How to Use Transfer Paper

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An iron with a dry setting is typically used to transfer appliques from paper to garment.
Image Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Transfer paper is used to permanently place an image onto a piece of fabric such as a T-shirt, jacket, jersey, cloth banner, flag or other textile. When the paper is heated, its adhesive backing melts the printed image directly into the fabric. Such a project represents an enjoyable and inexpensive way for creative types to make their own original garments.


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Choose the image you wish to print and the garment you want to print it on. Check your printer options to ensure it is on the highest resolution or a photo-quality setting. Also, set the printer for "mirror mode," which reverses the image on the paper so that it will look right on the garment. Mark one side of a regular piece of paper with an X and print out a test so you know which side of the paper the printer will print on and whether the quality is sufficient.

Printing the Image

Load the printer so that the blank-coated side of the transfer paper will receive the image. Most brands of transfer paper will have a red grid or similar warning on the reverse side of the paper to let you know that that side should not be printed on. Print your image onto the transfer paper, and then set it aside.


The Work Surface

Prepare a flat, solid surface to transfer the image that will not be adversely affected by heat. A large wooden or hard plastic cutting board on top of a table or workbench is a good choice. Do not use an ironing board – it is too soft for the correct amount of pressure to be applied. Once the surface is prepared, place the garment down and spread it out.

Transfer Preparation

If your garment has wrinkles, use the iron to thoroughly remove them per the garment's care tag instructions. Then, pre-heat the iron for about five minutes on its maximum setting. While it heats up, trim away the excess transfer paper around the image using a pair of scissors. Get as close to the image as possible without cutting into it – usually within 3 to 4 millimeters. Next, place the image face down onto the garment where you want it to transfer. The red grid or similar warning should be facing up.


Transferring the Image

Put the iron on a dry setting so that there is no steam. Again, the heat should be at maximum. Apply the iron to the image and move it around as though you were ironing. Apply a generous amount of pressure; this is crucial for a proper transfer, including the elimination of air bubbles. Continue moving the iron around, ensuring each part of the image is in contact with the iron for up to 60 seconds.

Peeling Off the Paper

Set the iron down, but leave it turned on. Allow the transfer paper to cool down for about five minutes or until it reaches room temperature. Then, stretch the garment a little and peel the paper off from one corner. The image should now be applied to the garment.


Finishing It Up

Place a piece of reusable silicon paper over the image on the garment. Apply the hot iron to the paper and, using firm pressure, move the iron around the paper for 20 to 30 seconds. This will add longevity to the image – particularly in the laundry – by pressing it further into the garment. Remove the silicon paper, turn off the iron and enjoy your new garment!