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You’ve got a beautiful piece of artwork or a photo you want to display on a t-shirt, but how do you get the picture on a shirt? Thanks to inkjet or laser transfer paper, you can print almost any image and add it to a shirt. All you need is the image, a printer, some transfer paper, and an iron!
Shirt Color Matters
The first step in ironing a picture onto a shirt using transfer paper is to consider the color of the shirt. Light-colored images will get lost on a light-colored shirt, which is better suited for dark, vibrant colors. Dark shirts, however, are better for light-colored images. Also make sure and check your inkjet transfer paper specifications to determine what materials it can be ironed onto. This is very important!
Transfer Paper Choices
Shirt color also affects the type of transfer paper you use. For light-colored shirts, choose thin transparent transfers, which make the background appear clear. This does mean any white in your artwork will also be clear, which can be a problem if someone in your picture is, say, wearing a white shirt.
Dark-color transfers are thicker, and are intended to be used with black or other dark-colored shirts. Dark-color transfers have a white backing, so white areas of the photo will appear in the finished transfer. This also means that any clear background areas will appear white. While not a problem with most photos, if you’re transferring artwork you may need to carefully cut out clear areas before applying the transfer.
When preparing your artwork, be mindful that you’ll need to use photo editing software to “flip” the image if your image includes text or is a photo. If you don’t do this, the finished product will be a mirror image of the original.
Once printed, trim any excess transfer paper around the image. Anything left will be transferred onto the shirt.
How to Iron a Picture on a Shirt
Prewash the shirt to prevent shrinkage that can cause pulling on the edges of your image when the shirt is washed. Once dry, place the shirt on a table or other hard flat surface, and iron it to remove any creases or wrinkles.
Peel the backing paper off the transfer paper and carefully position the transfer on the shirt. Take your time with this, so that you have the picture positioned just right.
Cover the transfer paper using the paper backing you peeled from the transfer. This acts as a sort of parchment paper, however you can also use a soft kitchen towel too. Now, heat the iron to the temperature recommended by the transfer manufacturer. Starting in the center of the transfer, gently move the iron in a circular motion to the edges of the image and back again, repeating for as long as the transfer instructions indicate. The process can take three or four minutes.
Let the transfer cool completely, and then carefully peel up the parchment paper or towel, starting at one edge. Once cooled and the parchment paper is removed, the process is complete!