How to Transfer a Printed Picture Onto Fabric

Updated April 17, 2017

Transferring images onto fabric can be a fun project and a good way to preserve photos. Most commonly photos are transferred onto hats, t-shirts and quilts. Customising articles with photo transfers can be used for promotional items, advertising, family reunions, incentive programs or gifts.

The picture will have to be scanned in order to transfer it onto fabric. If you do not own a scanner, take the photo to one of the many office supply stores where it can be scanned and saved on a disk.

Insert the transfer sheet in the ink-jet or bubble-jet printer so that the image prints on the shiny side of the paper.

Place the shiny side of the paper face-down on the fabric.

Use a hot iron with no steam to apply heat and pressure to the back of the transfer paper taking care not to shift the paper when ironing on the image.

Purchase freezer paper from the grocery store or butcher. Buy fabrics designed for the purpose of transferring images, or use your own fabric.

Iron the wrong side of the fabric to the waxy side of the paper. Make sure the edges of the fabric do not overlap the paper and that the paper is cut to a size that will fit easily into your printer. Smooth out the curl by placing it under something heavy like a cutting board before running it through the printer and peel the freezer paper away from the fabric.

Stabilise the fabric by attaching it to freezer paper which can be purchased from grocery stores or from a butcher shop. Freezer paper is used by many quilters to transfer images directly onto fabric.

Use the ink-jet or bubble-jet printer to print the image on the glossy side of the decal paper which can be purchased from office supply stores or online.

Apply a clear decal fixative to the entire page using a clear acrylic or clear oil enamel spray. Allow the fixative sufficient time to dry completely; anywhere from two to twelve hours.

Dip the entire sheet containing the image in warm water after the fixative has dried. When the image loosens, slide it off the paper and onto the fabric. Smooth the image working out all the air bubbles and water so the image adheres to the fabric.


Laser printers are not recommended for use in transferring images since the colour is "burnt" onto the paper and cannot be transferred. For best image quality, do not pre-wash the fabric before transferring the image. Use the "gentle" wash cycle to protect the image from cracking or wash by hand. Water-slide decals can be used on surfaces other than fabric, like ceramic, wood or metal.

Things You'll Need

  • Ink Jet or Bubble Jet printer
  • Transfer sheets
  • Iron
  • Fabric
  • Freezer paper
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About the Author

Formerly a teacher and consultant on computer operations and software applications for business schools, Andrea Carson is the owner and publisher of "Seniors of Las Vegas (SoLV)," a free magazine that deals strictly with issues involving senior citizens. Carson has a varied background that includes administrating nursing services, ad development, writing novels and screenplays and ghostwriting.