The Best Heat Transfer Paper for DIY Projects

Get creative and print your own designs on T-shirts, pillows, and more with heat transfer paper.

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The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option

Photo: amazon.com

Made of a thin piece of paper coated with a polymer, heat transfer paper lets you take any image on your computer and put it on fabric. Just print your image on the transfer paper, apply heat, and the polymer on the paper adheres to the fabric.

You can scan children’s art into a computer or create your own in a graphics program, then use your printer and heat transfer paper to put the design on everything from shirts to pillows. With little more than an iron and your computer, you can be a one-person printing shop.

The best heat transfer paper can be used on light and dark color fabric, and some products can even be used on phone cases, mugs, and mouse pads. Make custom products for yourself, give them as gifts, or start your own custom printing business with nothing more than a printer, heat transfer paper, an iron, and high-quality material. Check out this list of some of the best heat transfer papers to get started.

  1. BEST OVERALL: NuFun Activities Inkjet Printable Iron-On
  2. RUNNER-UP: PPD Inkjet Premium Iron-On Dark T Shirt Transfers
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Jet-PRO SS JETPRO SOFSTRETCH Heat Transfer Paper
  4. BEST FOR LIGHT COLORS: Koala Light T-shirt Transfer Paper
  5. BEST FOR DARK COLORS: Avery Printable Heat Transfer Paper
  6. BEST FOR INKJET: Inkjet Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl Paper
  7. BEST FOR LASER: Techni-Print EZP Laser Heat Transfer Paper
  8. BEST FOR SUBLIMATION INK: A-SUB Sublimation Paper Heat Transfer
  9. BEST FOR T-SHIRT: AVERY T-Shirt Transfer Sheets, Clear
The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Heat Transfer Paper

Before picking the right heat transfer paper for your craft project, consider the following factors.

Printer

Check your printer compatibility. Typically, heat transfer paper needs to be used with inkjet printers, but some brands can also be used with laser printers. Some heat transfer papers need printers that use sublimation ink to create a high-quality transfer.

  • Inkjet printers are the most common type of home printer. There are many heat transfer paper products made exclusively for use in an inkjet printer.
  • Sublimation ink printers use a special ink that stays solid until printing. The printer heats the ink until it becomes a gas that solidifies on the page. When used with heat transfer paper, sublimation ink printers produce more detailed images that last longer without fading. Some inkjet printers can be used with cartridges of sublimation ink, other printers are made specifically for use with sublimation ink.
  • Laser printers aren’t commonly used at home. These big machines are often found in commercial settings and cost more than a simple inkjet printer. For those reasons, it can be difficult to find heat transfer paper made for these machines.

Method of Transfer

There are two commonly used methods for transferring a printed image from heat transfer paper.

Standard household irons are a good choice for people who want to make a few designs for themselves or as gifts for their close friends and family. Just apply pressure and heat as directed by the product instructions to transfer the design.

Commercial heat presses are a better choice if you’re starting a small business. These machines are made for use with heat transfer paper, and they can apply pressure and heat evenly over a large surface, ensuring a high-quality outcome.

Size

Paper: Heat transfer paper comes in a range of sizes, but the most common is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, the size of a sheet of letter paper. Some larger sheets of heat transfer paper won’t fit all printers, so be sure to choose heat transfer paper that fits your printer. For images that won’t fit on letter paper, you can use several sheets of heat transfer paper to tile the design, but it can be tough to print the image without gaps and overlaps.

Project size: Consider the size of the project when picking heat transfer paper. For instance, a design for a kids’ T-shirt needs a smaller paper size than one for an extra large adult shirt. Always measure the project, check the size restrictions of the printer, and choose a heat transfer paper product that will accommodate the project.

Ease of Use

Heat transfer paper is easy to use. All you need to get started is a compatible printer, computer, standard iron, and an item to print on. It’s a good idea to do some practice runs on a scrap of cloth to work out your technique.

Be sure to read the heat transfer paper instructions before using. The manufacturer will dictate the time, estimated pressure, and method of applying heat to get the desired results. Not following manufacturer’s instructions can mess up the design or the material you’re printing. You can end up wasting heat transfer paper and tee shirts by applying heat incorrectly.

Versatility

Depending on your printing project, you may need more versatility than standard heat transfer paper offers. Most heat transfer paper is for printing T-shirts, sweaters, pillows, and other types of soft fabric. If you want to put your design on hard surfaces like glassware or phone cases, you may need to use wet application transfer paper.

Wet application transfer paper uses water, soap and pressure from a hand tool to print on a surface instead of heat. It’s one of the top choices for printing on hard surfaces.

For printing on fabric, standard heat transfer paper remains a top choice.

Material Color and Opacity

The color of your fabric matters when picking the best heat transfer paper for your project’s needs.

Light transfer paper is suitable for use on light-colored material. Use this type for fabrics that range from white to light gray to pale hues like pink, sky blue, yellow or beige. Light transfer paper is clear, allowing the fabric of the shirt to show through to create the lightest hues of the design.

Dark transfer paper is made for printing on fabric in dark colors like black, dark gray, or bright, saturated hues. It has an opaque white background, key because inkjet printers don’t print white. The paper’s white background transfers to the fabric along with the ink when you heat the paper, making the image visible on dark-colored fabric.

Dark transfer paper can also be used on light-colored fabrics with no image degradation. For this reason, dark transfer paper is the ideal option if you want a product that can be used on all fabrics, regardless of color.

Durability

The best heat transfer paper produces a long-lasting design. Look for heat transfer paper that offers fast, easy image transfer while maintaining a high level of elasticity to help prevent the design from cracking and peeling. Some brands deliver better design durability than others due to the type of polymers they’re coated with.

Also, consider fade-resistant products so your project stays bright after lots of wearings and washings. To help your design stay bright regardless of the brand of heat transfer paper you use, it’s a good idea to turn a shirt inside out when washing.

Our Top Picks

Based on the above shopping considerations, here are our picks for some of the best heat transfer papers in a range of categories.

Best Overall

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: NuFun Activities Inkjet Printable Iron-On
Photo: amazon.com

Use this versatile dark heat transfer paper on both dark and light fabric to make custom designs on shirts, hats, and more. The paper works with all standard inkjet printers as well as laser jet printers. You can use NuFun with standard household irons as well as heat press machines. There are 50 sheets in the pack, as well as 10 sheets of reusable parchment paper to place between the transfer paper and an iron to prevent wrinkles and keep the surface of the design smooth. The manufacturer touts its patented polymer technology that results in long-lasting designs. NuFun’s heat transfer paper also comes in packages of 5, 25, 100, and 500 sheets, so there’s a pack for every sized job.

Runner-up

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: PPD Inkjet Premium Iron-On Dark T Shirt Transfers
Photo: amazon.com

PPD’s heat transfer paper is compatible with all standard inkjet printers and a standard household iron, so users won’t need to buy specialty products like sublimation ink or a heat press machine to make a few shirt designs. The package comes with 20 sheets of 8.5 inch by 11 inch dark heat transfer paper that can be used on both light and dark fabric. The polymers in the paper are the same ones used by commercial printers, so you’ll get an image that bonds with the fabric and is soft, flexible, and fully machine washable. Refer to the included instructions and video tutorial for detailed steps.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: Jet-PRO SS JETPRO SOFSTRETCH Heat Transfer Paper
Photo: amazon.com

Jet-PRO’s heat transfer paper comes in a 100-sheet package and costs almost 50 percent less per sheet than the average competitor. The packages include enough sheets to stock a small business or run a craft class at a school or camp.

This heat transfer paper is the standard 8.5 inch by 11 inch size and is intended for use on white or light fabrics. If you’re printing on dark- or bright-colored fabric, you’ll need to choose another product. The sheets can be cut with a pair of scissors after printing to accommodate smaller images. Jet-PRO’s heat transfer paper is particularly effective when used with cotton, cotton blends, and synthetic cotton products.

Best for Light Colors

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: Koala Light T-Shirt Transfer Paper
Photo: amazon.com

Get high-quality transfers to white and light fabric with Koala’s heat transfer paper. The 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheets are compatible with standard inkjet printers, so you can print them at home with no special equipment. The 10-sheet pack is good for small jobs or people just getting started with home printing. The paper works with an iron or a heat press to bond ink to fabric, leaving a surface that’s soft, stretchable, and washable. This product is ideal for material with a cotton content higher than 50 percent. It’s not suitable for printing on dark colored fabrics.

Best for Dark Colors

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: Avery Printable Heat Transfer Paper
Photo: amazon.com

Avery’s heat transfer paper is intended for use on dark fabrics, but the paper can be used on all  colors of fabric ranging from white to black. This heat transfer paper is suitable for use with all standard inkjet printers, and the print can be bonded to the fabric with an iron or a heat press. Once printed on the fabric, the design is fade-resistant and machine washable. The paper is ideal for 100-percent cotton fabric. The package comes with five sheets of 8.5-inch by 11-inch heat transfer paper, but Avery also makes 30 packs for more ambitious hobbyists.

Best for Inkjet

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: Inkjet Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl Paper
Photo: amazon.com

Most home printers are inkjets, so Transfer Master’s heat transfer paper designed to work with inkjets is a good, all-purpose pick. This dark transfer paper is suitable for printing on any color of fabric, even white, and can be applied with either a household iron or a heat press. To achieve the desired results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, watch the online video tutorial, and put the design on a cotton fabric. This package includes 10 sheets, but Transfer Master also makes packages of 25 sheets for larger jobs.

Best for Laser

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: Techni-Print EZP Laser Heat Transfer Paper
Photo: amazon.com

Techni-Print’s heat transfer paper is made for use in laser printers and copiers and isn’t compatible with inkjet printers. While this may be a drawback for DIYers working from home, that’s a benefit for office workers or small business owners with access to a laser printer.

This paper works with either a household iron or a heat press machine. It comes in a 25-sheet package, with each sheet measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Make mouse pads, coasters, T-shirts, and more, but keep in mind this transfer paper is clear and only works for light-colored material. Pick another product for printing on dark fabric.

Best for Sublimation Ink

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: A-SUB Sublimation Paper Heat Transfer
Photo: amazon.com

Get high-quality designs with A-SUB’s heat transfer paper designed for use with inkjet printers equipped with sublimation ink. Sublimation ink produces a sharper, brighter, more fade-proof design, so many DIYers prefer it to standard printer inks.

This paper uses microporous technology to absorb the ink, resulting in a brighter, more permanent image. The image can be set with a standard iron or a heat press machine, so it’s versatile enough for beginners as well as more advanced home printers.

This package comes with 110 sheets, a bulk pack, so it’s a good pick for large jobs or hobbyists who want to stock up on supplies. Keep in mind this paper is only suitable for printing on light-colored material.

Best for T-Shirt

The Best Heat Transfer Paper Option: AVERY T-Shirt Transfer Sheets, Clear
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re printing white T-shirts, Avery’s T-Shirt Transfer Sheets are a good pick to make designs that will stay bright though lots of wearings and washings. These sheets are designed to be used on light-colored, 100-percent cotton or poly-cotton blend fabrics, which is what most T-shirts are made of. The sheets have a Color Shield formula that keeps colors bright, even after being washed, so your creation will have a long life.

The paper is compatible with all standard inkjet printers, and users get access to free, downloadable templates and clip art for inspiration.

FAQs About Your New Heat Transfer Papers

After choosing a heat transfer paper, you may still have questions. Here are answers to commonly asked questions.

Q: Do you need special ink for heat transfer paper?

Most heat transfer paper doesn’t need special ink, but there are products that should only be used with sublimation ink. They’ll be labelled accordingly.

Q: Are transfer paper designs machine-washable?

Yes. But your design will last longer if you turn the clothing inside-out before washing it. Avoid detergents with bleach, too, to preserve the design’s brightness.

Q: What happens when you use light-colored transfer paper on dark fabrics?

The image won’t be as successful because it won’t be visible against the dark background. This is because the light colored paper is transparent and lets the color of the shirt show through.