Transfer paper is the most common material used for DIY T-shirt printing. But there are some other ways to go about it which are just as effective. In today’s post, we cover three methods you can use to make your next craft project a success and have a brand new printed t-shirt without having to use transfer paper.
What Supplies Will You Need?
To place graphics on a T-shirt, you will need the following supplies. So be sure to have them ready before starting your project.
- A T-shirt
- Vanishing fabric marker (or chalk pencil)
- Gel medium
- Printed or photocopied image
- Old towel
- Soft cloth
We recommend you prewash, dry, and iron the T-shirt. Washing the T-shirt removes dirt or debris that can interfere with transfer of the design. Whereas a flat surface will allow for a better bonding process of the design on the fabric.
The color of the shirt should also contrast the design to allow it to pop. In most cases, a plain white T-shirt is the most appropriate choice.
Find a surface that is level and a place where the shirt may dry.
Post 2 of 3 in the transfer paper
Preparing Your Design
If you want the best results from your printing project without the use of transfer paper, use a laser printer or photocopy the picture. The image could be a digital snapshot, an image acquired from the internet, a transferred image from a magazine or newspaper, or it could even be an original piece of artwork.
It is important to invert the image before applying on the T-shirt. The transferred picture will display as a mirror image of the original print. This is especially important to keep in mind if the image you’re using contains any text.
Tip: Most operating systems such as Windows, UNIX and Linux have a build in basic editor that allows images to be flipped horizontally.
Editing software can be used to manipulate the image. For example, such as changing the size of the picture, putting a filter on it, adding text to it, or modifying the color, contrast, or brightness of the picture.
How Do You Prepare The T-shirt For Printing?
Take the time to mark the appropriate T-shirt location for your print before you start the process of transferring it.
If necessary, trim around the edges of the printed picture, then place the transferred image so that the printed side is facing down on the T-shirt.
Use sharp scissors to cut out your image. To center the design on the shirt, use a ruler. Make sure the distance from the side edges of the photo to the side seams of the shirt is the same on both sides (that is if of course you want your design centred).
After the design is correctly positioned, outline the image’s perimeter using a chalk pencil or a vanishing fabric marker. Put an old towel inside the T-shirt so that it covers the area where the picture will be displayed. This prevents the gel medium from penetrating the back of the t-shirt. Again, make sure you do this on a flat surface.
Which Type of Fabric is Ideal for Printing Your Design?
When it comes to printing on a shirt without transfer paper, cotton is the best fabric to use. Cotton has a large capacity for the absorption of ink compared to synthetic materials such as polyester.
1005 quilting cotton is likely the best option if you want to print images directly onto fabrics using freezer paper and your home laserjet printer. The graphic will not transfer on other materials as successfully.
Printing on T-Shirts Without Using Transfer Paper
It is possible to make a copy of a grayscale or black-and-white photograph by using your iron and copy machines that print on Xerox paper. When moist heat is applied using a heat transfer vinyl, the picture will be transferred from the toner to the material. Even while this method is helpful, you will almost certainly find that the picture needs to be improved by using permanent markers or fabric paint.
Nevertheless, you have the following choices:
We investigated a couple of other techniques for DIY t-shirt printing directly onto a t-shirt without transfer paper. While some are rather easy, others require quite a bit of effort and time. And some will require some other tools and supplies, like parchment paper or plastic wrap, for example.
It’s possible that you’ll need to make use of chemicals or solvents to print directly without transfer paper. When utilizing these methods, please make sure to follow the necessary safety precautions. For example, you may need rubber gloves and safety goggles if using chemicals and solvents.
Method 1: Direct Printing
This method needs a fair amount of effort but has a lower overall cost. You print directly into the material, which results in a picture of very high quality.
Patches, small cushions, and fabric samples are all excellent candidates for trying out this method. However, because the majority of printers have size limitations, the largest printable area possible is 8.5 inches by 11 inches.
Direct printing consists of four easy steps. Although a time-consuming process, the results that it delivers are quite astonishing. This method, in contrast to clothing iron-on approaches, does not require you to flip or mirror your image.
The following is the procedure to follow:
Watch this video: Direct To Garment Printing [14 mins 26 secs]
skip to timeline 01:27!
1. Determine The Material You Will Be Using & Wrap It In Freezer Paper
Excellent results can be achieved with lightweight linens, reused bed sheets, and t-shirt textiles. The most efficient fabrics are those made of cotton.
Keep in mind the possibility of blending colors if you are working with different materials that already have color in them. If you print in red or blue on a yellow piece of cloth, the resulting image will be orange or green.
Freezer paper has two distinct sides: the shiny side, and the dull side. The side that has a glossy finish will stick to the fabric when it is heated with a garment iron. Toast your material by placing it, right side up, on a sheet of the freezer. Then heat it over a heat setting that is somewhere in the middle. Following the completion of the melting process, cut all the paper down to the dimensions required by your printer.
2. Pre-Treat Your Fabric
When it comes to pre-treating your fabric, you can choose from a wide range of commercially available treatments. A picture that has been pre-treated is easier to maintain over time. It is better able to withstand the effects of everyday activities like washing, drying, and general wear and tear. If you choose this method, make sure you adhere to all the directions and precautions that come with the product.
3. Transfer The Image To The Chosen Fabric
After your material has been prepared and cut down to the appropriate dimensions, you may then print it. Before you begin, you need to make sure that the paper being manually fed into your printer is going in the right direction. The owner’s manual for your printer should contain this kind of information.
4. Ensure That Your Photograph Won’t Fade
Wait until the ink is totally dry before proceeding. Carefully peel off the backing from the freezer paper. In the event that you applied a pre-treatment, you should now rinse and dry your design in accordance with the instructions provided by the product. Now is the moment to utilize preservation products such as Fixatif or Preserve It!, if you have them. Rinsing the finished print in a solution of vinegar is another alternative that you have (although this may not always work).
Useful advice for working with a laser-printed image
If you printed using a laser printer, a few additional steps need to be taken after all the steps in the printing process. It is important to complete Steps 1 and 3. After the print has had sufficient time to dry, remove it from the freezer paper and place it on newspaper in a room with adequate ventilation (outside would be good). After applying many thin coats of Krylon Fixatif spray, let it air dry between coats before proceeding with the next application (or a related product).
Method 2: Printing with Citra-Solv and a Xerox Machine
This method of printing on a t-shirt does not require the use of transfer paper and instead makes use of a photocopied image that has been made on a copy machine such as a Xerox or another machine that uses toner and a chemical named Citra-Solv.
It will function properly with color as well as black-and-white photographs. You are free to use any inkjet printer of your choice to print your images before transferring them to a color copy machine.
In the event that you do not have instant access to a copy machine, you can find them in most local libraries, office supply stores, and some locations of the United States Postal Service. Expect to pay a little money for the service, as they charge a fee per copy in addition to the service fee. The going charge is typically less than 25 cents for each copy.
A Few Words of Caution Before We Get Started
The following is a list of some ideas and things to keep in mind when printing directly onto a t-shirt without utilizing transfer paper. It is important to keep this information in mind because it will considerably improve the outcome you achieve. Keep in mind these next few things:
Always Flip Your Pictures Over
In order to get your photo ready for printing, you are going to require an editing program that gives you the option to flip the image and transfer pictures. Be warned that even if you are unable to flip the image manually, it will still appear in the opposite direction once the transfer has been finished. That works really well for photographs of people and faces, as well as many other kinds of pictures, but it doesn’t work so well for text or logos.
Only Use Cutra-Solv in Areas With Adequate Ventilation.
Citra-Solv is an all-natural cleanser and degreaser that is often used in a diluted form. However, when it is at its strongest, it has a smell that is reminiscent of citrus fruits. It is highly recommended that you perform your work at a location that has adequate ventilation and make sure that there’s no direct sunlight.
Pay Attention to Your Stitch Count
Your picture will transfer more accurately onto your cloth if it has a higher thread count and a tighter weave. During the burnishing process, it may be helpful to secure a t-shirt or another stretchy fabric in an embroidery hoop. This will help reduce the amount of movement the fabric experiences. This technique is effective for laundering woven linens such as towels, tablecloths, and cushions.
It is important for us to assemble all of our resources before commencing any kind of creative endeavor that doesn’t require transfer paper. When you need a spoon, you won’t have to waste as much time running around looking for it because this will help you find it faster.
The following is the procedure for applying this method:
1. Organize Your Tools & Supplies
Your material should be placed on a flat surface, and a couple of layers of newspaper or a drop cloth should be used to cover it. On top of the newspaper, lay down a single layer of kraft paper, freezer paper, wax paper, or parchment paper. This will prevent the newspaper from soaking through and staining the reverse side of the cloth. Put the photo in the desired location with the back facing up, and then fasten it with some tape or a pin. You can put it in some plastic wrap as well.
2. Put on Your Protective Gear
It is now time for you to don your protective glasses and gloves made of rubber. Wearing rubber gloves is something that Citra-Solv recommends you do in order to protect your skin. If you are going to be working with children, it is strongly recommended that you wear protective eyewear. Due to the fact that it is a liquid, there is always the chance that it will splash.
3. Use A Pouring & Brushing Motion to Apply the Solvent to the Surface
Put a very small amount of Citra-Solv into the shallow dish or jar that you have. Be careful since it could start raining at any moment. Use the brush you have available to apply a little amount of Citra-Solv on the reverse side of your photo. The paper ought to be wet, but it shouldn’t be dripping, puddly, or completely soaked.
4. Rub It In
The process of rubbing something with the back of a spoon while applying very little pressure is referred to as “burnishing.” Rub your finger over the entire surface area of your photo, extending your rubbing just a little bit beyond the borders. When pressing softly, make use of the rounded back of the spoon.
This process could take several minutes, depending on the dimensions of the photo and the amount of detail it contains. Fight the temptation to look over your shoulder. It’s possible that you won’t be able to realign your photo, which will result in it being blurry and duplicated.
5. Finishing Touches
Time for some great finishing touches. After ensuring that the whole picture has been burnished well, gently remove the paper and the plastic wrap. Allow the cloth to air-dry fully.
Once the picture has dried, set it using an iron. Place an old towel on your ironing board, then iron your cloth on top of it. This procedure releases Citra-Solv and imprints the design into the cloth.
Using this technique, images may be washed and dried normally. Over time, there may be some fading, but it will take some time.
Your photograph may be darker than expected. By drawing over it with fabric markers, you may darken, highlight, and even add color to it.
Method 3: Using a Laser Printer with Gel Medium
We like printing on t-shirts without transfer paper. It transmits full-color photos from magazines, color copiers, or printed images.
Inkjet-printed graphics can’t be used. The image must be copied, printed, or inked (like what they use for full-color magazines).
This method works on t-shirts, although their stretchiness may cause breaking and excessive wear. We found several tips and alternate methods for this technique. Despite appearances, it’s a simple process with gorgeous results. This is what you need to do:
1. Copy the Image
Unless you have a laser printer or a magazine image, you’ll need a copy machine. Text or logos must be reversed before being transferred to the cloth. Trim the picture’s border.
2. Apply the Gel Medium
Brush gel medium onto your photo. Some ways cover both cloth and photos, yet all of them are effective. Ensure the gel medium coat is even across the entire surface. Leaving lumps increases drying time and causes ripples.
3. Add Your Photo
Flip the photo over after applying gel medium and lay it on the fabric. At this level, you can make modest changes, so move the image.
Once aligned, push gently from the center outward. This reduces bubbles and prevents lumpy gel. You can use your fingers or a flexible silicone spatula. No force is needed. Just rub.
After positioning and smoothing your photo, leave. Dishes, laundry, and a transfer. Your fabric and gel medium must cure for eight hours. No peeking!
4. Reapply Water, Rub, Rinse & Repeat
When your fabric is completely dry, you need to reapply water. Wet the normal paper with a damp sponge or spray bottle. The paper must be damp enough to wipe your picture. Then carefully remove the paper and let the fabric dry completely again.
Adding extra protection to your photo will increase its life. After Step 4’s image dries, apply gel media. This is helpful for cleaning. Hand-washing protects the image from fading more than machine-washing.
It is handy to know that there are various ways of transferring your designs on fabric without the use of transfer paper. Transfer paper can get a little pricey, especially if your projects entail high volume.
Furthermore, it is not always about cost. There will be times when you find yourself out of transfer paper when you need it the most. You have a project going and the deadline is nearly up. You are out of paper, so what do you do?
Well, you compromise and get the job done using one of these 3 solutions. It is always good to have a backup plan, because it might just save the day!