You don’t need any special skills or a graphic design degree to put your favorite picture on a shirt. And since you won’t be designing from scratch, you don’t have to spend money on any design software either.
Let’s dive straight in and explore how you can use various methods to print pictures on your plain t-shirts!
Step-by-Step DIY Image Transfer
You can take either a DIY or a non-DIY approach to print a picture onto a shirt of your choice. Let’s start with the former, simpler approach:
This is a budget-friendly method for DIY t-shirt printing; perfect for creating professional t-shirt prints at home. Here’s a simple 8 step simple iron-on-transfer DIY guide to help you get started:
Step 1: Gather Materials
Collect all the necessary materials before preparing your work area!
- An image that you want to print
- Transfer paper
- Table or ironing board
- Inkjet printer
Step 2: Choose and Print Your Design
Select a high-quality picture to transfer onto the shirt. Set the paper size and print the image using an inkjet printer. Reverse the image if it has any text or if you want it to appear properly on the shirt.
Step 3: Prepare the Shirt
Next, choose the type of fabric you wish to print on. Wash the shirt beforehand and let it dry. Then remove all the wrinkles from the fabric. Make sure that the shirt is completely clean and dry before proceeding.
Step 4: Cut the Image
Carefully cut the edges of your printed image. Try to leave out a small border of white space around the picture for better print results.
Step 5: Position the Shirt
Lay the shirt on a smooth, flat surface. Try using an ironing board or heat-resistant surface with a cotton fabric cover. Make sure that the shirt does not have any wrinkles.
Turn the iron on and set it to the cotton setting without steam.
Let the iron heat up before proceeding.
Step 6: Position the Image
Put a piece of parchment paper or a baking sheet inside the shirt. This will keep the ink from transferring to the back.
Place the cut-out image facing down on the shirt.
Step 7: Ironing
Place another parchment paper on the image. Press the iron down firmly on the image, applying uniform pressure. Slowly move the iron around, not as much as you normally would when ironing clothes.
This will ensure that all parts of the image are evenly heated.
Try to press for about 20-30 seconds in each spot.
Step 8: Cooling
Once the image has transferred, let it cool for some time. Lightly lift the iron and parchment paper to confirm that the entire image has transferred to the shirt. Repeat if the print hasn’t transferred properly.
Don’t peel off the paper too quickly or the image might come off.
Be patient and when the print has cooled down, you can remove it, and voila!
Using wax paper is another low-cost DIY t-shirt printing method. For this, you must create a stencil from the wax paper and use it as a rubber stamp to transfer the ink to a shirt. Here’s how you can do it:
Step 1: Gather all Material
- Image printed on regular printer paper
- Fabric paint or fabric markers
- Cotton or cotton-blend shirt
- Ironing board or protected flat surface
Step: 2 Prepare the Image
Choose an image you want to transfer onto the shirt. Again, if the image contains text or needs to appear correctly, reverse it before printing.
Step: 3 Prepare the Wax Paper
Start by cutting out an 8.5×11 piece of wax paper. Place the paper between two heavy books to flatten it out a bit (it can curl up easily). Next up, just hit print!
Step 4: Print the Design
Place the wax paper in the inkjet printer. Each side of the paper contains a wax coating, so go on and align the paper however you like.
Print your image directly onto the wax paper. Once the print is ready, remove the paper from the printer with extra care. This is because the ink will stay wet and can easily smear the back of the shirt.
Step 5: Position the Shirt
Carefully place your shirt on an ironing board or a coated flat surface and place a piece of cardboard or parchment paper inside the shirt.
Step 6: Place Wax Paper
Position the wax paper stencil on the shirt with the printed side facing down. Lower it directly onto the fabric to avoid smudging the ink. Make sure that the design is centered.
Step 7: Let it Dry
Let the shirt sit so that the ink dries completely. It usually takes a few hours.
Step 8: Remove Paper
In the end, carefully peel off the wax paper from the fabric to prevent any smudges.
You may want to take the high road and use one of the many non-DIY methods for a more professional print finish. Of course, you’ll have to buy all the required tools and practice working with them.
This approach is only ideal if you wish to start a t-shirt printing business.
A heat press creates permanent and high-quality picture-printed t-shirts. The press applies consistent heat and pressure on the shirt, resulting in high-quality and long-lasting transfers. Here’s how to use a heat press to transfer an image onto a shirt:
Step 1: Collect Materials
Gather what you need:
- Heat press machine
- Image printed on heat transfer paper
- Cotton or cotton-blend shirt
- Teflon or parchment paper
- Heat-resistant tape
Step 2: Prepare Your Image
Choose the image you want to work with. Print it onto a special heat transfer paper. Again, reverse the picture for better printing.
Step 3: Preheat the Heat Press
Turn on the heat press and set the temperature. Try to use the appropriate temperature for the transfer paper and fabric you’re using (read the instructions or simply Google it). 350-375°F usually works well.
Step 4: Position the Shirt
Lay the shirt flat on the heat press with the area for image transfer facing up. Ensure that the shirt is perfectly ironed and free from wrinkles. Place the printed heat transfer paper onto the shirt with the printed side facing down.
Step 5: Apply Pressure and Heat
Lower the upper plate of the heat press onto the transfer paper and shirt. The machine will automatically apply the set pressure and heat. The pressure will ensure that the image transfers evenly onto the fabric.
Step 6: Transfer Time
The exact transfer time varies, but usually, it’s around 15-20 seconds. Let the transfer paper sit for that time and then you can peel it off carefully. If you’re not sure how long you must wait, just read the user instructions from the manufacturer.
Step 7: Peel Off the Transfer Paper
Next, you must carefully remove the transfer paper while it’s still hot. Start peeling carefully from one corner, doing your best not to cause any damage to the paper or the image print. Once that’s done, let the shirt dry for some time, and that’s all!
Printing Via Cricut Cutting Machine
You can also cut out prints via electronic cutting machines like Circuit and heat-press the cutouts onto shirts to transfer the print.
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Gather the Required Materials
The materials you’ll use include:
- Cricut cutting machine
- Cotton or cotton-blend shirt
- Iron or heat press
- Teflon sheet or parchment paper
- Design software compatible with Cricut
Step 2: Import A Stunning Picture
Use your computer to import a base image or design. You can adjust its size and orientation, airbrush and enhance it, and even add elements to it. Just remember to mirror it before you hit print. Use a heat transfer vinyl to print the image.]
Step 3: Load HTV onto the Cutting Mat
Place the printed heat transfer vinyl paper onto the Cricut cutting mat. Make sure that the shiny side is facing down, and then begin cutting out the design.
Step 4: Weed the Vinyl
Once you’ve cut out the design, remove the excess vinyl. Only keep the design cut-out on the carrier sheet.
Step 5: Position the Design
Next, iron the base shirt, making sure that it is free of any moisture and wrinkles. Place a Teflon sheet on the shirt and after that, place the vinyl design cut-out on top.
Step 6: Apply Heat
The rest is simple, use an iron to heat the vinyl and apply even pressure to transfer the print from the cut-out to the shirt.
Step 7: Cool and Set
Next, let the vinyl cool down, and then carefully remove the cutout.
And that’s pretty much it; your custom-printed shirt is ready!
Which fabric type is best for adding pictures to?
Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics work best for on-demand t-shirt printing.
What kind of pictures offer the best visual results when printing t-shirts?
Try to pick images with high contrast, vibrant details, and bold colors – they will give a stimulating display when printed onto t-shirts.
Can I add pictures to any part of the shirt?
Yes, it’s up to you – the basic method is the same, but you can make adjustments accordingly and print images on sleeves, backside, and so on.
Zach Aries is an entrepreneur committed to providing personalized service and satisfaction across America. From businesses to charities, Zach ensures every client receives top-notch treatment. His dedication to excellence shines through in his work, whether it’s crafting quality custom apparel or sharing insights in printing and T-shirt reviews.