Heat transfer paper seems easy to use on the surface — print the image on the paper, put paper on the shirt, apply heat, and enjoy your new shirt! However, as with most things, there is more to heat transfer paper than there appears. Below are some tips on how to properly use heat transfer paper.

Choose The Right Paper

The first step in using heat transfer paper correctly is choosing the right paper for your product. Heat transfer paper comes in a lot of variations; first, look at the kind of printer you will be using. There is heat transfer paper available for inkjet, laser, and ecosolvent printers, and using the wrong kind of paper in your printer could result in a mess, and even damage your printing equipment. Next, you must consider what kind of fabric you will be printing on. Heat transfer paper is available for both light and dark fabrics. If you are unsure about which end of the spectrum your shirt falls on, you may need to get some of each and experiment a little.


A lot of what determines how the final product will look is the design you use to print on your heat transfer paper. If using an inkjet printer, keep in mind that they cannot produce a ‘true’ white, so any whites in your design must be an off white. Try to cover as much area as possible in your design, and if the design is only going to take up a small amount of space, trim closely around the design. ‘Dead space’, where nothing is printed on heat transfer paper, can result in an odd sheen on the final product in that space, so it is better to trim it out if possible. It is also important to make sure to print your design in a high resolution; if you print your design onto the heat transfer paper and it appears grainy or blurry, adjust the resolution and try again.

Prepare the Fabric

Fabric that is to be used with heat transfer paper should be pre-shrunk, clean, and unwrinkled. Stretch it out a bit immediately before pressing to help alleviate the risk of any cracks in the final design, then put the shirt in the press and press it for 5 seconds to ensure that there are absolutely no wrinkles to mar the design.

Make the Transfer

The most important part of making the transfer from heat transfer paper onto fabric is making sure that the paper is aligned properly. If you are going to be trimming paper down around an irregular shape, draw guidelines on the back to help you align it once it is cut. Draw perpendicular guidelines pointing directly up and down, and out to the side at a ninety degree angle. This way, after you trim the paper and are aligning the design face-down on your shirt, you can use those lines to ensure that it is not tilted at a bad angle. Once you have the paper positioned properly, push the heat press down for the amount of time indicated by the brand of paper you bought. Give it a moment to cool, then peel the paper off and enjoy your new shirt!