How to Transfer an Image to Cotton Fabric

Written by ann johnson
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How to Transfer an Image to Cotton Fabric
Use iron-on transfer paper to add images to a plain cotton T-shirt. (T-shirt image by Antonio Oquias from

Perhaps you are making a quilt and want each square to display a portrait of one of your grandchildren, or you would like to create a tote bag depicting your favourite oil painting scene. You can embellish cotton fabric with artistic images or photographs you have captured with your camera to create personalised clothing, quilts or handbags. For best results, use white or neutral fabric for colour images, and a solid colour or white fabric for black-and-white images.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Computer with scanner and printer
  • Digital camera
  • Photo transfer paper
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Silicon paper
  • Copy paper

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  1. 1

    Create a JPEG image file by taking a photograph with a digital camera or scanning an existing picture using a desktop scanner. If the artwork is too large for the scanner, take a digital photograph of the image.

  2. 2

    Upload the digital image to your computer from your digital camera, or save the images to your computer during the scanning process.

  3. 3

    Adjust your printer settings to print on the highest print quality.

  4. 4

    Insert one sheet of photo transfer paper into the printer, positioning the paper so that the image will print on the rough side of the paper, or according to the manufacturer's instructions. Photo transfer paper, suitable for transferring images to cotton fabric, is available at most office supply stores, sold with the speciality computer paper.

  5. 5

    Set the printer orientation option to print a mirror image. Failure to do this will result in images of words printing backward. If your printer doesn't have this option, use an editing software program to create a new image file for printing that is a mirrored image of the original.

  6. 6

    Print a mirror image onto the photo transfer paper and allow it to set in the tray for a few minutes to dry thoroughly.

  7. 7

    Cut off the excess paper around the image, leaving about a 3/4-inch margin around the artwork. Some papers will not require this step; refer to the instructions of the transfer paper you are using.

  8. 8

    Iron the cotton fabric with a hot iron, removing all wrinkles prior to transferring the image.

  9. 9

    Position the printed piece of transfer paper on the cotton fabric, and follow the manufacturer's instructions (included on or in the package of transfer paper) to iron the image onto the cotton fabric. Typically, this involves placing the cotton fabric on a hard, flat surface, followed by the transfer paper, a sheet of silicon paper and several sheets of blank typing paper, and then applying a hot iron over the surface for about 50 seconds. Specific instructions may vary depending on the manufacturer's instructions.

  10. 10

    Remove the paper from the shirt by gripping the edges of the transfer paper with your fingertips and peeling it away from the fabric. Some paper manufacturers recommend removing the paper immediately, while others advise removing the paper after it cools. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

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