How to Make Iron Transfers for Denim

Written by katherine kally
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How to Make Iron Transfers for Denim
Customise a pair of denim jeans with an iron-on transfer. (Jeans background image by luckyli from

Customise your jeans, jackets and other denim clothing and accessories using iron-on transfers. Craft, hobby, fabric and discount stores have a wide variety of ready-to-use transfers, but you can make your own iron-on transfers from your favourite photos or clip art. You can even add phrases and words to your images with the help of free photo editing software. Making customised iron-on transfers for denim is easier than you might think. Your imagination is the limit, so get creative and make your own distinctive designer apparel.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Computer
  • Digital image
  • Inkjet printer
  • Transfer paper
  • Scissors
  • Ironing board
  • Thin cardboard
  • Iron

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  1. 1

    Find an image from your digital collection to use to make the transfer. You can also download and print an image that you find online.

  2. 2

    Remove any paper that's loaded in your inkjet printer's paper tray. Follow the instructions for inserting the transfer paper into the paper tray; the transfer paper fits facedown in the paper feeder tray for most inkjet printers. Insert one sheet of transfer paper in the tray.

  3. 3

    Set your printer to print a reverse image. This step is crucial as it will determine how the finished iron-on transfer looks on the denim. Your printer software program may have an iron-on transfer option in addition to a reverse image option. Each one will work. Find the printing options on a PC by selecting "Print," then "Properties," then "Basics," then "Orientation" and finally "Mirror Image." Print the image onto the transfer paper. Do not touch the transfer paper until the ink is completely dry. This could take several minutes; read and follow the manufacturer's drying recommendations.

  4. 4

    Trim the excess transfer paper from around the image. It need not be perfect, but trimming makes it easier to position the image on the denim.

  5. 5

    Remove the fabric cover from the ironing board. If there is too much cushioning under the denim, the transfer may not print correctly onto the fabric. You can also use a table or any hard, flat surface to transfer the image onto the fabric.

  6. 6

    Stretch out the denim on the ironing board. Place the section that you are customising face up. Insert a piece of thin cardboard between the layers of the denim or behind a single layer of denim so that the transfer will not bleed through the fabric to the second layer or tabletop.

  7. 7

    Arrange the image side of the transfer paper facedown on the desired location on the denim. Read and follow the transfer paper manufacturer's recommendation for the iron heat setting. Most papers recommend a hot iron or a cotton setting. Allow the iron to preheat.

  8. 8

    Press the hot iron onto the transfer paper, working inward from the outside edges. Press down firmly so that the image will transfer to the denim. Keep the iron moving; iron in large circles. If the hot iron remains for too long on any single part of the transfer paper, the image could melt. The transfer paper manufacturer will recommend the amount of time to press the hot iron to the transfer; 30 seconds is typical.

  9. 9

    Peel the paper backing away from the denim carefully while the paper is still warm. Leave the denim undisturbed on the ironing board until the transferred image cools completely. Cooling could take up to 30 minutes.

Tips and warnings

  • Iron-on transfers work best on pre-washed denim.

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