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How to Iron-On Transfer Pictures to Shirts

How to Iron-On Transfer Pictures to Shirts

Nicole Rollender |

If you want to create wow-worthy graphic t-shirts on the fly, iron-on heat transfers are the way to go. Once you learn how to master DIY transfers, you’ll have a fast, easy method to make t-shirts for birthdays, trips, family reunions, school events or clubs, concerts and more.

If you’re selling custom graphic t-shirts, this is a great way to add new designs into the mix without needing to keep them printed and in stock. You can easily create a professional transfer and heat press it to a blank t-shirt once a customer places an order. Learn how to create a professional DIY heat transfer of your favorite artwork right at home, and attach it with heat to your favorite blank t-shirt.

How to Iron On a Picture to a Shirt

If you want to decorate a t-shirt quickly with a high-quality, custom graphic that lasts, look no further than using the iron-on transfer process to add a stand-out decoration to your blank t-shirt. Here’s how it works: First, you print your artwork onto transfer paper, which has a smooth surface that’s a medium for the ink. Then, you use your heat press or iron to transfer the image from your paper to your t-shirt.

While you can use an iron to apply your transfer, if you want to sell your graphic t-shirts, it may be best to invest in a professional t-shirt heat press machine, since it provides consistent, uniform heat so you can get long-lasting durable designs on your t-shirts. There are lots of advantages to using a heat press at home to “iron on” a picture to a shirt, including:

  • Easy to learn and use: Even if you’ve only used an iron to affix artwork to a shirt, it’s easy to learn how to use a heat press. These machines are small, so they’ll only require a small footprint in your work area. Plus, you’ll be able to print on different parts of clothing, so you can create a wraparound print on your favorite t-shirt, for example.
  • Clean operation: If you’ve ever tried screen printing at home, you know it can get messy with the inks, additives and solvents you need to use—and that sometimes get all over your t-shirt or work area. A heat press mimics the look of a vibrant screen-printed design, but without any spills. You just need your printer, your transfer image, your heat press and your t-shirt.
  • High-quality decorated t-shirts: You can quickly apply vividly colored heat-transfer images onto a t-shirt with your heat press. These images can be full-color, high-resolution and even photo-realistic artworks that a designer creates in a professional program like Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW. Your “iron-on” pictures can rival the high-quality results of direct-to-garment printing or screen printing, at a fraction of the price.
  • Affordable cost: Speaking of price, heat pressing your design is cost effective. Screen printing works best if you’re printing hundreds, or even thousands, of the same item. However, for small volumes, like one or six or 15 t-shirts, it’s a lot more affordable to use heat transfers and your press to get a similar effect. Heat press machines are more budget-friendly than a screen-printing press setup. You’ll find presses starting around a couple of hundred dollars. If you’re selling the shirts you decorate, you may quickly make back the money you’ve invested in heat transfer supplies and equipment, and start making a profit.

DIY Iron Transfer With Transfer Paper

H2: DIY Iron Transfer With Transfer Paper
If you’re new to ironing personalized designs onto your t-shirts, you’ll be excited to know it’s super-easy to create your very own iron-on design using the computer and printer you already own. When you make your own DIY iron-on transfer, you can choose the image you want, whether you create it, use elements available online or hire someone to create it.


An iron-on transfer is an image that you can attach to a t-shirt with heat and pressure from an iron or heat press. The process is straightforward: You create your image and then print it on one side of your transfer paper, using your regular printer. Then, you iron the transfer onto your t-shirt. When you apply heat to the transfer, the image transfers from the paper to the fabric. Once the transfer cools, you simply peel the paper, and the image imprints on the fabric. Here’s how to iron on artwork to your t-shirt, using transfer paper that you purchase. 

Step One: Gather Your Iron-On Transfer Project Materials.

Take some time to gather what you’ll need for this DIY picture on a t-shirt project. Here’s a short list of what we recommend you use:

  • Blank t-shirt
  • Transfer image
  • Printer paper 
  • Transfer paper
  • Printer
  • Iron 
  • Pillowcase to cover your work surface
  • Heat-resistant work surface 
  • Cardboard 
  • Scissors 
  • Timer

Step Two: Choose the Right T-Shirt for Your Transfer Project.

Here at Threadsy, we think choosing the blank shirt is the most thrilling part of any project. After all, your t-shirt is your blank canvas for your creativity and self-expression! For an iron-on transfer project, cotton and cotton blend fabrics work best.

Here are some affordable 100% cotton tees and tanks that we like for a heat transfer project.