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How to Make Rub-On Transfers in Your Home

Updated February 21, 2017

Rub-on transfers are useful for transferring images to surfaces where printing the image directly would prove difficult. Whether it's for a scrapbook or a T-shirt, a rub-on transfer can produce a precise rendering of a printout onto a secondary surface. While transfer paper can be expensive, there is a method for making your own transfers at home using readily available, inexpensive materials. Using a gel-based technique, the process transfers images accurately so you can confidently add any printable image to your craftwork.

Place a sheet of transparency film onto a flat surface, with the rough side of the film facing up.

Hold a can of fine mist hair gel about 4 inches from the surface of the transparency. Cover the transparency with a thin, even coat of the hair gel. Do not spray so much gel that it runs across the surface of the transparency.

Hold a hair dryer about 3 inches from the transparency and turn it on. Move the dryer evenly across the surface of the sheet, drying the gel.

Load the transfer artwork into a graphics program on your computer and flip the artwork so that it appears as a mirror image. Make any image alterations desired.

Print the flipped image, using an inkjet printer, onto the transparency's gel-sprayed side. Set the printout face up on a flat surface and wait for the ink to dry.

Spray the print with a light layer of hairspray and dry the spray with the hair dryer.

Transfer the image by placing the transparency image onto a surface and rubbing the back of the transparency with the back of a spoon to transfer the ink. Let the transparency sit on the surface for about one hour, to allow complete transference of the image. Peel the transparency from the surface to reveal the transferred imprint.

Things You'll Need

  • Inkjet, photo-quality transparency film
  • Fine mist hair gel
  • Hair dryer
  • Hairspray
  • Artwork or image
  • Inkjet printer
  • Spoon
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About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.