Buying and using the right heat transfer paper for your projects is essential to producing a quality product; you shouldn’t overlook the importance of the transfer paper that you choose. Whether you’re printing for yourself, friends and family, or customers, you want your images to look fantastic and withstand wash after wash.
Have you ever seen a t-shirt that has a design with cracks all over it? How about one that makes a crumpling noise or has an odd texture? These things typically happen because whoever printed it did not use the right heat transfer paper for the job.
Don’t worry; we have the best guide for you to help you choose the perfect heat transfer paper depending on what printer you use and which style and colors of fabric you want your images on.
What is Heat Transfer Paper?
A heat transfer paper is a thin piece of polymer or paper that’s coated with pigment and wax. People use heat transfer paper for various arts and crafts and iron-on projects. Using heat transfer paper allows you to transfer designs and images onto different fabrics, including pillowcases, aprons, and t-shirts.
How Does it Work?
Heat transfer paper gets used with a printer and either an iron or heat press machine. It has a polymer film that leaves behind a permanent image when you print with it. After printing your design or photo, you press the paper against the fabric item for a certain amount of time using your iron or heat press—the polymer bonds with the fabric’s fibers leaving a permanent image.
Benefits of Heat Transfer Paper
- Requires less equipment than screen printing
- Is great for hobbyists or businesses
- Is inexpensive; the cost per transfer is relatively low
- Works on basically any fabric
- Has cleaner transfers than screen printing
Heat Transfer Methods
When you use heat transfer paper to apply an image to fabric, you have two choices: an iron or a heat press. Using an iron takes more time and has more room for error, but is a more affordable option, especially for producing low volumes of designs.
Using a heat press takes the guesswork out of how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it for. With the iron method, there’s a chance of scorching the paper or burning your image, but if you follow a good guide, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Before You Buy Heat Transfer Paper
Related: Avance Vinyl’s Printing Tutorials
What Printer Do You Have?
If you own an inkjet printer, you’re in luck. Almost every heat transfer paper will work with a standard inkjet printer without any extra steps.
Laser printers are the other common ones found in many homes, but unlike the inkjet variety, many laser printers don’t work very well with most heat transfer papers. Outputs from laser printers are also prone to creating outlines and residue around your images, so trimming them becomes a tedious chore.
Inkjet printers are the better choice, but if you already have a laser printer and don’t want to get a new one, make sure that the paper you choose is compatible with yours.
What Color Are You Printing On?
Light Transfer Paper
You want to use light transfer paper if you’re printing on fabric that is white or an extremely light color. It’s important to understand that light heat transfer paper only works well with light colors -- if you try to print on dark fabric with light paper, the result will be an opaque or invisible image.
You should mirror your images before printing on light heat transfer paper.
Dark Transfer Paper
Dark heat transfer paper works great for any color. You can actually use dark paper to print on white fabrics too, but dark transfer paper is usually more expensive -- it’s better to stick with light paper for light colors.
You don’t need to mirror your images before printing on dark heat transfer paper.
Heat Transfer Paper for a Glossy Finish
If you want a shiny touch on your image, you can buy special transfer papers that will leave a glossy finish on your print. These heat transfer papers typically require a heat press, though, and won’t work very well with a household iron.
What Artwork Are You Using?
When printing designs from photos, inkjet printers and paper work much better because they can print a wide range of colors, which is ideal for high-quality, realistic photos. Note: inkjet heat transfer paper works better for printing on lighter colors -- printing on dark paper can leave a coating on the finished product that you might be able to feel.
If you’re planning on using vector-style graphics to print, there’s some good news; pretty much every heat transfer paper performs well printing vectors, no matter what type of printer or paper you’re using.
Another thing that’s worthy of consideration is the length of the heat transfer paper. The perfect length for your project depends on what you’re transferring your images onto and the size of the image itself.
Longer heat transfer paper offers you more freedom to work on larger images. Large transfer paper, like 13” X 19,” gives you plenty of room to work on graphics that you want to transfer onto t-shirts.
Transfer Paper Durability
Buying a high-quality transfer paper, whether it’s for an inkjet or laser printer, is essential; you don’t want to use a heat transfer paper that produces a design that fades, cracks, or peels off after a few washes. Transfer paper durability is typically based on these variables:
- Color vibrancy
- Hand feel
- Resistance to cracking and peeling
- Fade and wash resistance
Are you looking for high-quality heat transfer paper that will last for wash after wash and leave your designs looking fabulous? You’ve found it!