How to Use Transfer Paper for Shirts: The Ultimate Guide

Image by Alterio Felines from Pixabay 

Using heat transfer paper on shirts generally has two main procedures- (1) printing the design on the transfer paper, (2) then transferring the design by heat press onto the shirt.  To learn more about this in detail, here is the Ultimate Guide.

The designs in your mind will land on your shirts because of this important material- the transfer paper. Learning to use transfer paper for shirts is a must and a leveling up in the t-shirt printing business.  Plus, if you are a newbie who wants to customize using heat transfer, you’ll learn more.  Read on!

The Transfer Paper/Heat Transfer Paper


dark heat transfer paper
dark heat transfer paper



Transfer Paper goes by many names, such as heat transfer paper/Iron On Transfer Paper/T-shirt Paper, a paper sheet, or a translucent film that gets in contact with a desired surface and for an image printed on it to be transferred.  It is a game changer and the main element in the textile printing of canvas, fabric, t-shirts, or clothes.

Heat transfer paper uses designs created using an inkjet printer and transferred on fabrics using heat transfer paper.  Crafting and printing the design is easy when you use your computer.  Pictures are transferred as it was printed!

Printing using heat transfer is thin enough, like a screen print, but much better because of the unlimited designs and colors.

And when we talk about shirts, what is the most effective to transfer images, text, or both onto fabrics?  Read on to learn about transfer papers.

How Does Transfer Paper Work?

Generally, two steps exist to place a design from heat transfer paper onto a shirt. This is also applicable to other types of fabric.

First, you must set up the printer before loading it with your image.

Then, once your images have been loaded, print out the design, which will then be transferred onto any piece of clothing or fabric.

Types of Transfer Paper

transfer paper for printing

Light Transfer Paper


transfer paper

Use TeckWrap Craft’s Light Fabrics Heat Transfer Paper pack to print t-shirts on white or light-colored fabric.  When using light transfer paper, always set your print editing software to “ mirror image.”

When you use light transfer paper on black or dark-colored t-shirts, the quality of your prints will not be great and may look opaque.  Light-colored transfer papers are generally thin and transparent.

Dark Transfer Paper

When you want to print on dark-colored shirts, use dark transfer paper.  TeckWrap Craft’s Dark Fabric Heat Transfer Paper pack is an excellent choice for transfers on black or dark-colored shirts.

The good thing about dark transfer papers is you may also use them on light-colored t-shirts.  But this may not be economical; it is more expensive than light heat transfer paper.  Additionally, with dark heat transfer papers, mirroring is unnecessary.

The best thing to do is to use light heat transfer paper for light fabric and dark heat transfer paper for dark-colored shirts.  Take note that dark heat transfer paper made for dark fabrics will have a white background which makes the image visible on a dark fabric.

heat transfer paper
Image from TeckWrap Craft website

How Can Transfer Paper Be Applied to Shirts: Step-by-Step Process

t shirt printing using heat transfer paper

Designs from the transfer paper printed using an inkjet printer are transferred to t-shirts and other fabrics using a heat press.  

Here is the detailed process:

Step One - Prepare your workplace.

transfer paper for shirt printing
Image from Canva


Find a hard surface that can withstand heat.  It is where you’ll work with your heat transfer paper.  Prepare the surface by covering it with a cloth or any material you wish to use.  Be sure to use something hard and firm for the main surface, where you will do the heat transfer.

Do not use ironing boards, as you won’t be able to apply extreme pressure: a hard, firm surface is the best option.

Step Two - Load your heat transfer paper.

Load your heat transfer paper onto a regular inkjet printer, with the white side up as it is where the designs should be printed.  

Step Three - Print

t shirt printing using heat transfer paper
Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page  


Print your designs.  Ensure that you have set your printed output to “mirror pages”. A mirror image has a reversed structure compared to the target output.  Yes, you’ll see your prints mirrored, so it will be perfect when you transfer them to t-shirts.  Mirroring is mostly used when printing texts.  But you can still mirror your designs whether or not they have text.  It’s up to you!

The good thing about using transfer paper is that your design could be anything from pictures, drawings, paintings, or texts.  What will be printed out will be the one you’ll see on your shirt once you’re done transferring.  

You can use an inkjet or laser printer.  Just make sure it matches the specifications of your heat transfer paper.

If you use an inkjet printer, you’ll need Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper.  If you use a laser printer, you’ll need Laserjet Heat Transfer Paper.  And if you’re unsure what type you have, search for it on the internet, and it will tell you.  Just key in your printer’s model number.

Step Four - Prepare the t-shirt.

t shirt printing how to
Image from Canva


Now that your design is ready, choose the t-shirt to customize.  The transfer paper you’re going to use will depend on the fabric.  White and Light fabrics need Light Inkjet Transfer Paper.  Dark fabrics need Dark Inkjet Transfer Paper.

Take note that the white transfer or what they call light transfer paper is a thin opaque white.  When you use light transfer paper to colored or dark fabrics, the opaque white transfer keeps the dark fabric colors invisible through the transfer.

how to use light inkjet paper

Do you really need the right transfer paper?

Using the right transfer paper or transfer sheets can help maximize the benefits of using transfer paper.  Besides getting the best transfer results, it produces a more durable design.


Transfer Sheets meant to be used on light fabrics match the light fabric colors like white, light gray, yellow, cream, light beige, etc.

Dark fabric colors like black, red, gray, blue, etc., need dark transfer sheets.

Step Five - Cut your Design

Now, it’s time to grab a pair of scissors and cut out your design.  You can also use a cutting machine if you want.  If you are a newbie, you may practice with a copy paper to ensure perfectly cut lines.  You don’t want to ruin your design, right?

When using Light Heat Transfer Paper, cut as close to the design as possible, leaving little space.  Any light-colored space left around the image will be visible after you press.

Step Six - Press

heat press for shirt printing

Now that you have cut your design, press the fabric for a few seconds before adding it on shirt.  This process will remove moisture and wrinkles.  Detach your image from the backing paper and position it face down (for light heat transfer paper) or face up on dark fabrics (for dark transfer paper).  

Don’t forget to cover the image with parchment paper before pressing.  The parchment paper acts as a protective film.

TeckWrap Craft recommends a temperature of 185 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes,  if you use a pressing machine.  This will ensure that the heat transfer paper adheres to the light-colored fabrics.

For dark transfer paper for dark-colored fabrics, recommended temperature and time are 165 degrees Celcius for 25 seconds.

Here are the suggested temperature and pressing times:

TeckWrap Craft Product


In ℉


In ℃

 Press Time

(in seconds)

Colorful Camouflage Heat Transfer

290 ℉ to 300 ℉

143 ℃ to 148 ℃


Flock Heat Press Vinyl (HPV)

310 ℉ to 320 ℉

154 ℃ to 160 ℃



266 ℉ to 284 ℉

130 ℃ to 140 ℃


PU Rainbow Stripes HPV

266 ℉ to 284 ℉

130 ℃ to 140 ℃


Glitter HTV

266 ℉ to 284 ℉

130 ℃ to 140 ℃


Colorful Splash HTV

300 ℉ to 315 ℉

149 ℃ to 157 ℃


Galaxy HTV

266 ℉ to 284 ℉

130 ℃ to 140 ℃


Glow In The Dark HTV

300 ℉ to 315 ℉

149 ℃ to 157 ℃


Snowflakes Pattern HTV

300 ℉ to 315 ℉

149 ℃ to 157 ℃


Puff HTV

300 ℉ to 315 ℉

149 ℃ to 157 ℃


Glow In The Dark Puff HTV

300 ℉ to 315 ℉

149 ℃ to 157 ℃


Patterned HTV

266 ℉ to 284 ℉

130 ℃ to 140 ℃



You may use a heat press machine to ensure the best results for your iron-on transfer paper, but a home iron can be an alternative if you have none.  A heat press machine can apply pressure to the image evenly and perfectly, especially for a large volume of transfers.

For beginners, it is recommended to try using a home iron as it is more convenient if you make a few transfers.  A Home iron can be your go-to in case you don’t have a pressing machine for an iron on transfer paper.

If you are printing a complicated design, use a transfer tape that is heat resistant to get your design onto the fabric correctly.  TeckWrap Craft’s Transfer Tape makes this easier done than said.

heat transfer paper and transfer tape
heat transfer paper for t shirt printing

Once you are done pressing, remove the parchment paper.  For light transfer paper, it is best to hot peel it within 5 seconds.  On the other hand, a cold peeling or hot peeling method is required for dark transfer papers.

Helpful Tips

A custom shirt made from Iron On Transfer Paper must be handled carefully to preserve its beauty and last longer.

Tip 1

When washing your t-shirts made of customized designs using transfer paper, select a 40-degree wash with a full spin cycle.  Most customized shirts exceed the 15 washes lifespan.  The average is 20 washes.

Tip 2

do not use bleach on shirts for printing

Do not use bleach and detergents with bleach as they may cause the image to fade immediately.

Tip 3

t shirt printing

Do not forget to reverse the image when you need to, like mirroring the image when using Light Transfer Paper.

Tip 4

printing shirts

Be careful not to print on the non-coated side of the sheet.

Tip 5

Ironing the cut-out design from transfer paper on an uneven or not solid surface.

Tip 6

Remember to use an iron that is hot enough.  Don’t forget to consider the temperature and pressing time required for each type of transfer material.

Tip 7

Use light transfer paper for light-colored shirts.  And for dark fabric, use dark transfer paper.

Tip 8

printing shirts with transfer paper

Cut as close to the image so no white space will be visible after you press your transfer.  It is better to use a cutting machine if you have one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you iron transfer paper on a shirt?

heat transfer printing on a shirt

To iron transfer paper on a shirt, you must remember to consider two things: (1) the type of transfer paper and (2) pressing temperature and time.

How do I ensure the image is already mirrored?  

Before printing your image on transfer paper, print it on normal printer paper. You wouldn’t want to waste transfer papers.

Follow these simple steps:

  1.  Open what you want to print as an image or text.
  2. Open the print dialog box (Click File, then click Print)
  3. Go to Layout in the Application dropdown
  4. Check the option that says “Reverse Page Orientation”, or just simply flip image.

What happens if I use the wrong type of printer?

t shirt design printing

The real secret in the transfer process lies in the paper more than the ink.  However, printing using the specific printer required by the heat transfer paper manufacturer ensures your custom t-shirts will have long-lasting images from the iron on transfer paper.

Heat Transfer Paper is typically made for inkjet printers, so finding laser printers that will match it can be hard.  The cue is to match the printer with the requirements of the transfer paper manufacturer.   Generally, the best results are from inkjet printers.

What is the best t-shirt fabric for iron-on transfers?

iron on transfer shirt

The best t-shirt fabric for iron-on transfers on t-shirts is 100% cotton be that dark fabrics or light fabrics  If it is unavailable, your t-shirt. must be at least 50% cotton.  This will ensure the image adheres well and will endure washing.

You may use a t-shirt that’s 50% cotton and 50% polyester.  Remember that

the best fabric for an iron-on transfer is 100% cotton.

TeckWrap Craft’s Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper

t shirt printing on dark shirts

You can now custom-print t-shirts with the designs you want!  TeckWrap Craft’s Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper makes t-shirt printing less expensive with vibrant colors and designs you can think of.

Who says you cannot print your own t-shirt?  Just as long as you’ve got the right heat transfer paper.  Start your t-shirt printing journey with TeckWrap Craft!

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