How to Make Transfer Decals on a Printer

Written by l. bradley
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How to Make Transfer Decals on a Printer
Decal paper is available for most inkjet printers. (ink cartridges image by itsallgood from

Water slide inkjet decal paper enables crafters to attach any image created with computer graphics software to many types of surfaces, from paper to metal to glass. Fun projects, from photographically decorated tiles to wine glasses, are possible with inkjet decals. A wide selection of decal paper for use with common inkjet printers is available at office and art supply stores, as well as online.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Water slide inkjet transfer paper
  • Large, shallow plastic container
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear craft glue
  • Oil-based polyurethane

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  1. 1

    Create an image with computer graphics software. Size it to print on standard 8½- by 11-inch, letter-size paper. For the best clarity and detail in the final product, use an image with a resolution of at least 300 pixels per inch.

  2. 2

    Purchase water slide transfer paper that is compatible with your particular printer, which will offer printer-specific instructions for working with the paper.

  3. 3

    Follow the directions that come with the water slide transfer paper to print the image on the correct side. The dull, chalky-looking side of the paper is usually the printable side.

  4. 4

    Let your print dry for at least a half an hour before touching it.

  5. 5

    Trim around the edges of your image, leaving at least an eighth of an inch of blank paper on all sides for easy handling.

  6. 6

    Fill the plastic container with a couple of inches of water and soak your print until the edges begin to pull away from the backing. This should take only about a minute.

  7. 7

    Gently touch the edges of the print with your finger and check to see whether the printed layer will release on all sides. When it will, move on to the next step.

  8. 8

    Gripping by the unprinted edges, remove the print, still on the backing, from the water.

  9. 9

    Gently slide the decal away from the backing paper and onto the prepared object. Smooth out air bubbles gently with your finger. Use a paintbrush and clear craft glue to adhere any areas that are not sticking well.

  10. 10

    Let the adhered decal dry thoroughly, then coat with oil-based polyurethane, which will make the paper permanently transparent and also help secure the print. Use several layers for the best adhesion, drying thoroughly between each layer.

Tips and warnings

  • Select standard print quality settings instead of high quality, which can add too much ink to the paper.
  • For better adhesion on glass and ceramic objects, use decal paper that allows for heating to 148 degrees C in a kitchen oven as a final step.
  • If adhering a print to wood, coat the wood with real turpentine first. The turpentine will draw the print into the wood for a seamless surface.
  • Use gloves and a respirator when handling rubbing alcohol and turpentine.
  • Handle and wash objects carefully. Decals on ceramics and glass can be scratched off, even if coated with polyurethane.

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