How to Make an Iron-On Decal

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You can make your own custom decals on your computer using iron-on transfer paper, which is available in many fabric, craft and even office supply stores. Although most transfer paper comes in 8 1/2 by 11 letter-sized sheets, you can easily cut out smaller iron-on decals after you print them. However, once you run a sheet of iron-on transfer paper through your printer and cut out a decal, you may not be able to reuse the rest of the sheet. For this reason, it’s best to fill up as much of the sheet as possible by printing multiple decals at once.

Things You'll Need

  • Iron-on transfer paper
  • Plain paper
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Cotton garment or fabric
  • Cotton handkerchief or scrap of cotton fabric

Choose iron-on transfer paper that’s compatible with the type of printer you have. Some types work only with inkjet printers, while others work only with laser printers or color copiers.

Look for iron-on transfer paper that’s designed for your project. Use white or light T-shirts or fabrics if you plan to put the decal on light colored fabric, or get iron-on transfer paper that’s especially made for black or dark materials if you plan to put the decal on dark fabric.

Create your decal design in a desktop publishing program (Microsoft Word can also work for this). You can use a family photograph, clip art or an emblem you draw yourself to make the decal. Add text to the decal design if desired.

Print the decal design on plain paper to see how it looks. Adjust the size, color and layout of the decal if needed.

Flip the decal design so that it looks backwards on the screen if you’re using a picture or words that only work in one direction. That way, the decal will look right once it’s ironed on. If you’re not sure how to do this, look for a command such as “Flip Horizontal” or “Mirror” in your desktop publishing software.

Insert one sheet of iron-on transfer paper in your printer’s input tray. Use the special media tray or input slot if your printer has one. Follow the printer manufacturer’s directions for loading the iron-on transfer paper. Some printers require the iron-on transfer paper to be loaded with the backing side facing up, while others require it to be facedown.

Print the decal on the iron-on transfer paper. Cut out the decal using a sharp scissors.

Position the decal, with the backing side up, on a clean cotton garment or piece of fabric. Set the iron to the high setting, or the setting recommended by the iron-on transfer paper manufacturer.

Cover the decal with a cotton handkerchief or scrap of cotton fabric. Press the transfer paper firmly, with the iron covering the entire transfer, for the length of time recommended by the transfer paper manufacturer. If the decal is too large to cover with the iron, press part of the decal first, then press another section, without moving the iron back and forth while pressing.

Let the iron-on decal cool completely, then carefully peel off the backing paper.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wash and dry your garment or fabric before ironing on any decal. Turn the garment or fabric inside out before putting it in the wash to protect the decal.
  • Use iron-on transfer paper that is designed for your printer. Laser printers can melt inkjet paper and cause damage to the printer. Use caution when working with hot irons. When finished, unplug the iron and let it cool in a safe place.

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