Photo Transfer to Fabric and other Surfaces for the Crafter & Quilter

Article by Soft Expressions Copyright 2020

When you want to transfer print a photo on fabric other mixed media surfaces using an Iron-on Photo Transfer Sheet or a Colorfast Printer Fabric are excellent options.

We have been supporting the quilter since 1996 in photo transfer to fabric and these products have been our go to favorites because of their quality end product:

      Iron-on Photo Transfer Sheets

      Iron-on photo transfer sheets require a two step process:

      1. Print the image on the photo transfer paper. we carry a Lesley Riley's TAP Transfer Artist Paper, a unique surface that can be used in a printer or a drawing surface.
      2. Iron the transfer on to the project, like fabric, t-shirt, canvas bag, wood, stone, etc.
      3. An alternate methods for treating your own fabric to accept inkjet fabric prints is Bubble Jet Set.

      Printable Fabric Sheets

      A printable fabric sheet is fabric that a stiff carrier paper on the back so it can be put through a printer. Some printers are pickier than others and may require an adjust change for heavy paper.

      The fabric has been prepped to be colorfast when using an inkjet printer.   After printing the fabric is then gentle rinsed to remove excess ink residue that did not adhere to the fabric.

      OPTIONAL RINSE after Printing. A rinse or soak to remove excess inks willo remove excess dye particals that did not adhere to fabric surface. EQ printables Color Fast Printer Fabric offers a very helpful PDF with printing and aftercare instructions.

      Prepare you image size and resolution (pixels per inch)

      Finding an app that allow you set the size and resolution (pixels per inch) to 300 Pixels Per Inch (not to be confused with dpi which is a printer setting)  is a good crisp image setting  An image with a higher PPI pixels are closer together in the image.  The pixels in a 300 PPI image are snaller and closer together than a 72 PPI image.which can have raggy edges of color when printer and appear fuzzy on the monitor.  The higher PPI offers a visually  sharper image on the monitor and translates as a crisp image when printed..

      Transfer Sheets require Reverse Mirroring the image

      • If you want your image to appear like you see it, it will be necessary to  REVERSE/MIRROR the image before printing or you will get a backward image.

      • Text and numbers MUST be Mirrored/Reversed for correct placement and to read correctly after the transfer is complete. 

      There are two ways to reverse/mirror an image:

      1. Reverse/mirror the image in graphic software like CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, Paint Shop Pro, and other similar programs using one of the program options. If you do not know how, look under the help files for your program.
      2. Locate reverse/mirror in the Printer Settings. To locate your printer setting, use the properties button in the printer dialogue box.
      Select Mirror or Reverse Image in Printer Settings

      Need to know before printing for photo transfer.

      • What does DPI (dots per inch) mean when referencing your printed setting?  DPI means the number of dots per inch of ink laid on your transfer paper or colorfast printer fabric to create the image. (not to be confused with ppi, see above explanation)

      • Iron-on transfer sheet recommendations can vary from 320 to 720 dpi MAX (dpi means dots per inch of ink applied to the surface when printing)

      • Printing directly on fabric recommendations are  usually lower: 150 to 200 dpi.

      • How easy is DPI to find in your printer settings? It is not easy. to find and more than likely is NOT there with the reference of DPI.   In most home printers the DPI is controlled by the selection of paper type and a selection of print quality.

        • Iron-on Transfer Sheets: If you are lucky, your printer will list under paper type, photo transfer paper. This will be the correct setting.  If not listed there, select Glossy Paper.

        • Colorfast Printer Fabric is NOT going to be found on the list.  You can feel safe that using standard print quality setting is a good choice for printing directly on fabric.
          High Quality  or Glossy Quality is a waste of expensive ink and floods the fabric with excess ink that will bleed off when rinsing the fabric. 

      Preparing to Print by Adjusting the Printer Settings:

      IMPORTANT Do a small test sample BEFORE doing printing the final image for transfer. Make printer setting adjustments as needed.

      Check image quality. Many times what you see is not what you get when you print. The printout maybe dull, to dark or light, or not sharp enough. If you have a printer calibration choice in your graphic program, use it to help align more closely what you see with with what you get when your print.

      If your program does NOT allow printer calibration then adjust the printer. Making a few adjustment to Printer Picture quality can make a difference. Look for an area in your printer or graphic program that allows the adjustment of halftone type. Below are examples from 2 different printers. Remember, each printer's adjustments will look different, but most have similar settings. Probe around the Printer dialogue box until you unearth the settings you may need.

       Here are a couple more setting to look for that allow you to make color adjustments. Again, remember every printer is different. Here are some examples of adjustments that you may find.

      Ready to Print:

      Many printers have options that are specific to the photo transfer process. Use them when possible. Here are a couple of examples.

      Printer Selections for Paper

      Select Paper/Media Type Examples

      PRINT: Transfer image to project

      IMPORTANT: Do not store printout. After the ink dries, trim edges closely and iron on immediately.

      Ironing Surface:

      • Use a firm surface like Formica, tempered glass, or smooth masonite.

      Iron Temperature:

      Click Here for more details

      Before Applying to Fabric:

      • Iron the Fabric so it is wrinkle free. 
      • Let the Cool before applying transfer sheet.

      To Transfer:

      • Iron directly on the face down side (paper feeling side) of the transfer.
      • Small Transfers: Iron from side to side to evenly heat the surface to prevent scorching and cool spots for the vent holes, continue this for 30 seconds.
      • Large Transfers: Iron one section of the transfer at a time as described above, then move to the next section.

      To remove Transfer Paper

      • IMMEDIATELY peel away transfer paper while the transfer paper is HOT.
      • Peel smoothly in one continuos motion.
      • IF REMOVAL STICKS OR RESISTS, carefully smooth transfer flat again and re-iron as described above for 10-20 seconds and repeat peel.
      • NOTE:  Some transfer sheets give a matte finish or a shiny finish depending on whether you pull away backing while transfer is still heated or cool. 


      Available here at Soft Expressions.

      • Direct printing on fabric that has been treated with emulsions that helps the fabric retain the inks used by inkjet or laser printers for gentle washing. (details for washing below)