How to Print on Transfer Paper? A Complete Guide

If you are from the textile, printing, art field, or any printing business, you must have known about one exquisite item that plays an essential role – transfer paper. It is generally a thin piece of paper that comes coated with high-quality wax and desired pigment. They are effortless to use and versatile enough to be used in multiple projects.

You can find a broad range of transfer paper but first define your goal, the purpose you need to purchase paper for, and then use it properly to create designs. Moreover, it is very cost-effective.

In the heat press machine, transfer paper is used for printing the image or design so you can transfer it onto a substrate (t-shirts, mugs, canvas, tiles, pads, etc.). Another use of Transfer paper is in creating iron-on. It seems compatible with transferring any text, image, design, or graphic.

Using transfer paper in a heat press machine ensures a high-quality print. BUT, it needs careful application and required monitoring if you want to experience professional-quality outcomes.

9 Best printers for transfer paper

Types of transfer paper

There are two types of heat transfer papers.

Light Transfer Paper

The white background is always the first choice when you want your ink/printed design to be strikingly visible. Colorful prints on white or lighter backgrounds tend to show the precise colors sharply and accurately. Light papers are crafted cautiously thin. It is best used for printing on light-colored or pale shirts. BUT, it must never be completely white. It can be pink, beige, peach, yellow, light grey, or paler tones, or any light-colored fabrics.

For printing, if you use light transfer papers, you typically print the image either in the reverse or mirrored way. It is followed by placing the transfer paper after having the printed side on the substrate, with the selected image facing downwards straight in it. The backing sheet’s back part must be directed towards you.

Once everything is positioned, apply pressure and heat. It works on the “hot peel” mechanism.

Light transfer paper

Dark Transfer Papers

Choosing the darker backgrounds is a sensible option if the ink is of lighter color and the fabric is brighter, saturated, black, and dark grey. If not the dark fabrics, the design will get vague and get difficult to see or read. Using dark-colored ink on dark transfer paper will make your design completely imperceptible.

Dark papers are comparatively thicker and appear opaquer. Opaqueness helps prevent the original fabric color from appearing or reflecting through the image. They are made slightly sticky.

While using dark transfer paper, you print the image on the positive side like you usually do in printing any paper. Never print in reverse using dark transfer paper. It works on “cold peel” transfer.

Dark transfer paper

How to Print on Transfer Paper?

Select suitable heat press machine

Always initiate your process by choosing the most suitable, practically feasible, and quality-made heat press machine. The two most important aspects of the machine include SIZE and DESIGN/LAYOUT.

A multifunctional heat press machine can be more beneficial as it will serve several functions. Keeping the project in your mind, pick a device. Also, look for other specs such as pressure, time, temperature, digital control, alarm, safety features, etc.

Where styles and designs matter, the unique features also matter. If you are a hobbyist, choose the swing-away heat press product. It is more versatile. Similarly, a small machine works better for smaller designs and images such as letters. Whereas, for bigger designs and projects, choose a larger machine. Usually, there are three sizes to pick from:

  • Small
  • Medium/standard
  • Large surfaced

Select the fabric

Once you have chosen the machine, you must keep the focus on choosing a fabric. To save the best quality image, you must get the right kind of fabric for printing. Always remember, every fabric is not heat-sensitive, and every fabric is not heat resistant. It is equally important to avoid using fabric that is not heat-compatible such as synthetic materials. The most common and safe picks are Cotton, spandex, and polyester. You can use this time and temperature chart for the best results.

Select the right paper

In the market, transfer paper of multiple types is available. Typically, the item’s color decides the model, color, style, and size of the paper.

  • Inkjet transfer paper for inkjet ink and printer.
  • Laser transfer papers for laser printers.
  • Heat transfer vinyl (pre-made. Cut out your design, paste, and print)

Create your design, reverse, and get it printed on Transfer Paper

After choosing the suitable machine, ideal fabric, and correct transfer paper, start making graphics using design software or design program. It comprises any image, creative artwork, writing, letters, or logo. Use computers and software for creating impressive designs. The best options are Adobe illustrator and Corel-draw. Don’t forget to reverse the design before printing.

It is time to shift your design to the transfer paper. Always print your design on the wax-coated side.

Print the image

Now you are ready!

Prepare your heat press machine and set the time, temperature, and pressure as per the need. Always keep the settings suitable to the fabric type. It is advised to read the manual guide first. Put your transfer paper and garment on the platens. If the Teflon paper is not coated on the platen, place one on the shirt. Switch on the machine to let it transfer the design safely.

How to print on transfer paper:

From word:

Instead of designating using graphic design software, you can also create a design on word for transfer paper printing, but the real problem lies in reversing or mirroring the image. Ways To Reverse Text For Transfer Paper Printing include:

  1. Choose the printer with the option of printing the design in a mirror or reverse mode. It usually pops out when you select the “print” option.
  2. WHILE DESIGNING, within MS word, flip a text box in word creating the mirrored image for print adjustments. It is done by selecting the “Format Shape” option.
  3. Once you have designed your print, export the file to Another Program such as paint. Save your Word document in a compatible format. Then, use another program to mirror, rotate or reverse it. You can use Microsoft Publisher, as well.
Print transfer paper from wood

For tattoos:

For tattoo, you need to print your design on the transfer paper that could be done either with an inkjet or laser printer. For the dot matrix printer, the carbon transfer paper can also be workable. Once you load the image/design you have chosen to be tattooed on a PC, test print it. Check if the design is of the right shape and size, and placement.

Typically, a thermographic type of paper is used for transferring the tattoo design directly onto your skin. In some instances and projects, printable tattoo transfer paper can help you out.

  • Layout your tattoo design with a pencil
  • Slide your original design beneath carbon paper
  • Put the whole set of papers through a thermographic transfer maker.
  • Exclude the top carbon copy 
  • Place the carbon copy where the tattoo needs to be printed.
  • Wet down your skin using soapy water
  • Press the carbon copy down onto the skin
  • Get rid of the carbon copy.

From laser printer:

  1. Create your design on a paper
  2. Shift it to the computer
  3. Refine your design with software
  4. Once done, save it in a compatible format and connect it to your printer.
  5. Put the laser transfer paper inside a printer and press the PRINT button.

For t-shirts or dark shirts:

It is done similar to the steps mentioned earlier, but all you have to be careful about is the type of fabric, type of transfer paper, and type of printers you are using. They all must be compatible. If you are using a laser printer, use laser transfer paper for transferring print. For inkjet printers, use inkjet transfer paper.

Transfer paper usually lets you print images, letters, or texts on almost every fabric and many other surfaces.

Although, for a dark t-shirt, you must use dark transfer paper to avoid any inconvenience.

Best heat press for t-shirts

For wood:

First, decide what type of printing method you are choosing. You can pick any from Heat transfer, Gel Medium, or Acrylic Poly transfer. Move on to the printer you must be using.

You can use inkjet, color laser, and LaserJet printers. Now, you must keep in mind whether you want to decoupage or transfer an image. It will affect your decision of getting crispy sharp or an old-inspired, vintage photo. Then, the question comes about the background. The options are: transparent and opaque.

Once you have reversed the image, make the wood surface as smooth as possible to avoid inconvenience. Use fine-grit sandpaper for extra silky finesse. If you are cutting the design first, always keep a little white border, giving your fingers a space to hold. In case of directly transferring to the wood (with wax /freezer paper and blender marker methods), use as much force as required with the burnisher.

Common Mistakes when using Transfer Paper

  1. Forgetting to reverse or mirror the design/image before putting it on the transfer paper
  2. Printing on the backside/opposite side/non-coated side of the transfer paper
  3. Choosing the inappropriate transfer paper considering the fabric color and type
  4. Failure in setting the correct temperature/heat, pressure, and time
  5. Don’t get bothered about running a test on prints and paper first.
  6. Not selecting the suitable heat press machine.
  7. Washing or rinsing shirts sooner, ruining the quality
  8. Low-quality inks are used for printing.
  9. Incorrect setting of design and garment or faulty printers
  10. Unclean cutting of design on transfer paper
  11. Forgot to remove the backing.
  12. Not pre-ironing the shirt.


Can you print on transfer paper with a normal printer? 

No, absolutely NOT!

You cannot use any printer for printing. It needs to be compatible with the transfer paper. For instance, for an inkjet printer, you must use inkjet transfer paper. Similarly, for laser transfer paper, you should be choosing the laser printer. For sublimation transfer paper, choose a sublimation printer.

What type of printer do I need to print on transfer paper? 

You need the following printer type and printer ink: 

  • The inkjet printer for Inkjet transfer paper 
  • Laser printers for Laser transfer papers

What side of the transfer paper do I print on? 

Always print on the wax-coated side of the transfer paper. If you fail to recognize this printable side, you will get a poor design transfer, appearing vague, unclear, spotty, blotchy, and washed out. Talking about the inkjet printers and papers, you must print on the dull (uncolored) side.

Can you use wax paper as transfer paper for shirts?

Yes, because technically, the transfer papers come coated with wax. Using wax papers as transfer papers can help you customize your clothing and seems compatible with almost every fabric item. Wax paper can transfer your printable image to any material quickly. Wax papers work best with wood. You can start by cutting a piece of wax paper to the size you need for the project and design.

Does transfer paper wash off?

Usually, the transfer paper is made solid and reliable enough to last 7 to 10 washings if home iron is used. But if you are using a heat press, it will last 10 – 15 washings easily.

What can you use instead of transfer paper?

One of the safest techniques is to use Parchment paper. It is an economical alternative. Simply, you can take advantage of wax/tracing paper. Besides, baking parchment paper comes with a soft, waxy coat allowing the image to transfer effortlessly and without daubing. Clear shelf paper will also work.

We hope you liked this handy guide. If you are into the t-shirt printing business, you should know that many printing businesses already exist. You need to use proper printing machines, printing materials, and paper type for accurate image printing. Otherwise, you won’t be getting a lot of customers.

5 Best vinyl heat press machines

We may earn a small commission if you purchase through our links at no extra cost to you. Read full disclosure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *