How to make your own rub-on transfer design paper

Updated April 17, 2017

Buying sheets of rub-on transfers at craft stores can get expensive, particularly since each decal can be used just once. Save money and get your creative juices flowing by making your own rub-on transfer designs for scrapbook pages, handmade greeting cards, journals and altered art. With an ink jet printer and basic knowledge of digital imaging software, you can make your own custom transfer sheets. You'll never have to worry about running out of decals and you'll save at the craft store.

Buy a package of A4 ink jet transparency sheets at an office supply store. You'll be able to reuse the transparencies, so buy the package with the fewest sheets.

Collect digital fonts and clip art to use as your transfer motifs. Websites such as offer a wide range of free fonts to download to your computer. Dover Publications is a popular source for images and decorative borders. Their collections are available digitally, in CD-ROM format, at craft stores and online. Keep in mind that some free fonts and clip art you find online are limited to "personal use only." This means you can't use them to create items you plan to sell or produce commercially.

Create an A4 document with your digital imaging software. The document should be high resolution (200 to 300 dpi) for the sharpest results. Lay out your text or clip art on the page and adjust the colours, if you wish. It's best to print one transfer element at a time on a single sheet--an image or a series of words. This way, you won't accidentally rub off other designs during the transfer process. You'll be able to reuse the transparency sheet to add more designs later.

Flip your design so that it appears as a mirror image. In Photoshop this is accomplished by using the "Flip Horizontal" command. Your design will appear in reverse once it is rubbed on, so this is essential if you are transferring letters.

Print the document on a transparency sheet, making sure that the ink goes on the shiny side of the sheet. Always use your printer's highest-quality print settings to achieve the sharpest designs.

Let the printed transparency sheet dry for at least 10 minutes.

Position the transfer sheet, ink side down, on top of the paper surface you want to transfer to. Using a burnishing tool, firmly rub the back of the transparency sheet until the ink has transferred from the sheet to the paper.

Wipe off any leftover ink from the transparency sheet with a soft cloth and use it again.


Experiment with layering rub-on transfer designs over drawings and rubber stamped designs. If you don't have, or don't know how to use, digital imaging software, it is possible to use word processing software to create the designs. Remember that letters must be reversed. Some printers have a T-shirt transfer setting, or similar setting, that will allow you to make mirror image prints.

Things You'll Need

  • Ink jet transparency sheet
  • Digital fonts and clip art
  • Photoshop or other digital imaging software
  • Ink jet printer
  • Burnishing tool
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About the Author

Fleur Forsythe writes about the arts, crafts, cooking, entertaining, travel and DIY home design. She began writing professionally in 1996. She is also an artist whose art, crafts and photography have been licensed commercially and exhibited for 17 years. She holds a B.A. in art history and studio art from New York University. Her articles can be found on eHow, Answerbag and Trails.