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How To Use Iron On Transfer Paper

If you’ve ever wanted to put a design you’ve created on a t-shirt or another piece of clothing, one of the best ways to do it is by printing it on iron-on transfer paper. But for the design to look right on the clothing, you have to know how to use iron-on transfer properly.

To use iron-on transfer paper, you have to create your design and print it on the right kind of transfer paper or buy a pre-made design. Once you’ve got your design, cut it out and position it onto the clothing. Then, just iron over it to transfer the design onto the fabric.

Those instructions seem simple enough, but there are a few more things you should know. There are different kinds of transfer paper and some iron-on transfer paper isn’t suitable for all types of fabrics.

In this article you will learn everything you need to know about using iron-on transfer paper.

How To Use Iron On Transfer Paper

What Is Iron On Transfer Paper?

If you’ve never used or even heard of iron-on transfer paper, it is a special type of paper that allows you to transfer designs onto clothing and fabric using heat. The paper itself has heat-reactive properties that allow the paper and design to adhere to the fabric when heat is applied. Iron-on transfer paper also has a backing that should be peeled off when the design is transferred.

How Does Iron On Transfer Paper Work?

The iron-on paper is specially made with chemicals that react in a certain way when heat is applied.

The combination of the chemicals used in the paper plus heat from an iron allows the paper to fuse with the fabric’s fibers. But despite being different from regular paper, iron-on transfer paper can still be used with a standard printer so that you can print designs onto it before using it. The design is transferred onto the fabric as well when heat is applied.

Types of Iron on Transfer Paper

Knowing which type to use is important for ensuring that your project turns out the way you want it to, as some types of transfer paper work better with some types of printers or clothing of a certain color, for example.

Inkjet vs. Laser Printer Paper

If you’re using iron-on transfer paper at home, you’ll first want to consider which type of printer you have if you’re going to be using your own designs or downloading them off of the internet. You may not necessarily want to buy a different printer just to transfer designs onto t-shirts. Instead, you’ll want to work with what you have.

Inkjet printers are most commonly used for printing onto transfer paper. They work using ink cartridges, so if you’re unsure if you have an inkjet printer, then ask yourself if it does indeed use an ink cartridge or just search for the particular model on the internet. Inkjet printers are great for printing basic designs that don’t have too many details, such as logos, texts, and basic graphics.

The selection of transfer paper for use with these printers is widely available. If you have an inkjet printer, you’ll just want to make sure that any transfer paper you buy will work with your inkjet printer.

Laser printers are a bit more expensive, but they are better for printing more detailed designs or photographs onto transfer paper. So again, if you have a laser printer, then make sure that any transfer paper you buy works with laser printers.

Light vs. Dark Heat Transfer Paper

You’ll also need to consider whether the fabric you are transferring the design to is light in color, such as white, light gray, tan, yellow, etc., or dark in color such as black, blue, purple, red, green, brown, etc.

There is transfer paper designed for use with light-colored clothing and transfer paper designed for use with dark-colored clothing. They have different coatings that determine how the transferred design appears on the clothing, so you’ll want to make sure that you use the right type.

Type of Fabric

You’ll also need to consider the type of fabric you’re working with before choosing which transfer paper to use. Different fabrics require different heat levels to effectively transfer the image without causing damage. The specific paper you use is designed to work with those fabric types and levels of heat that are required.

For example, polyester and cotton are two common fabrics used with iron-on transfer paper. If the t-shirt you’re putting a design on is made of cotton, then make sure to use a transfer paper designed for cotton fabrics. If it’s made of polyester or a polyester/cotton blend, make sure to use a transfer paper designed for polyester or blended fabrics.

Iron-On vs. Heat Press Transfer

Finally, make sure any transfer paper you buy can be used with iron if that’s how you’re going to transfer the design to the paper. Some types of transfer paper, such as sublimation paper, hot-peel, or cold-peel transfer paper work with a heat press and not an iron.

Most iron-on transfer paper can be used with a heat press, but not all paper designed to use with a heat press works with an iron. Make sure that the packaging for the paper indicates that you can use it with an iron.

How to Use Iron On Transfer Paper

PPD Inkjet Premium Iron-On White and Light Color T Shirt Transfers Paper LTR 8.5x11” Pack of 10 Sheets (PPD001-10)

Now that you’ve chosen the correct transfer paper for your iron-on design let’s learn how to use it to transfer your design effectively.

1. Buy or Create Your Design

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide on a design. You can buy ready-made designs at your local craft store (and even kits with transfer paper included) or you can download designs from the internet. If you’re feeling creative, you can also create your own design on the computer using design software.

Something to note about downloading images from the internet to use on a t-shirt: make sure that you have legal rights to use an image and that it is not copyrighted to avoid any legal trouble if someone were to see you wearing a particular design that they created, for example on social media. Don’t just use any image that you find on Google. Usually, you’ll have to purchase an image to be guaranteed the right to use it.

Creating your own design is much safer because you own the design. There are plenty of programs you can use to create your designs, such as Photoshop or Canva, among others, and some are even free to use.

Consider the color of the fabric you’re printing it on when choosing the colors for your design. Make sure the design will show up, which may involve some trial-and-error, especially if you’ve never done it before.

Whether you’re creating your design or downloading one off the internet, you’ll also need to format the image to make sure it’s just how you want it. This may include resizing, cropping, or rotating the image.

Before printing designs to be transferred onto light-colored fabrics, you’ll also need to mirror the image, especially if the design has text on it, due to the way light-colored transfer paper works. Mirroring it will make it appear backward on the screen. If you don’t mirror it, your image will appear backward on the t-shirt. This is not necessary with images that are being transferred onto dark clothing.

2. Use the Right Kind of Paper

Once you’ve gotten your design just the way you want it, make sure that you have the right kind of transfer paper before printing the image. The backing is on different sides of light-colored vs. dark-colored transfer paper and using the wrong kind of paper can affect the way your design appears.

Light-colored clothing transfer paper is transparent, so any white areas on your design will show up as the fabric’s color instead of white. Dark-colored clothing transfer paper is thicker and has a white backing so that white and lighter colors show up better on the fabric. That’s why it is important to use the right kind of transfer paper.

Once your design is how you want it to look and you’ve made sure you have the right type of paper, all that’s left to do is print the design.

3. Trim the Transfer

Depending on your design and the type of transfer paper you’re using, some of the transfer paper can still be visible on the shirt if you leave the edges on, especially when using transfer paper meant for dark-colored clothing.

Cut as close to the design as possible to avoid the edges being noticeable. Since dark-colored clothing transfer paper has a white background, remember that any white areas will show up as white instead of clear, so you’ll want to make sure to cut those out if they aren’t meant to be part of the design.

An example of this is the inside of letters, such as the middle part of an O or Q. Remember that anything not cut out of the design will appear on the fabric when the design is transferred.

4. Position the Design on the Clothing

The next step is to lay out the clothing you want the design printed onto. Choose a large enough surface for the clothing to fit onto to ensure that your design can go on smoothly. For example, you don’t want to use an ironing board that may not give you enough flat surface to work with.

Once you’ve laid out the clothing, place a piece of cardboard inside it that is larger than the design itself. The cardboard will protect the fabric so the image doesn’t go through and get printed on areas where you don’t want it to go.

Finally, position the design where you want it to go. Make sure it is straight and correct before applying it. Once you apply heat to the transfer paper, you can’t undo it. If you use opaque transfer paper for dark clothing, peel off the back before applying heat. If you use transparent transfer paper for light-colored clothing, leave the backing on.

5. Apply the Design

The last step is to plug in your iron and set it to the appropriate heat setting based on what the transfer paper says to use. When the iron heats up, iron over the transfer paper using only heat and no steam. Steam can interfere with the design adhering correctly to the fabric.

Make sure to iron as evenly and consistently as possible to ensure that all of the image is transferred and adhered to the fabric. If using light-colored clothing for transfer paper, make sure the design is fully transferred before removing the backing, ideally after it has time to cool for a few seconds.

What Fabric Does Transfer Paper Work On?

The best fabrics to use with transfer paper are cotton, polyester, or cotton/polyester blends, as that is what most transfer papers are designed for. Examples of clothing you can use transfer paper with are t-shirts and things made from a canvas-like material such as aprons and tote bags.

Transfer paper requires the use of high heat, so you definitely shouldn’t use any type of fabric that can become damaged easily due to heat. This is especially true for delicate fabrics such as wool and silk. And because different types of fabrics can handle different levels of heat, some transfer papers are designed for specific types of fabric, such as cotton or polyester.

How to Print on Transfer Paper

The most important thing to remember when printing on transfer paper is that you should be using transfer paper compatible with the type of printer you have. For example, use Inkjet transfer paper with an Inkjet printer.

You don’t have to have any special kind of ink to print on transfer paper. It is designed to work with regular Inkjet ink. You’ll just need to make sure that your printer has enough ink in it to print the image. Other than that, you don’t have to make any modifications to your printer.

You can use transfer paper the same way you would use regular printer paper. Just put the transfer paper in the printer instead of regular printer paper and do a print preview before hitting print to make sure that the image looks correct and fits onto the paper.

Can You Use Parchment Paper for Iron On Transfers?

Parchment paper is mostly used for baking, but some people use it with their iron-on transfers. It can’t be used as transfer paper itself because it won’t adhere the design to the fabric. But, it is resistant to heat and is coated on one side with silicone, so people usually use it to seal their heat transfer designs.

You’ll first need to transfer your image using transfer paper to use it. Then, allow the design to cool and then peel off the packing. Next, place the parchment paper over the design with the shiny side down and iron over the parchment paper for about 30 seconds. Finally, make sure you iron the parchment paper over the entire design, then remove the parchment paper and let the design cool again.

How to Make Iron on Transfers With Wax Paper

If you don’t have transfer paper, you can also make iron-on transfers using wax paper. It’s worth noting that this should only be done with an Inkjet printer as Laser printers use more heat to melt the wax paper. Before printing on wax paper, you’ll still need to create and format your design on the computer to make sure that it is correct before printing it.

You’ll also need to cut the wax paper so that it fits into your printer. The standard size of paper is 8 ½ by 11 inches, so make sure you cut the wax paper to that size. When you’re ready to print it, insert the wax paper into your printer like you would regular paper. Then, just print the image and remove the wax paper from the printer.

Note that you won’t be using iron when transferring the image onto fabric since the heat from the iron can melt the paper and mess up your design. With that being said, you’ll have to work quickly for the transfer process to work.

Instead of ironing, you’ll need to lay the wax paper on the fabric with the side with the ink facing down. Do this carefully because you can’t move it once the wax paper touches the surface or the ink could smear.

Once the wax paper is in position, use a credit card to scrape the back of the wax paper, applying pressure so that the ink is transferred onto the fabric. When the whole design has been transferred, remove the wax paper by peeling it up. Don’t pull it across the paper or the ink could smear.

Best Iron On Transfer Paper

PPD Inkjet Premium Iron-On White T-Shirts Transfer Paper

PPD Inkjet Premium Iron-On White and Light Color T Shirt Transfers Paper LTR 8.5x11” Pack of 10 Sheets (PPD001-10)This premium transfer paper is designed to be used with any Inkjet printer.

It works for light-colored and white t-shirts, pillowcases, tote bags, and any other fabric made from cotton or cotton/polyester blends.

The paper itself is the standard size of 8 ½ by 11 inches. There are 10 sheets per pack and the paper can be easily cut with normal scissors. It can also be used with an iron or a heat press machine.

Premium Iron-On Dark T-Shirts Transfer Paper

PPD Inkjet PREMIUM Iron-On Dark T Shirt Transfers Paper LTR 8.5x11' pack of 10 Sheets (PPD004-10)This transfer paper is for use with Inkjet printers for transferring designs onto dark-colored and black t-shirts and clothing.

It works with any fabric made from cotton or cotton and polyester blends.

This 8 ½ by 11-inch paper can be used with iron and a heat press. It comes with 10 sheets per pack and a ruler alignment to help you line up the design onto your fabric. A link to a video tutorial for how to use it is also included.

Can You Use a Regular Printer to Print Iron On Transfers?

You can use any printer to print iron-on transfers, but your design may not look the same as you designed it with all printers. Inkjet printers with ink colors will ensure a better color payoff for your design.

You’ll also have better results if you use a high-resolution printer. High-resolution printers are better to prevent your image from being blurry or pixelated. Laser printers also work well for really detailed images, but again, you have to make sure to use transfer paper compatible with laser printers.


It’s not hard to use iron-on transfer paper, especially once you know what you’re doing. If you’ve never used it before, you just need to make sure that you’re using the right type of transfer paper and practice on scrap fabric before applying the final design.