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How to Print on T Shirts

Three Methods:Printing on Transfer PaperTransferring an Image with Photo Emulsion Screen PrintingPrinting on Your Shirt with Inkodye

Printing designs onto T-shirts is an involved process. But not always a difficult one once you've had some practice. Transfer printing is a good choice for a one-time project. Screen printing requires more specialized supplies but allows you to print many shirts from a single image. Inkodye is another option for quick one-time printing that's more substantial than iron on prints.

Method 1
Printing on Transfer Paper

  1. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 1
    Purchase T-shirt transfer paper. Transfer paper can be found anywhere you can buy stationary or printer paper. There are two types of transfer paper, one suitable for white or pastel shirts, and one suitable for all darker colors.
    • Most transfer paper is the same size as your regular printer paper (Letter size or A4 depending on your country). Before purchasing an unusual size, make sure your printer can handle it.
    • Light transfer paper is used for light or white shirts. [1]
    • Dark transfer paper is used for any shirt that is darker.
  2. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 2
    Select an image. You can use any image saved on your computer.
    • If you only have the image in a physical form, scan it and save it to your computer as a jpeg file. Alternatively, take a photograph and transfer it to your computer.
  3. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 3
    Mirror the image for light-colored shirts. Transfer paper for light-colored paper creates a mirror image on your shirt. Look for a "reverse" or "mirror" setting in the print options window, or flip your image in MS Paint or another image editing program. [2] If you skip this step, all text in your design will be unreadable.
    • Do not reverse the image if you are using transfer paper for darker shirts. This type of transfer paper transfers the image exactly as it appears.
    • If you're not sure whether the reverse setting worked, print out a test piece on ordinary paper. It should come out as the mirror image of the look you want.
  4. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 4
    Print your design onto the paper. Before printing, check the preview to confirm that the image fits onto your paper. If it's too large, select "fit to scale" in the print options, or scale it down in an image editing program.
    • When printing with your transfer paper, you need the right kind of printer like an Inkjet printer. [3]
    • If the two sides of your transfer paper look different, print onto the blank side. One side may have a logo, design, or thermal indicators on it.
    • Switch to "landscape mode" if the image is wider than it is tall.
  5. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 5
    Cut out the image. Any paper you leave around the image will show up as a thin film on the shirt. To create a clean image, cut out the image.
    • To get an accurate cut, use a ruler and an Exacto knife.
  6. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 6
    Cover a hard, flat surface with a cotton pillowcase. Clear a table or countertop, then clean and dry it if necessary. Lay a cotton pillowcase over this surface, covering enough space to lay out the area of your T-shirt you'll be printing.
    • Most ironing boards are not suitable, due to the metal bars or grating on the surface.
    • Use a surface that can withstand heat. Don't try to iron over a laminate countertop. A cutting board can also work.
  7. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 7
    Set your iron. Check the instructions that came with your transfer paper to find out which settings work best for your product. If no advice is listed, select the "cotton" or high-temperature setting; select "dry" or turn off the steam; empty all water out of the iron. Give the iron a few minutes to warm up.
    • For best results, use an iron with at least 1200 watts of power.[4]
  8. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 8
    Iron the shirt. Place the shirt over the pillowcase. Iron it until it is completely flat. Any wrinkles will show up in the transferred image.
    • Wash and dry the T-shirt first if necessary.
  9. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 9
    Place the paper onto the shirt. If using transfer paper for light shirts, place the image face down. If using transfer paper for dark shirts, place the image faceup. Line up the center of the image with the center of your T-shirt neckline.
    • Placing the image face down will allow the image to be transferred so that it’s not a mirrored image when it gets transferred to your shirt.
  10. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 10
    Iron the image onto the shirt. Press the iron firmly over the clothing, pushing down with your whole hand for significant pressure.
    • Iron from 30 seconds to several minutes, according to the instructions that came with your specific transfer paper.
    • Keep moving the iron and make sure to provide heat to every part of the paper.
    • Some types of transfer paper have thermal indicators that will change colors when the area is hot enough.
  11. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 11
    Let the area cool and then peel the paper off. Let it cool for at least a few minutes, until the paper reaches room temperature.
    • Peel off the paper to reveal your image underneath.

Method 2
Transferring an Image with Photo Emulsion Screen Printing

  1. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 12
    Select a black and white image. You need a black and white image because the black will block out the light allowing your design to show up on your silk screen.
    • This printing method can only print black images onto the shirt. If you have a color image in mind, convert it into black and white using Microsoft Word, Photoshop, or another photo editing application.
  2. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 13
    Print the image onto a transparency. You can purchase acetate paper from specialized screen printing supply stores, but clear transparency sheets from office supply stores work fine. Print the image onto the transparency sheet. [5]
    • Low-quality printers may not make the image completely opaque, which can lead to a messy image on the shirt. If necessary, take the transparencies to a copy store instead.
    • Some transparency sheets will shrink or warp when they go through the printer. Buy a small pack to start with, so you can switch to a different brand if the first attempt doesn't work out. [6]
  3. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 14
    Paint a photo emulsion on a printing screen. These materials are available online or at large craft stores, often as part of a single screen printing kit. Paint both sides of the screen with the photo emulsion, using a squeegee to spread it a thin, even layer across the whole surface.
    • Wear gloves while handling the photo emulsion.
    • You also may want to lay a garbage bag down so that you don’t get any paint on your table or another surface.
    • Cover an area slightly larger than your photo and spread the emulsion out evenly. You shouldn’t be able to see through the screen.
  4. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 15
    Dry the screen in a dark location. Leave the screen in a dark, cool area. Allow several hours for the photo emulsion to dry.
    • Optionally, point a fan over the screen to speed up the drying process.
  5. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 16
    Set up a light station. The photo emulsion allows you to "burn" an image onto your screen when exposed to light. Clear a space for the screen under a bright source of light. Direct outdoor sunlight can work in the late morning or early afternoon.
    • Place a black garbage bag or cloth under your screen for best results.
    • Alternatively use a 150-watt incandescent bulb, or a specialized "photo flood" bulb for a shorter exposure time. [7]
    • You can purchase a specialized image burning machine for faster results.
  6. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 17
    Prepare the screen and image. Set this up before you remove the screen from the dark room. Place these items on top of each other in the following order:[8]
    • A large piece of cardboard or a large tray.
    • A piece of black fabric, to reduce reflection.
    • The prepared screen with the flat side of the screen face up.
    • The transparency image, face down and attached to the screen with tape.
    • A sheet of clear glass, Lucite, or Plexiglass.
  7. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 18
    Expose the image at your light station. The timing of this step is tricky to get right on your first try since it varies based on the intensity of the light. Typically, the image is ready once the photo emulsion has changed to a dull grey-green.
    • Check your photo emulsion product for instructions, since the timing can vary from 2 to 90 minutes depending on light intensity.
  8. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 19
    Wash the screen. Remove the glass and transparency and quickly bring the screen to the sink or a hose. Apply a powerful spray of cold water for several minutes to the recessed side of your screen. The ink on the transparency paper blocked light from reaching the photo emulsion, preventing it from hardening. Keep spraying until all of this wet emulsion has washed away, leaving an outline of your image.
    • If all of the emulsion washes away, try again with a longer light exposure.
    • If none of the emulsion washes away after several minutes, use a photo emulsion remover on the screen and try again with a shorter exposure.
  9. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 20
    Print onto your shirts. The screen is now a reusable printing device. Transfer the image onto your shirt by:
    • Placing a piece of cardboard or another barrier inside the shirt, to prevent bleeding through to the other side.
    • Add a small dollop of screen printing ink to the top of the screen, and pull it across with a squeegee to form a thin layer. Go over this several times to ensure an even layer.
    • Lift the screen without moving it against the shirt.
  10. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 21
    Heat set the shirt. Most screen printing inks need to be ironed onto the shirt at a hot, dry setting. Others may only require an hour in sunlight, or a quick run through an ultraviolet drying machine.
    • Check your ink label for specific instructions before you heat set.
    • Once the image has dried, your shirt is ready to wear!

Method 3
Printing on Your Shirt with Inkodye

  1. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 22
    Lay your shirt on a flat surface and iron it. To get the best results, you should iron your shirt to smooth out any wrinkles that could mess up the ink transfer.
    • Inkodye works best with cotton shirts so be sure to set your iron to the cotton setting.
    • Iron the shirt until you’ve removed all wrinkles, especially on and around the area you plan to print on.
    • Use a dry ironing method without steam.
  2. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 23
    Insert a piece of foam core or cardboard into your shirt. Place the cardboard inside your shirt and smooth out the area again.
    • Cardboard works well because it’s flat and won’t let the ink bleed through to the other side of the shirt. Plus, when you’re done, you can just throw it away.
  3. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 24
    Create a frame where you want to place the image. You can use a piece of cardboard or plastic frame that you’ve made or simply use blue painter’s tape to tape off the area.
    • The area inside your frame is where you’ll paint on the ink. The frame ensures that no ink gets outside of the area.
    • If you don’t want any extra inked area around your photo, use a frame that’s slightly smaller than your image. A smaller frame ensures that the ink won’t bleed out passed your photo.
    • Make sure not to tape the image down. It will get stuck. And run your fingernail along the taped edges if you used tape you ensure there are no gaps.
  4. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 25
    Pour your Inkodye into a bowl.[9] Make sure to shake the bottle well before pouring the ink.
    • Make sure that your bowl isn’t absorbent, you don’t want the dye seeping into it.
    • Try to do this in a ventilated room that isn’t exposed to a lot of natural light.
    • About 2.5 tablespoons can coat an 11X11” cotton square.
  5. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 26
    Apply the Inkodye to your shirt. Coat your brush or roller with the dye. Use the edges of your bowl to get excess dye of your brush so there’s not dripping or blotting.
    • Evenly apply the dye to your desired area on your shirt. Don’t soak your shirt.
    • Inkodye is fairly colorless so pay close attention to how much you are applying.
    • After you’ve covered the desired area, grab a paper towel and blot the area to soak up any excess dye.
  6. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 27
    Remove the frame to see the painted area. Once you’ve covered the area you no longer need your frame.
    • You can keep the frame on if you used tape and you think some of the dye may have bled through.
  7. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 28
    Place your negative on the inked part of the shirt. You can press down your negative onto your shirt to help it stick to the dyed area.
    • Smooth out the area with your hand. You want your negative to make good contact everywhere with the dye.
    • Use straight pins on the edges of your negative to keep it in place.
    • Alternatively, you can place a piece of acetate over the top of your negative.
  8. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 29
    Expose your print to direct sunlight. You now want to bring your shirt with the negative on it outside and let it soak up the sun to dry and transfer the image.
    • Expose your print to direct sunlight for 10-15 minutes.
    • It’s best to do this when the sun is strongest around 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.
    • You may have to expose your print for longer if it’s cloudy out.
    • After about five or so minutes you’ll begin to see the image darken.
  9. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 30
    Remove the negative. It’s best to remove the negative in a space that isn’t very bright.
    • Removing the negative in subdued lighting will help to keep the print intact.
  10. Image titled Print on T Shirts Step 31
    Wash your shirt. It’s best to wash your shirt in the washing machine, but you can hand wash it as well.
    • Washing will remove any extra Inkodye from your shirt and make your print look nice and fresh.
    • Use warm to hot water for best results.
    • You may want to wash it twice to remove all the residue.
    • After your shirt is clean, it’s ready to wear!


  • If the image on your screen has any holes in it, cover it with masking tape on the flush side.
  • Before washing your transfer-printed shirt, check the instructions that came with the transfer paper. You may need to limit washing to certain settings. Some transfer paper comes with silicone paper, which can be ironed over the image to fasten it further and allow for safer washing.[10]


  • Don't touch the picture until it's perfectly dry.
  • Never touch the iron.
  • Don't use the same transfer paper twice.

Things You'll Need

Transfer Printing

  • Printer
  • Computer
  • Transfer paper
  • Scissors
  • Cotton T-shirt (preferably 100% cotton)
  • Clothes Iron
  • Hard, flat surface to press your transfer
  • Pillowcase (cotton preferred)

Screen Printing

  • Photo emulsion
  • Printing screen
  • Transparencies / acetate sheets
  • Squeegee
  • Light source
  • Cardboard or tray
  • Black fabric
  • Glass, Lucite, or Plexiglass
  • Gloves
  • Hose or large sink
  • Screen printing ink
  • Iron

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