Best Heat Transfer Paper for Inkjet Printers: The Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents
Images from Canva
The birth of the best heat transfer paper, iron-on transfer papers for inkjet printers, has turned imagination into an iron-on or a sublimation. T-shirt Printing has become one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.
In this Ultimate Guide about transfer papers for inkjet printers, you will want to dive into the t-shirt printing business like the rest or customize your shirts at home.
Customized t-shirts are gaining immense popularity among the younger generation and the global population. The graphics that can go from your mind to your shirts are endless. Sales in the custom shirt printing market are skyrocketing, with movie logos, graphics, and slogans as designs.
Statista reports that revenue from garment printing businesses is expected at $44.56 B in 2023, with an annual increase of 3.22%. These data show that it is time for those creative juices you’ve been keeping for so long to be finally printed with the perfect graphics and texts you’ve imagined.
What is a Heat Transfer Paper?
Think of Heat Transfer Papers or Iron-On Transfer Papers as ordinary papers where you can write or draw anything, with the colors you want, using your home printer.
Because the heat transfer papers/Iron-On Transfer Papers have a heat transfer technology, it enables heat to transfer the printed design to fabric by the pressure from a heat press or a hand iron. Your designs are as you had printed them. Color and all!
Generally, for heat transfer applications, the temperature should be set between 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure of the press is based on the thickness of the fabric. Remember that thicker fabric requires less pressure. Most projects will need medium or high pressure.
Is Heat Transfer Paper the same as Heat Transfer Vinyl?
No. Heat Transfer Paper is the same as Iron-On Transfer Paper but not Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) or Iron On Transfer Vinyl. That is because transfer papers and vinyl are not the same and are made of different materials.
Heat Transfer Paper or Iron-On Transfer Paper is blank and will get its design and text from the printer. The colors from the printed design will be embedded by the printer ink that must be a high quality ink in a process called sublimation.
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) or Iron-On Vinyl is made of heat-sensitive material that can be transferred to a piece of fabric using a heat press or household iron. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns that ignite your creativity. HTV can be inexpensive because you can use a home iron to heat and press. HTV is perfect for beginners.
What to look for when choosing the best Heat Transfer Paper?
There are many types of specialty paper, like heat transfer paper. Thinking of the best among all the heat transfer papers in the world may entail more comparisons and analysis.
A beginner crafter would ask, “What kind of heat transfer paper do I need? What is the best heat transfer paper?”, and it’s just normal. As a beginner, you need this guide.
Here are the things you have to consider in choosing the best heat transfer paper:
The Right Printer
Foremost, when deciding which heat transfer paper to buy, you must first identify the printer you have or intend to purchase.
When using heat transfer paper, you must know that there are two kinds of printers: inkjet and laser.
How do you know if your printer is a laser or inkjet?
If you already have a printer but are unsure if it’s a laser or inkjet, here are the things you could do:
To ensure that you have an inkjet printer or a laser printer, you may run a Google search on the model number of your printer. You may find this model number on the printer itself. Look at the sides or the bottom of the printer.
Check if your printer has ink cartridges with liquid ink; inkjet printers use ink as their name implies. A laser printer, on the other hand, uses toner cartridges filled with powder which means you have a laser printer.
Laser printers may be used on transfer papers that specify they are intended for iron-on laser transfer papers. Be reminded about this because there are also iron-on inkjet transfer papers.
You Don’t Have a Printer Yet. Is It Going to Be Laser or Inkjet?
If you haven’t purchased your chosen printer yet, or you haven’t made up your mind about which printer will help you as you start with your garment printing business, read on.
Take note that both of these printers, laser or inkjet, can produce high-quality professional t-shirts and garments.
One of the lowest start-up costs in the t-shirt customization business
Ideal for photograph printing
Can also print great images
No need to weed
Needs cutting around the image before pressing, especially with dark garments
No need to cut around the garment
Ink cartridges with liquid ink
Toner cartridges filled with powder
Generally, inkjet printers are less expensive compared with laser printers. Hence, they have the lowest startup costs in the t-shirt customization business. Inkjet printers are also great for printing intricate images like photographs because they can print a full range of colors.
On the other hand, inkjet printers are not self-weeding. Hence, once the image is printed you will have to cut around the image before pressing it to a t-shirt.
For example, dark shirts can have a white background around the image if you don’t cut around it.
An inkjet printer has ink cartridges, and it uses liquid ink.
Laser printers are typically more expensive than inkjet printers. They are good for printing vector-based art and good at printing photos too. The best asset of laser printers is that laser heat transfer papers are self-weeding. So, you don’t need to cut around the t-shirt.
A laser printer takes toner cartridges filled with powder. The laser printer is also good for various materials, including cotton and polyester.
The Right Heat Transfer Paper to Use
Light Heat Transfer Paper
Dark Heat Transfer Paper
Ex. beige, light yellow, gray
Ex. black, red, navy blue
Light Heat Transfer Paper
White or light fabrics can be designed using light heat transfer paper. A light heat transfer paper contains a transparent polymer coating. This transparency enables white or light fabrics to take on any empty spaces in your print and may slightly change the color of your printed image after the heat press.
- Embellishes your shirts, t-shirts, caps, bags, shoes, jeans, aprons, and home décor items made with fabric
- Thin, durable, and long-lasting.
- ALWAYS PRESS THE FABRICS FOR 5 SECONDS BEFORE TRANSFER
- Size available: 15PCS ( A4 size each)+2 parchment paper+1 instruction
- Follow the instructions
- Light Inkjet paper is for light fabrics ONLY; Dark inkjet paper can be used on dark fabrics and light fabrics;
- Inkjet print ONLY;
- You can also use wax crayons, markers, colored pencils on outline images.
Dark Transfer Paper
Dark t-shirts need a transfer paper specifically made for dark garments. Dark Transfer Paper has a white, more opaque polymer coating which makes the images you transfer identical to the ones you designed.
Remember, a dark transfer paper will have an excess print which will show up white on your dark-colored fabrics.
The Method of Transfer
Once you have the design printed on your heat transfer paper, you may now choose between these two commonly used methods:
Commercial Heat Presses
If you are starting a small business you may use commercial heat presses. They are made for heat transfer papers. This machine ensures high-quality printouts because it can apply heat and pressure evenly on a large surface.
Common Household Irons
For those just starting to hone their skills in garment printing their own designs, the common household irons will do just fine. Remember to apply pressure and heat where you need to. Refer to the product instructions for better results.
Heat Transfer Papers come in various sizes. The most common size is 8.5 by 11 inches.
TeckWrap’s Light and Dark Transfer Papers come in A4 sizes which are 8.27 by 11.69 inches.
Ensure that the heat transfer paper you choose will fit in your printer.
When choosing a heat transfer paper, you must consider the size of the project. Just imagine what a waste of resources it is if you’re going to use a heat transfer paper that’s bigger than the size of your actual prints.
For instance, a baby’s t-shirt compared to a large adult will require different sizes to ensure maximizing or minimizing resources.
Always check the size capabilities of your printer as well as the heat transfer product that can fit the project.
Heat transfer papers are known for comfort. They are easy to use. It’s a print and go that’s why it needs a compatible printer, even just a common household iron, and the t-shirt.
You can practice with some cloth scraps before you print your final run.
Don’t forget to read the heat transfer paper instructions before using. Look in to the manual just to ensure the specifications like time, estimated pressure, and method of applying heat are followed.
Or else you may do it all wrong and waste your resources. You might also be wasting heat transfer paper and t-shirts just with incorrect heat application.
Can Do More
Your heat transfer paper must be a tool not only with your garment printing projects but can be versatile to print on sweaters, soft pants, tote bags, pillows, and other types of soft fabric.
Putting your design on hard surfaces like glassware, windows, or phone cases requires a wet application transfer paper. A wet application transfer paper needs water, soap, and pressure from a hand tool to transfer designs on hard surfaces instead of heat.
Still, with fabric printing, standard heat transfer paper is the best choice.
Can Last Longer
The best heat transfer paper encapsulates the original design from the printing and embeds it on the t-shirt without image degradation. There are heat transfer papers that can have fast, easy image transfer while ensuring that the design won’t crack and peel.
It must also be fade-resistant. This ensures the project’s colors are preserved even with frequent washing and wearing.
Here’s a tip: To make your designs durable on your shirt, turn your shirts inside out when washing them.
Resistance to Spatter
During printing, spatter can happen. Spots of ink are accidentally splashed onto the shirt. Spatter can be hard to remove; that’s why it’s a must to find a good heat transfer paper that is resistant to spatter.
TeckWrap Craft’s Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper
How to Use Light Inkjet Transfer Paper
Since white or light fabric paper is often transparent, the image printed on the paper will not show up clearly on dark fabrics. It is a good thing that TeckWrap Craft has a separate product specifically for dark fabrics.
Here is the step-by-step guide on how to use Light Inkjet Transfer Paper:
- Set a mirror image and print it on the WHITE SIDE of the transfer paper
- Cut the image with a scissor or in Design Space
- Place the image on light fabrics with the image facing down; Cover the image with a parchment paper
- Transfer the fabric, with the parchment paper still covering it, on the heat press machine or under a flat iron. The temperature of the heat press is 185 degrees Celsius or 365 degrees Fahrenheit and must be maintained within 15 seconds.
- Peel the parchment paper within five seconds after heating it.
How to Use Dark Inkjet Transfer Paper
TeckWrap Craft offers a solution to the inability of light transfer papers to work for dark fabrics with this Dark Inkjet Transfer Paper for dark fabrics.
Here is the step-by-step guide on How to Use Dark Inkjet Transfer Paper
- Print the image on the white side.
- Cut the image with a scissor or using Design Space.
- Peel off the paper backing and place the image on the dark fabric facing up; cover the image with parchment paper.
- Transfer the covered fabric to a heat press machine, the temperature at 165 degrees Celsius or 329 degrees Fahrenheit within 25 seconds.
- Let the peeling cool off before peeling off the covering.
Heat Transfer Printing
Now that you’ve learned about the materials and tools you need to start your t-shirt printing, let’s discuss Heat Transfer Printing (HTP).
HTP, also called thermal printing, thermal transfer printing, and even thermal wax transfer is a method of printing that makes possible the printing of a design onto a piece of clothing or fabric.
This way of printing can be applied with pre-painted images on a wax sheet or can be used to create an image by layering wax dye onto an object.
Materials Used in Heat Transfer Printing
Heat Transfer Printers
The heat transfer printer you’ll use for the heat transfer process requires special inks to work. An inkjet printer with support for multiple types of materials is best for heat transfer printing.
The Epson EcoTank, for example, replaces traditional ink cartridges with refillable ink tanks which can hold more ink and reduce wastage. With this strategy, you’ll refrain from throwing ink cartridges. Up to 80% of ink will also be saved in the entire lifetime of the printer.
You may also use a laser printer as it can do the job as well, just make sure the heat transfer paper you’re using is compatible with laser printers.
Heat Transfer Paper
As we have discussed earlier, there are considerations in choosing the best heat transfer paper, and they are the following:
The printer you’re going to use.
Make sure you look into the manufacturer’s guidelines to see the printer they prefer for their heat transfer paper.
Some (1) inkjet printers can be used with sublimation ink cartridges, while others are made specifically for use with sublimation ink. The good thing about inkjet printers are they are usually used at home.
The best inkjet printers for heat transfers will always be the ones with better resolution. Check on Epson Eco Tank for a printer with excellent ink quality.
Another one is the Epson Artisan 1430 color inkjet printer, one of the most versatile printers. It can accommodate transfer printing. This transfer printer can work with any size of heat transfer paper up to 13 x 19 inches. The color inkjet printer can produce borderless prints in several preset sizes.
While looking for an inkjet printer for heat transfer, you need to look into a lot of factors like output quality, printing speed, printer compatibility with devices, supports Google Cloud Print, etc.
(2) Laser printers, on the other hand, aren’t commonly used at home. These laser printers are found in commercial settings and therefore more expensive than inkjet printers.
Heat Transfer Paper for laser printers can be difficult to find.
(3) Sublimation ink printers use a special ink (toner) that stays solid until printing. To be specific for dye sublimation, a specific type of ink to use is called disperse dyes or popularly known as “dye sub inks”. These kinds of dyes can go from a solid state to a gaseous state when in high temperatures and thus, easily bonds to polyester fabrics.
When used with heat transfer paper, sublimation ink printers produce more beautiful, detailed images that are durable and fade-resistant.
Even a simple inkjet printer can be converted and can use cartridges of sublimation ink like Epson inkjet printers. Other printers are made specifically for use with sublimation ink like the commonly-used purpose-built sublimation Sawgrass printers particularly the Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500 which is the newer version of the Sawgrass SG400 and the Sawgrass SG1000 or the upgraded version of SG800 sublimation printer.
Fabric Type and Color
Every Heat transfer paper has fabric color and fabric type preferences. Make sure you follow instructions from the manufacturers for the best color quality.
For best results when you print custom designs, and for printing quality and durable prints, use fabrics that are 100% natural fibers. Some examples are silk, linen, and cotton. There are fabrics that are heat transfer paper resistant like polyester or fabrics with stretchy content like lycra or spandex blends.
It is better to pre-wash the fabric prior to its use to avoid any stretching during the heat transfer process. Iron the fabric once it’s clean and dry before applying the heat transfer paper.
The content composition of your fabric can be found on the clothing’s tag.
Image from Canva
Heat Press Machine’s Capacity
For heat transfer paper that is made for starters or beginners, they may be used with what you can find at home, yes, flat iron to do the heat pressing. If you need to print larger projects, a flat iron might not be able to handle the job, so a heat press machine will be required.
Fast, Easy, and Durable
Look for a heat transfer paper that offers fast, easy image transfer while staying elastic so it won’t crack and peel the design. Some brands can deliver better design than others due to the type of poly-cotton blend fabrics they’re covered with.
What is Iron-On Transfer Paper
If you’ve heard of heat transfer paper, you have also probably heard of iron-on transfer paper because they both refer to the same thing. Iron-on transfer paper or heat transfer paper is a special type of paper that allows you to transfer designs onto clothing and fabric using heat.
An iron-on transfer paper or a heat press transfer paper has heat-reactive properties that transfer the design onto the fabric when it meets with heat. Iron-on transfer paper has a backing that should be peeled off when transferring the design.
Take note, Iron-On Transfer Paper is the same as Heat Transfer Paper.
How is HTV Printing different from Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation printing is the process of printing shirts by embedding the actual colors from the design into the transfer paper, which was previously loaded into a regular printer for the design printing.
Sublimation is the magic in printing as the actual designs with their colors are embedded into the shirt itself.
Remember that sublimation works best on polyester or fabric with a polyester blend. Plus, it is only visible on light-colored fabrics.
Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing, on the other hand, uses colored or patterned special papers called vinyl, which will be printed and weeded, then layered. It is often put onto the fabric or any medium, overlapping each other to achieve the intended designs.
HTV Sheets Pack for Beginner Crafters
The Community Asks
1. Is Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) The Same as Iron-On?
Now, there seems to be some confusion about the four mentioned types of transfer paper: (1) Heat Transfer Paper (2) Heat Transfer Vinyl (3) Iron-On Vinyl (4) Sublimation Paper.
Here is a quick recap of these transfer papers:
- Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) is also called Iron-On Vinyl. Both types of vinyl need heat and pressure to transfer an image to fabric.
- Iron-On Vinyl is a special paper that is more lightweight than HTV and can be applied in one layer. Heat Transfer Vinyl is more effective with big projects such as large designs and images. In this situation, a heat press machine is recommended.
- Sublimation paper is used for white and light-colored polyester fabrics. Sublimation printing is more durable and fade-resistant. But if you want to print on any color or material type, the best option is heat transfer paper. Take note that a heat transfer paper is not the same as heat transfer vinyl.
2. Is Heat Transfer Paper The Same as Vinyl?
No. HTV is vinyl or short cut for polyvinyl or “a polymer of vinyl chloride”, while transfer paper is made of paper. A transfer paper also called a sublimation paper, requires a very high temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit or more for a seamless design transfer.
With a transfer paper, you can transfer every detail of your design, including the color, in a single layer using transfer paper. This process is impossible for HTV as you have to layer patterns and colors.
3. Is Heat Transfer Paper Better Than Heat Transfer Vinyl?
They both stand on the same level because they both have their pros and cons. Think of how you want your final output to look. If you want a flawless look then a Heat Transfer Paper is the best option as it is difficult to achieve with a Heat Transfer Vinyl or an Iron-On vinyl.
Another pro for transfer paper is that it is relatively cheaper than HTV. But for durability and lasting design, you must opt for HTV or Iron-On Vinyl.
This paper requires an extremely high temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit or more because heat is required to transfer designs onto the fabric, like a t-shirt, seamlessly.
4. What type of finish do I get using iron-on transfer papers?
Generally, most iron-on transfer papers leave a matte finish on the design. But this may vary depending on the brand and product or the iron-on transfer paper.
5. What is the best sublimation transfer paper?
TeckWrapCraft Sublimation Paper
- Size:8.3"x11.7" x 100 sheets
- compatible with inkjet printer with sublimation ink
- print on the white side
- apply for white or light-colored polyester ( cotton less than ≤30% and coated objects
- fast dry
- transfer rate ≥98%
One of the best and most affordable sublimation transfer papers in the market now is from TeckWrap Craft. As compared to other sublimation transfer papers in the market, TeckWrap Craft's sublimation paper has a faster drying time plus a 98% transfer rate.
6. What ink is best suited for heat transfer printing?
While there are a lot of types available for an inkjet printer’s ink cartridge, choose those that may use pigment-based inks and dry-based inks.
To achieve different finishes, inkjet ink is the most commonly used besides being affordable and accessible, the pigment ink is also fade-resistant.
7. What printing process creates more vivid images?
Sublimation printing is the process of using ink that is absorbed by the fabric and thus, creating more durable prints. It is a versatile printing process that creates full-color, vivid images on various types of t-shirts made from some form of polyester like poly blends although it is best for 100% polyester.
8. How to ensure t-shirt prints from transfer papers don’t fade fast?
Taking care of your shirts ensures that the prints will stay vivid longer. Here are some things to remember to help preserve your customized shirts.Tec
- Leave finish item for at 24 hours before wash
- Do not wash in a machine or tumble dry. Wash the fabric with your hands.
- Do not wring.
- Do not iron directly over transfer
- Do not dry directly under the sun.
- Do not bleach the fabric.
9. How long do heat transfer t-shirts last?
Today, you bought a shirt from a trusted brand. It means, it is a shirt that has gone through high-quality printing made from HTV, and it will endure longer than other printing methods without peeling, fading, or cracking.
Plus, add the fact that you are following the “Garment Care Instructions”, your shirt will last almost 45-50 washes which means an estimated 2.5-3 years. Remember that when washing your shirts with heat transfer paper, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s directions because it generally lasts for around 25-30 cycles. After this point, fading, and cracking occur.
10. Can I use iron-on transfer paper to print using a sublimation inkjet printer?
Yes. You can use iron-on transfer to print images using a sublimation inkjet printer. Although iron-on transfer paper isn’t always compatible with all types of fabrics.
To be safe, test a small area before attempting to iron an entire image onto a garment. Generally, iron-on transfer paper works best on smooth, non-textured fabrics like cotton or polyester.
It is also important to follow the instructions on the iron-on transfer paper package to ensure optimal results.
Start Your Printing Journey Now With TeckWrap Craft!
You may be a beginner with crafting or customizing your shirt, but remember, everyone started on the same journey. You must go to authorized sources of information that can guide you well on your path.
At TeckWrap Craft, we don’t just offer products that can help craft your imagination into prints, but we also travel with you on the path to being your own Crafter!
Hold on to your custom designs because you can bring them into reality with true-to-life colors as tshirts that you and others will love. Light fabric or Dark color fabric? You can customize them with our quality products made to last!