How to Design Graphics for Clothes

Heat transfer paper allows you to place a graphic directly on your favorite T-shirt or jacket.
Heat transfer paper allows you to place a graphic directly on your favorite T-shirt or jacket. (Image: Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

User-friendly software and high quality home printers have allowed everyone the opportunity to become a fashion designer. Screen-printing companies can take your files and transfer them to articles of clothing that you provide or purchase. If you prefer instant gratification, you can complete the entire process at home with heat transfer paper and an iron.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Design software
  • Four-color printer
  • Article of clothing
  • Heat transfer paper
  • Parchment paper
  • Iron

Using your favorite design software, create a graphic that suits your personal style.

Print the graphic in reverse on special heat transfer paper, which can be purchased at your local craft store. Follow the instructions that come with the paper to feed it properly into your printer.

Lay the heat transfer paper face down on the article of clothing that you wish to embellish with the graphic.

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit over the heat transfer paper and press both layers with a hot iron.

Make sure that you iron all sides of the heat transfer paper evenly, then let the clothing cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the parchment paper and slowly peel the backing of the heat transfer paper away from the article of clothing to reveal the graphic underneath.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't own professional design software, search for a free alternative online.
  • Wash your clothing inside out and on a gentle cycle to prolong the life of your heat transfer graphic.
  • If your graphic has text, it is especially important to print in reverse or as a "mirror-image." Failure to do so will result in backwards text.
  • Please note that there are generally two different types of heat transfer paper available in craft stores. One is used for dark articles of clothing; one is better suited for light clothing.

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