delicate. If you followed the instructions given by your transfer paper, then it should come out unscathed, ready to wear (or gift to a loved one).
Step 8: Wear your design (or give it to a friend or family member!)
Now your design is finished, it’s time to try it on and flaunt your creation! If you made the shirt for a loved one, you can give it to them as a wearable gift. Congratulations on making your unique, one-of-a-kind shirt!
So, there you have it: the eight simple steps to creating your own, unique shirt design from the comfort of your own home! Once you get confident with the method of iron-on transfers you can experiment with different coloured shirts (which often requires different transfer paper), and maybe even printing on other garments like aprons!