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How to Iron a Picture on a T-Shirt with Transfers

By Shirtspace | Jun 07, 2017 |  Updated Mar 09, 2020

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.

Photo Editing

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!

How to Get a Picture on a Shirt: Recap Steps

  1. Choose Your T-shirt: Light-colored images are best suited for dark, vibrant colored shirts. Dark images are better for light-colored shirts.

    Choose light colored images to iron on dark t-shirts and dark images for light colored t-shirts.

  2. Choose Your Transfer Paper: Both inkjet and laser transfer paper are popular. Make sure and check your inkjet transfer paper specifications to determine what materials it can be ironed onto!

    Choose thin, transparent transfer paper with a clear background, or dark color transfers with a white backing.

  3. Prepare Your Artwork:  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.

    Prepare your artwork with photo editing software, flipping it if the image contains text or is a photo.

  4. Print Your Artwork on Transfer Paper:  Once you’ve printed your image, trim any excess transfer paper around the image. Anything left will be transferred onto the shirt.

    Print your image and trim any excess transfer paper around the image.

  5. Prewash the Shirt to Prevent Shrinkage: Pre-washing will prevent pulling on the edges of your image when the shirt is washed.

    Pre-wash your t-shirt to prevent shrinkage and pulling on the edges of the image.

  6. Place the Shirt on a Table or Other Hard Flat Surface: Use an iron to remove any creases or wrinkles.

    When the t-shirt is dry, place it on a flat surface and iron to remove any creases or wrinkles.

  7. Peel the Backing Paper off the Transfer Paper: Carefully position the transfer paper on the shirt. Take your time with this so that you have the picture positioned just right!

    Carefully position the transfer paper on the t-shirt and peel off the backing paper.

  8. 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.

    Cover the transfer paper using the paper backing, or use a soft kitchen towel.

  9. Heat the Iron to the Temperature Recommended by the Transfer Paper Manufacturer

    Heat the iron to the temperature recommended by the transfer paper manufacturer.

  10. Gently Move the Iron in a Circular Motion Starting in the Center of the Transfer: Move the iron 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.

    Move the iron in a circular motion, to the edges of the transfer image and back again.

  11. Let the Transfer Paper Cool Completely: 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!

    Let the transfer paper cool, then peel up starting at one edge.

Comments

ShirtSpace - Feb 26, 2020


Hi German! We're so happy to hear that our article helped you in your efforts to find the best t-shirts for yourself! We appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Please let us know if there is ever anything that we can help you with.

german - Feb 21, 2020


I have been having issues with finding the best T-shirts for myself. After reading this article, my issues has come to an end. I really love the information you provided here as it has helped me a lot. merely looking at the article, i can see that it is written by a PRO. please check my article on and give me valuable feedback. Thanks for the good write-up.

ShirtSpace - Jan 28, 2020


Hi Ixchel! Great job on ironing on your first transfer! Are you using parchment paper or a teflon sheet? It sounds like your heat may have been too high which is why you're showing a brown color on your transfer. If you didn't use parchment paper we would suggest giving that a try. If you did use parchment paper we would recommend reducing the heat. We hop this helps but please reach out if you have any additional questions!

Ixchel Cisneros - Jan 28, 2020


Hi! So I just finished Ironing on my image to my sweater but have fun into a bit of a problem. So this was my first time doing this, so maybe I just did something wrong, but the image I printed out was mostly white and when I finished transferring the image to my sweater, it came out brown. Do you happen to have any ideas at to what I did wrong?

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