Are you interested in learning how to print your own t shirt at home? There are two great methods for DIY t shirt printing at home, simplified versions of the ones professionals employ. Read our post on screen printing here, or read on to learn about using the iron-on transfer method to print your own t shirt.

Iron on Transfer to Print Your Own T Shirt

The iron on transfer printing method is a simple, no-fuss and no mess way to apply a design or complex image to a t shirt or other fabric. To print your own t shirt only requires a design, a home or office printer, an iron, and something to print.

Step by Step Guide

(1) Choose the design

Any design, logo, or image can potentially be used to print your own t shirt. 

Make sure you only use designs and images of your own creation. If you intend to sell the t shirts. 

Oddly shaped designs, rather than those in a box, will require more precise and difficult cutting. There is nothing wrong with this, just be prepared.

Your chosen design or image will either need to already be on the computer or you will have to upload it.

Scan the physical photo or take a photograph of it to send it to the computer and then the printer.

(2) Purchase the transfer paper

Heat transfer paper can be purchased at stationery, craft, and office supply stores. You will need to choose from two types, one that transfers onto whites and pastels and one that transfers onto other colours.

Transfer paper usually comes in the same dimensions as printer paper. If you don’t want that size, ensure your printer can handle the one you want.

(3) Mirror images for light-coloured t shirts

Transfer paper designed for light-coloured fabrics creates a mirror image. To achieve the results you want, you will need to reverse or mirror the image before printing. Your printer may offer an option for this or you may need to edit the photo in a photo editor before printing.

Test the mirror image before printing onto a shirt by printing the image on regular printer paper.

You can skip this step when printing on darker shirts.

(4) Print your design

Crop the photo if you only want to iron on a portion of the image.

Click preview to ensure your image will fit on the transfer paper. If it is too big, choose “fit to scale” in the printer’s menu or reduce the size of the image in a photo editor.

Choose “landscape” in your printing options if your photo is wider than it is tall.

Make sure your transfer paper doesn’t have a right and wrong side. One side may have a logo or be a slightly different color or opacity than the other. This may mean you can print on a wrong side. Read the directions before proceeding to print your own t shirt.

(5) Cut out the image

You must cut around the image exactly to ensure no blank transfer paper is left. If you try to iron on an image with excess paper, a shadow will be left on the t shirt in the shape of the transfer paper.

You can use a ruler and an exacto knife to achieve a clean cut.

(6) Choose and cover the surface

Choose a table, countertop, or ironing board that is both smooth and able to withstand heat. You don’t want to damage the surface or interfere with the print.

Cover the surface with a cotton pillowcase to further protect the surface and the t shirt.

(7) Iron on

Follow ironing instructions on the transfer paper. If there are none, assume general iron on printing procedure and set the iron for “cotton” or “high”. Make sure it is set for dry heat and no steam. If your iron has water in it, pour it out to ensure the water doesn’t produce any steam.

Allow the iron to heat up. 

Iron the shirt, on top of the pillowcase, until the shirt is completely flat BEFORE applying the design. You don’t want wrinkles to be printed into your design.

Place light transfer paper face down and place dark transfer paper face up. 

Make sure the image is straight and in the correct position.

Press the iron firmly onto the t shirt, applying pressure with your whole hand.

Your transfer paper should specify how long to iron. It may take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. 

Move the iron as little as possible to maintain even, constant heat over the entire image. 

(8) Let it cool

Remove the iron and let the image and t shirt cool for at least a few minutes. The paper should feel room temperature.

Peel off the paper.

Congratulations! You’ve just printed your first shirt with the iron on transfer method.

Pros and Cons of Iron on Transfer to Print Your Own T Shirt at Home

Pros:

  • It’s really easy.
  • It’s not messy.
  • You don’t have to handle chemicals.
  • You can print a complex design or image exactly as it appears.

Cons:

  • You will have to print a new transfer each time you want to print your own t shirt.
  • Iron on designs last a long time, but not as long as screen printed ones.

Compare Iron on Transfer method to screen t shirt printing at home – find out more

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