How do I get started with heat transfer paper?

Heat transfer papers allow you to create your own customer clothing, bags, mousepads, and many other fabric items without the expense and labor of your average screen printing set-up! They are also very useful when a customer needs only a few of these items imprinted and other printing methods do not allow for this to be done cost effectively. Simply design your image, print it onto one of our quality transfer papers and transfer it onto your garment using heat. It's just that easy!

Equipment/Items Needed

  • Inkjet or laser printer
  • Artwork or photograph
  • Heat transfer papers
  • Heat press (for best results)
    With some papers, you can use a conventional home/hand iron to press heat transfer papers. However, for the softest and longest-lasting results, we highly recommend the use of a heat press.
  • Garment or other fabric items to imprint
    Generally speaking, polyester and cotton blends are the most likely compatible fabric blends with heat transfer papers and vinyl products.
  • Vinyl cutter (recommended) for non-self weeding papers, such as inkjet papers. 
    Some heat transfer papers transfer an entire sheet unless they are trimmed down - ie, leaving the dreaded "white box" around your images - for the highest consistency and detail of quality, as well as speed in trimming away excess transfers from your design, a vinyl cutter is often a recommended accessory tool in a t-shirt print shop.

How large can/should I print when designing t-shirts?

Standard sizes of heat transfer paper include 8.5" x 11" (Letter) and 11" x 17" (Tabloid), but we also offer rolls and European sizes such as A3 and A4 on select papers. Not all printers can print up to 11" x 17" however, so do check with the manufacturer or distributor on maximum print sizes. Would 8.5" x 11" be large enough for your business? Look into the sizes of shirts you're most likely to sell -- this size would work perfectly for children's wear to an adult size small or medium, but you may need a larger size to accommodate large or extra-large shirts.

How do I press heat transfer papers?

Once your image is ready to be printed you may need to reverse the orientation of the image, depending on the transfer paper being used. If you are using a heat transfer paper for light colors, then you will need to reverse or mirror your image's orientation so that your image prints out backward onto the paper. This is especially critical if you have text in your design. The text should be backward on screen or on the printout. Ideally, the program or printing options will have an opportunity for you to reverse the image.

Since most opaque papers are pressed face-side up, there is usually no need to print the image backward, but it’s always important to read the included directions for the specifics of what needs to be done. It's also a good idea to print a preview copy of your image onto regular copy paper before actually printing it on the transfer paper. This will help you verify that the image will print in the correct orientation, doesn't fall into your no-print zone (when using registration marks) and is sized appropriately, as the on-screen view can be deceiving. Also, remember that the colors you see on your screen will not always be exactly what print out.

As with any desktop publishing project, consider the color of the item you are pressing onto when selecting colors for your designs. This is where you may need to decide to use an opaque transfer paper rather than a regular heat transfer paper. It’s a good idea to test your design on “scratch fabric” before applying it to your final t-shirt or another garment. Some fabrics may require more heat and pressure than others and may not show off your design as well as you expected. Therefore, it is best to determine the best specifications for pressing before you press your final product.

How do I design the t-shirt graphics?

The final, but often most important, part of your t-shirt is the design of the image. You can create original artwork from scratch, scan in photos or clip art to customize, or even use photographs from a digital camera with almost any graphics or creative printing program. However, if you want color consistency and accuracy, we suggest using a program intended for design (popular design programs include CorelDraw, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator). Not only will this allow you to use the best available tools to create or enhance your image, but it will also enable you to tweak color settings if necessary. For beginners of these programs, there are a huge amount of tutorials and help online for free to get you started in these programs.


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