How To Use Heat Transfer Paper Properly [A Complete Guideline]

The heat transfer paper works is an amazing way of transferring images on shirts and garments with the application of heat. With the use of an inkjet or a laser printer, the process requires transfer of the design to a heat transfer paper and later imprinted on the fabric.

Imprinting designs and texts on fabric is an innovative way of customizing your products for personal use or for creating a business enterprise. People with artistic and philosophical minds often express their thoughts through printing messages in t-shirts either with iron or heat transfer machines. We have for you a simple process of how to use heat transfer paper in your t-shirt printing.

Essential Equipment and Supplies Needed for Printing with Heat Transfer Paper

For printing with heat transfer paper, the following equipment and supplies are necessary.

Computer, printer, ink, heat transfer paper, heat press, cutter, heat press, heat pads, heat tape, heat resistant sheet, and substrates.

Computer: A computer with software to work on graphic design is essential. The Photoshop and Photo illustrator software are good for composing custom designs.

Printer: An inkjet or laser is in use for printing on transfer paper. The printer size should be large enough to accommodate big designs. Inkjet heat transfer paper printers, however, need special ink and transfer paper.

Ink: The ink types vary depending on the desired finish. Inkjet is common because of accessibility and affordability. To achieve resistance to fading, pigment inks work well. For dye-sublimation, the best is the sublimation ink.

How to Use Heat Transfer Paper

The heat transfer paper is a special paper on which you can print a design with an inkjet or laser printer. The prints on transfer from the printable heat transfer paper to fabrics look real. The heat transfer paper is of two types, clear heat transfer paper for fabrics with light color and white heat transfer paper for substrates of dark color.

The transparent heat transfer paper creates bright prints on white and light-colored fabric. The paper is thin. The paper before imprinting in fabric should be cur very close so that there is no margin left after ironing or heat pressing.

For black or deep colored fabrics, white transfer paper is suitable. The papers are opaque and thin. The colors come out sharp on a dark background.

To enable cutting the paper very near to the design and with precision, a Cricut or Silhouette is the best. For small work on decals, sharp scissors apply.

Heat Press Machine comes in different sizes and shapes. Based on your project you need to get a suitable one. The flatbed is appropriate for fabrics, shirts, and accessories. The cylindrical press is for rounded objects such as mugs and bottles.

how to use heat transfer paper with heat press

Vinyl Cutter or Cricut used for cutting the design in the transfer paper for pressing in the t-shirt.

Heat Pads: placed at the bottom of the heat press platen to serve as a cushion. They are made of heat-resistant silicone.

Heat Tape: The tapes hold the transfer paper in position.

Heat resistant sheet made of Teflon placed between the platen and transfer paper so that the transfer paper does not burn.

Substrates are anything that you print on and transfer the design of the transfer paper. They can be a sweatshirt, t-shirts, bags, child wear, canvas, and many more.

Best Fabric for Imprinting with Heat Transfer Paper

The most suitable fabric for heat transfer paper is 100 percent native fiber such as cotton, linen, and silk. Polyester and spandex blends are not suitable as they stretch.

how to use heat transfer paper for t shirts

The imprints are sharp if the fabric is pre-washed and made wrinkle-free. It is best to iron your t-shirt before imprinting your design with heat press transfer paper.

The Procedure of Using Heat Transfer Paper for Light Material

Here is a procedure on how to use heat transfer paper for light fabrics.

  • The side of the transfer paper with matte finish is the right side on which the design is printed. Before you print, create a mirror image of the design.
  • Cut the design with scissors, vinyl cutter, or Cricut. Trim very close to the edge of the design so that no extra material remains with the prints. Using the Cricut machine, remove the transfer paper.
  • Wash and dry the fabric to get the best printing result. Iron your t-shirt to remove wrinkles.

inkjet transfer paper

  • Place the t-shirt on the heat-resistant sheet, or the flatbed of the heat bed if you are applying a heat transfer machine for printing.
  • For iron-on transfer heat your iron to a temperature tolerant to the fabric of the t-shirt and press hard for 20seconds in each position. Make sure that the entire design is on the substrate. Place the transfer paper for heat press with the design the same in the flatbed and adjust the temperature and time according to the manual. Let the heat press automatically print. For vinyl heat transfer paper adjust the temperature and timer according to the manual.
  • Let it cool. Peel off the backing and reveal the design. Your t-shirt is ready to wear after 24 hours.

The Procedure of Using Heat Transfer Paper for Dark Material

The procedure is slightly different for heat transfer paper for dark fabric.

  • Print the design on the side of the transfer paper with matte finish. Here, as you are working with heat transfer paper, you do not require creating a mirror image. The side of the symbol will face upward when you apply it to the substrate you are printing. The other way to stay alert is by removing the backing before pressing the fabric.
  • Cut the design with scissors, vinyl cutter, or Cricut to precision, leaving a very little border.
  • Prepare the t-shirt by pressing it with iron and make it wrinkle-free.

how to use heat transfer paper with iron

  • Place the t-shirt on the platen of the heat machine, remove the paper at the back, and lay the design on the t-shirt. Taping it keeps it firmly in position. Use protective paper to cover the image.
  • Adjust the temperature and timer of the heat press and switch it on.
  • Let it cool. Take away the protective sheet of paper and observe the beauty of your design.


With all the background information on how to use heat transfer paper, printing t-shirts and making decorations is no longer challenging. If you use your innovative ideas on the various ways this technology applies, this simple printing method will take you to greater heights. All you need is to follow the instruction and practice.

Perhaps, finding the equipment and accessories may seem out of your way. No worries, once you list down you find that you most of the essential, such as the computer and printer. While starting with such an artistic hobby, you can land up in becoming an enthusiastic entrepreneur with minor investment. Good luck!


Alice covers platforms, policy and big tech at Printer Reviews. Prior to rejoining here, Alice was Senior Technology Editor of the TechDen. Alice first joined PrinterReviews in 2021. Before joining, he was the Tech Editor of the Daily Dot and a reporter and deputy editor at ReadWeb.

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