How to Put a Picture on a Shirt: DIY Custom-Printed Shirts

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how to put a picture on a shirt

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

You’ve always wanted to wear a shirt with your favorite picture printed on it. But you want to do it yourself and not bring it to a T-shirt printing shop. Not only is it a fun activity to do, but it can also save you a lot of money when you do it instead.

You can create your custom shirts with the help of TeckWrap Craft. With iron-on transfers such as the TeckWrap Craft Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper, you can create various T-shirt designs to your heart's content.

This article will give you more details about how to put a picture on a shirt (procedure and tips) and other factors to consider when printing pictures on a T-shirt. If you are excited to know more, keep on reading!


how to put a picture on a shirt

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

Different Methods of Putting a Picture on Shirts

There are several printing methods to transfer images onto garments, such as screen printing, heat transfer vinyl, sublimation printing, and much more. Transferring pictures through transfer paper and printer is a traditional way of creating a printed T-shirt.

You may need special equipment or tools to be able to transfer pictures on shirts. You may need a printer, cutting machine, iron or heat press, and other specialized equipment.

  1. Screen Print

Screen printing is another method of transfer printing on T-shirts. Screen printing is best used for bulk printing of pictures on shirts. Though, you may need to invest in specialized supplies to do screen printing.  

The screen printing process uses mesh screen, stencil, and thick ink to transfer images onto fabrics. You should pack a lot of patience if you want to use screen printing to transfer designs on the shirt. The process of screen printing can be time-consuming and constant practice is necessary to perfect this method.

The materials you will need for screen printing are acetate film, mesh screen, light-reactive emulsion, lamp shade or any object that can produce bright light, screen printer (optional), and thick ink. The first step is to print your desired design on the acetate film. This will be used to create your stencil.

Next, coat the mesh screen with a light-reactive emulsion substance. Expose the acetate film to the emulsion. To harden parts of the emulsion without the design, expose the mesh screen to bright light.

The negative spaces will form when you rinse away the soft parts of the emulsion. The next step would be to let the screen dry fully. Once it dries, you now have a stencil ready for your shirts.

Position the stencil on your T-shirt and apply thick glue to the mesh screen. Spread the ink firmly around the design on the screen using a squeegee. Once you have completely covered the screen with ink, slowly lift the screen and let the ink dry on the T-shirt.

  1. Direct to Garment Printing (DTG)

The DTG method is a T-shirt printing technology that prints pictures directly from the computer to the T-shirt or garment. Films and plates are not necessary for DTG. However, you will need a DTG printer for the DTG method.

The DTG printer can be costly but worth the investment for T-shirt printing businesses. The DTG printer is designed for high-resolution digital printing on T-shirts. It has a metal plate that holds T-shirts in place during printing.

With DTG, you can create thousands of images of various colors. You won’t see raised ink as a result of screen printing.

  1. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)

how to put a picture on a shirt with vinyl

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

Using heat transfer vinyl or HTV is another popular method of putting pictures on a shirt. HTV is a special type of vinyl designed for fabrics and any type of surface that can withstand heat. A heat-activated vinyl can transfer images to fabrics when the proper heat and pressure are applied.

  1. Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a form of digital printing where heat is a necessary component when transferring a picture on a sublimation blank. You can enjoy full-color coverage with sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing is different from heat transfer paper, for it specifically needs sublimation paper and sublimation ink. Though one great thing about sublimation printing is the fact that you can apply it on shirts alongside other printing applications, such as heat transfer vinyl.

TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation paper is available in a pack of 100 sheets that are compatible with an inkjet printer with sublimation ink. It is waterproof and fast drying. This sublimation paper is made from quality materials, so you won’t observe any image cracking, smudging, or fading.

  1. Heat Transfer Paper

If you don’t plan to start a T-shirt printing business, you can use iron-on transfer paper and a regular inkjet printer to put a picture on a shirt. This process is easier for beginning crafters and DIYers. You don’t need expensive equipment to create custom shirts.

how to put a picture on a shirt

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

Using Transfer Paper for T-Shirt Design Printing

Transferring pictures from paper to T-shirt can be done using the simplest method of using iron on transfers. This method is very popular and only requires an inkjet printer for your transfer paper.

Before you begin crafting using transfer paper, it is advisable that you read more about it and how it is best applied to fabrics or garments. You don’t have to go to different shops selling specialty paper or printer paper, or even scout the internet to find the best transfer paper.

TeckWrap Craft’s Inkjet heat transfer paper is made of quality material that can produce excellent transfers.

Heat transfer paper is made of polymer or coated with wax and pigment, allowing any design printed on it to adhere to garments such as T-shirts, bags, towels, socks, pillowcases, and so on. The transfer created by transfer paper is permanent, so you can expect your design to last longer on your favorite garment.

The best thing about using heat transfer paper is the fact that you don’t need expensive equipment to create a transferred image onto fabrics. You simply need an inkjet printer, transfer paper, pair of scissors or a cutting machine, and a heat press or iron.

You must be aware that there are two types of heat transfer papers. You should know when it is best to use each one to be able to produce quality transfers.

You can read more about transfer papers in this transfer paper guide. The two types of heat transfer papers are Light Heat Transfer Paper and Dark Heat Transfer Paper.

Light Heat Transfer Paper
Light Fabrics
Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

Light Colored Shirts

When you choose white or light-colored shirts for your transfer, you must use TeckWrap Craft’s Light Fabrics Heat Transfer Paper pack. When using light transfer paper, always set your photo editing software to mirror image. 

Avoid using light transfer paper on black or dark-colored shirts, for your transferred image may look opaque. Light-colored transfer papers are generally thin and transparent.

Dark Colored Shirts

For dark-colored shirts, dark transfer paper is used. TeckWrap Craft’s Dark Fabrics Heat Transfer Paper pack is an excellent choice for your transfers on black or dark-colored shirts.

You may use dark heat transfer paper on all your transfers, even on light-colored shirts. It is possible. However, this may not be the most economical choice for dark heat transfer paper as it is more expensive than light heat transfer paper. Mirroring the image is not necessary for dark heat transfers.

The best advice would be to use light heat transfer paper for light-colored shirts and dark heat transfer paper for dark-colored shirts.

heat transfer paper

Dark Fabrics

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website

A pack of TeckWrap Craft heat transfer paper contains 15 pieces of A4-size transfer sheets, two parchment papers, and an instruction sheet. Each sheet of transfer paper has a printable side (white side) and the grid side. Use the printable side to print your picture.

Procedure in Using Transfer Paper

Materials and tools needed:

  • Inkjet Printer
  • Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper
  • Computer
  • T-shirt
  • Iron or heat press
  • Hard surface (like a sturdy table)
  • Scissors or Cricut cutter

Here are the simple steps on how to get your picture to transfer on a T-shirt:

  1. Choose Shirt

You can either use a newly bought shirt for your DIY project or an old one from your closet. The color of the shirt is very important, for this determines the type of transfer paper you will use - whether light fabrics or dark fabrics heat transfer papers.

If you want to print on dark-colored shirts, light-colored images are recommended. While white or light-colored shirts are best paired with dark images.

  1. Prewash Shirt

When you choose a new shirt for your DIY printing project, it is advisable to wash it first before printing on it. New shirts have the tendency to shrink when washed. Once the T-shirt has dried, iron the portion of the shirt where you plan to position the image. Do this on a  smooth and flat surface.        

  1. Choose Transfer Paper

Both inkjet transfer paper and laser transfer paper can be used to transfer images to fabrics. However, inkjet transfer paper is more popular because it produces better results than laser transfer paper.

You may notice outlines or residues around your design that are not part of the image when using laser transfer paper. Hence, cutting or trimming can be a challenge in this situation.

If you are looking for the best transfer paper for your project, look no further than TeckWrap Craft’s inkjet heat transfer paper. You can choose from dark fabrics or light fabrics transfer packs.

how to put a picture on a shirt

Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page 

  1. Prepare the Picture

Choose the picture or image you want to use for your project. It is highly advisable to use high-resolution images for better transfer results. If you have access to a photo editing software, use this to enhance the image that you like to transfer to your T-shirt.

There are several editing software that you may use. If you have a Cricut cutting machine, you may want to use Cricut’s Design Space program to create or edit your picture designs. If you are uncomfortable using scissors, you may use the cutting machine to cut the image precisely.

A Cricut cutting machine can cut surfaces such as paper, cloth, vinyl, and in some instances, wood. With the help of a cutting machine, you can be more creative with shirt designs by combining transfer paper and vinyl together.

If you choose to use light transfer paper, don’t forget to mirror the image before you begin printing on light transfer paper. Mirroring the picture is not necessary when you use dark heat transfer paper.

  1. Print Picture on Transfer Paper

Set up your inkjet printer and begin printing your image on transfer paper. Print the picture on the coated side of the transfer and not on the reverse or backing side. Allow the design to sit on the transfer paper for 5-10 minutes.

After printing, remove excess transfer paper that you don’t want to be transferred onto your shirt using a pair of scissors. You may use a copy paper as practice if you are not confident about your cutting skills. If you have a Cricut cutting machine, you may use them to perfectly cut the image.  

  1. Prepare Shirt for Transfer

Place your shirt or garment on a table or any flat surface. You may iron the shirt to remove wrinkles or creases. The transferred image will look smooth when the shirt is ironed before the transfer process..

  1. Peel off Paper Backing of Transfer Paper

Carefully peel off the paper backing from the transfer paper. The paper backing acts like parchment paper which you can cover the transfer paper with as protection during heat application.

A pack of TeckWrap Craft heat transfer paper comes with parchment paper. Parchment paper has a shiny side and a matte side. Several crafters noticed that positioning the shiny side of the parchment paper on top of the transfer paper can result in a durable transferred image.

Alternatively, you can use a soft kitchen towel to protect your transfer paper. For light transfer paper, position the picture face down, while the picture for dark transfer paper should face up when placed on the T-shirt.

  1. Apply Heat to Transfer

Once your shirt and transfer paper are ready, you can begin applying heat to your transfer paper. TeckWrap Craft recommends the temperature settings of 185°C (light transfer paper) and 165°C (dark transfer paper) while pressing for 25 seconds.

If you are using an iron, apply the heat starting at the center of the transfer paper while moving in a circular pattern until you reach the edges of the transfer paper. Keep applying heat for 3-4 minutes or as instructed in the packaging. Be extra careful when you are using an iron because this can burn your picture or scorch the paper when done improperly.

A pressing time of 25 seconds is recommended if you are using a heat press. A heat press has a flatbed where you position the garment. It also has a lid with hinges that you can lift and press for an even distribution of pressure and heat on your transfer paper.

An iron is the most affordable and convenient choice for most beginners. An iron is also a good option if you are starting out and producing low volumes of T-shirts to print. Using an iron can be time-consuming, and there is a lot of room for errors to occur.

On the other hand, a heat press can be an expensive investment if you are a beginner. However, if you decide to get one, you won’t regret it, for you can quickly see a big difference in the end product. Also, if you are planning to pursue a T-shirt printing business, a heat press is helpful in printing bulk orders.  

how to put a picture on a shirt

Using Heat Press Machine

Screenshot Image by @kiki_createsrgv from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

  1. Cool Peel Or Hot Peel

If you are using light transfer paper, a hot peel is recommended. Slowly peel off the paper back and parchment paper within 5 seconds after applying the heat.

However, once the transfer has cooled down for dark transfer paper, you can start peeling. Though, hot peeling is also possible with dark transfer paper. Once you are done peeling off the layers, you are done!

Care Instructions for Fabrics With Heat Transferred Image

You have successfully transferred the picture to your T-shirt! But, it doesn’t stop there. You want to keep the image to last longer so you can use the T-shirt longer as well. There are a few important instructions on how you can care for your shirts that you must follow.

First, let the image sit for at least 24 hours after the image transfer on the shirt. After which, you may wash it. It is recommended to wash your shirt by hand.

Washing your shirt using a washing machine or tumble drying is not advisable. Avoid applying bleach to your shirt and wringing it.

As much as possible, do not expose your shirt directly under the heat of the sun. Also, be mindful not to directly iron the transferred image.  

Factors to Consider in Putting Pictures on a T-Shirt

  1. Choosing Quality Transfer Paper

If you use quality transfer paper, you can also expect quality transfer. It is advantageous to get high-quality and durable transfer paper for printing. Quality transfers are elastic, have vibrant colors, are not prone to cracking or peeling, can withstand constant washing, and are less prone to color fading.

  1. Using High Resolution Images

Pictures you can download online oftentimes have low resolutions (approximately 72 ppi). Even if the image looks fantastic, you must avoid using it for your T-shirt printing because it will not look good when printed.

You should always use high-resolution images (at least 200 ppi) for T-shirt printing. If you have the raw file of the image, the better because this file is the largest format that you can get. Pictures with higher resolutions are easier to edit and resize.

When using digital images for your shirts, the transfer output should follow the what you see is what you get principle. Your transferred image on the shirt should look exactly the same as what you see in your computer program.

It is easy to convert the image you will use for your transfer using Photoshop. With Photoshop, you can convert the picture from RGB to CMYK. You can easily adjust the picture's settings when the picture is in CMYK color mode.

Also, you can crop and resize your picture in Photoshop. Leave enough white space around the picture when cropping. Resizing your picture helps you choose how big or small the picture will be.

  1. T-Shirt Color

First-time crafters may not see how crucial it is to take into consideration the color of the shirt that you will use for your transfer. The color of the shirt will determine the quality and the color contrast of the picture on the shirt.        

If you want to print on a dark-colored shirt, it is best to use light-colored images, so the colors are highlighted. Conversely, use dark-colored images on light-colored shirts to emphasize the vibrant colors.

how to put a picture on a shirt

Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can you transfer a picture onto a fabric?

The easiest way to transfer a picture onto a fabric is by printing a picture on a heat transfer paper

using an inkjet printer. All you need to do is prepare your shirt by prewashing. Print your desired

design on a transfer paper and position it over your fabric. Apply heat over the transfer to

permanently transfer the picture onto a fabric.

  1. How can I transfer a picture on a shirt at home?

You can use the DTG method, screen printing, sublimation printing, applying HTV, or use heat transfer paper for transferring a picture on a shirt. HTV, heat transfer paper, and sublimation printing are three of the easiest ways to transfer pictures on shirts at home. If you want to know more details about how you can transfer pictures on shirts at home, read this article.

  1. Can you transfer a picture on a shirt without using transfer paper?

        If you don’t have transfer paper or a printer, you can use plastic wrap instead to transfer pictures on a shirt. You can use pictures from glossy magazines and wrap them with plastic wrap. Position the picture with plastic wrap face down on the shirt. Place parchment paper over it and iron it (medium heat). Let the transfer cool and carefully peel off.


Printing your own design and transferring it to a shirt or garment is a worthwhile project. It may take some time to perfect, but with practice, you can surely improve and achieve the desired outcomes.

Use quality materials for your transfers. TeckWrap Craft is making your crafting journey so much easier by offering your tons of vinyl design and printable paper. Visit TeckWrap Craft to get the latest updates and the best deals!

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