Transfer paper makes it easy to put pictures on T-shirts, but there are alternative methods to consider too. One of the best uses a gel medium, which works in a similar way to transfer paper and gives excellent results. Purchase a jar of glossy or matte gel medium and explore the endless possibilities for DIY T-shirt printing without transfer paper. Any image that you can print or photocopy can be transferred to a T-shirt, so experiment with original artwork, photographs, text and any other pictures you like.
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Supplies for DIY T-Shirt Printing Without Transfer Paper
To put pictures on a T-shirt, you need a T-shirt, a disappearing fabric marker or chalk pencil, gel medium, a paintbrush, a printed or photocopied image, a spray bottle of water, an old towel and a soft cloth. Prewash, dry and iron the T-shirt, which should be an appropriate color to complement the image. A plain white T-shirt is always a good choice. Set up a work area with a flat surface and a place where you can leave the shirt to dry undisturbed.
Create an Image
For the best results when DIY T-shirt printing without transfer paper, use a laser printer to print your picture or photocopy the picture. It could be a digital photograph, an image copied from the internet, a picture cut from a magazine or newspaper or original artwork.
The transferred image will appear on the T-shirt as a mirror image of the original print, so remember to reverse the image before printing. This is especially important if your image has text. You can usually do this by changing the print settings or using image editing software. You can also use software to edit the picture in any way you desire, such as changing the size, using a filter, adding text or altering the color, contrast or brightness.
Prepare the T-shirt
Take the time to mark the correct position for your picture on the T-shirt before you start the transfer process. Cut around the edges of the printed picture if necessary and place it face down on the T-shirt in your desired position. If you want the picture to be perfectly in the center, use a ruler to make sure the dimensions from the side edges of the picture to the side seams of the shirt are equal on both sides.
When the picture is in the ideal position, trace around the edges with a chalk pencil or a disappearing fabric marker. Place an old towel inside the T-shirt underneath the area where the image will be. This will prevent the gel medium from soaking through to the back of the shirt.
Transfer the Picture
Protect your surface with newspaper or a plastic bag. With a paintbrush, paint a thick layer of gel medium over the picture on the printed side. Make sure you thoroughly cover every part of the picture.
Now, carefully place the picture gel side down on the T-shirt. Use the marked lines as a positioning guide and try not to move the picture around. Press it down firmly onto the shirt and then leave the T-shirt to air dry. This will take at least a few hours, possibly as long as overnight.
Remove the Paper
When everything is dry, it's time to remove the paper from the back of the image.
Spray the paper thoroughly with water and use a soft cloth to gently but firmly rub away the back of the paper. You might also try using your fingers or a burnishing tool. Work in one area at a time, brushing away the wet paper crumbs as you work. Be patient and reapply water when needed.
When all the paper is gone, you should see the picture transferred successfully onto the T-shirt. To best preserve the printed image on your T-shirt, always hand wash and line dry it.