3 ways to print on t shirts

3 ways to print on t shirts
3 ways to print on t shirts

Personalizing your t-shirts is an easy way to create a unique wardrobe. Several more or less elaborate techniques allow you to print patterns on a t-shirt. For quick results, opt for transfer paper or Inkodye ink. For a more professional look, you can try screen printing.


Method 1 of 3: Use transfer paper

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Step 1. Obtain transfer paper

You can find this item in stationery or craft stores. Choose your transfer paper according to the color of your t-shirt. This technique is ideal for a garment that is rarely worn. Indeed, even washed at low temperature, the pattern ends up being damaged.

  • In general, the transfer paper comes in the form of an A4 size sheet, suitable for conventional printers. If you choose a special format, make sure that it can be used on your printer.
  • If your textile is light, opt for transparent base transfer paper.
  • For a dark colored t-shirt, purchase transfer paper with a white base. It helps to bring out the details of your design better.
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Step 2. Select your pattern

All formats can be used. You just need to save your image on your computer.

  • To use a photograph, scan it and save it as a .jpg. You can also take a photograph and transfer it directly to your computer. If you have powerful graphics software like Adobe Ilustrator, you can create your own pattern.
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Step 3. Turn the image over if you want to print on light fabric

Import your image into image editing software such as Paint. Use the function to rotate the image horizontally. For example, in the software Paint, pull down the menu To rotate in the tab Picture. Select Flip horizontally and your image will be replaced by its reflection in a mirror. If your pattern is text or a figurative element, this step is essential, at the risk of printing your pattern backwards.

  • If you are in doubt about your handling, do a test print on plain paper. If your image is printed upside down, then you can switch to printing on the transfer paper.
  • Note that dark textile transfer paper does not require the design to be turned over by computer. Indeed, this paper makes it possible to transfer the image as it is to the final support.
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Step 4. Print your design on the transfer paper

Before printing, preview to check the size and layout of the pattern. If it is too large, reduce its size by changing the scale.

  • Before you start printing, check the quality and level of your ink cartridges. Note that the transfer paper is suitable for inkjet printers. However, there are also models intended for laser printers. Be sure to choose your paper based on the type of printer you have.
  • If your transfer paper has one side that already has inscriptions such as a logo or markings, be sure to print your design on the blank side.
  • Adjust the orientation of your sheet. If your image is wider than it is tall, change the print settings and select a landscape orientation.
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Step 5. Cut out your pattern

This will avoid leaving leaf residue on your t-shirt and getting a neat pattern.

To achieve a precise cut, prefer the cutter. Depending on the shape of your pattern, use a ruler to cut out a neat frame

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Step 6. Prepare your workspace

You can use your usual ironing board. If you don't have one available, wash and clean a hard, stable surface such as a table, counter, or cutting board. Lay out a cotton pillowcase. It must be large enough so that you can put your t-shirt on it.

  • If you are using an ironing board, make sure it is covered with a thick enough cover. This is because the bars and other metal grids included in the table structure can prevent a correct transfer of the image.
  • Make sure your work surface can withstand high temperatures. Avoid laminated or fragile surfaces.
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Step 7. Heat your iron

Follow the recommendations for use indicated in the instructions accompanying your transfer paper. If you have no specifications, program your iron to iron cotton or set it to its highest temperature. Empty any water contained in the tank and make sure that the "steam" function is deactivated. Let the iron heat up for about five minutes.

For best results, use an iron with a power of at least 1200 W

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Step 8. Iron your t-shirt

Place your garment on the pillowcase and iron it to remove any wrinkles. Otherwise, the result of the transfer may be spoiled.

If necessary, wash and dry your t-shirt beforehand

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Step 9. Place the transfer paper where you want to decorate your garment

For a light-colored t-shirt, lay the paper so that the image is in contact with the fabric. For a dark garment, lay the paper so you can see the pattern. Be sure to position your design correctly. If necessary, center it over the sleeves and neckline.

Be careful not to get the wrong side when setting the transfer paper. On a light textile, the image must be in contact with it so that it is transferred right side up

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Step 10. Transfer the image through the heat of the iron

Place the iron on the pattern, applying sufficient pressure. If necessary, use both hands.

  • According to the transfer paper manufacturer's instructions, let the iron work for ten seconds to a few minutes. Keep the iron longer on the center of the design than on its outlines.
  • Iron the entire pattern to transfer it evenly to the fabric. Do not drag the iron. Move it by lifting the device between poses.
  • Note that some brands of paper have a thermal indicator that lets you know if the area has been heated enough.
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Step 11. Let cool then peel off the transfer paper

Do not touch the paper while it is hot, as it may smudge.

Gently and evenly peel off your transfer paper with one hand while holding your t-shirt with the other hand. Check as and when your design has adhered well to the fabric

Method 2 of 3: Make a silkscreen print on a t-shirt

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Step 1. Select a black and white image

The black pigments block the light, which helps recreate your image on the fabric. If you want to transfer an image in color, import it into image editing software. Apply a filter to make your image black and white.

Screen printing is an old printing process that takes place in two stages. The image, printed or drawn on a transparent support, is transferred to a screen printing screen coated with a photosensitive emulsion. Applying ink to the screen then prints the image onto the garment

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Step 2. Print your image on a transparent sheet

You can use a laser or inkjet printer to create your artwork. This is your design printed on a transparent sheet. The support can be tracing paper, acetate film, OHP transparency or Wenzhou paper. Tracing paper and transparency are products available in stationery stores. The other types of leaves are items that you will find more in specialty stores or online.

  • Check the print quality of your printer. Indeed, if the black is not sufficiently opaque, the transfer may be messy. If necessary, make your artwork at a printer.
  • Before starting your actual print, check that your device supports the specific texture of the transparent sheet. It can wrinkle or tear as it passes through the printer. If so, go for a different brand or type of leaf.
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Step 3. Coat your screen printing screen with photoemulsion

There are screen printing kits that include a screen, a pot of photosensitive emulsion, ink, various doctor blades and printing films. A screen printing screen is a fabric support stretched in a wooden or aluminum frame. Wash and rid the screen of dust and greasy residue, otherwise the emulsion will not work. After allowing the screen to dry, apply a thin, even layer of emulsion using a hollow coating squeegee. Coat both sides of your screen.

  • As the name suggests, the photoemulsion is sensitive to light. So you have to work in a very dimly lit space.
  • Protect your hands and workspace before handling the product. Wear gloves and cover your work surface with a cloth or garbage bag. The ideal way to coat both sides of your screen while avoiding soiling is to wedge it vertically.
  • To avoid any mishap, make sure that the emulsion layer is thick enough to completely cover the mesh of the screen. Also, make sure that the covered area is larger than your image.
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Step 4. Let the emulsion dry

If you have any emulsion left on the coating scraper, you can put the excess back into the pot. Let your screen dry horizontally in a dark and preferably cool room. This step is essential for the emulsion to react correctly.

Drying can be long and take several hours. To speed up the process, you can place a fan in the direction of the screen. Program it at low power to prevent the emulsion from dispersing or being damaged by dust

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Step 5. Prepare for the insolation phase

This step involves exposing your screen to light in order to transfer the pattern to it. The emulsion hardens on contact with ultraviolet rays and no longer allows the ink to pass through. Conversely, the areas protected by the opacity of the pattern do not harden. You must therefore have a sufficiently powerful light source to allow this reaction. Sunlight may be sufficient in summer, but the emulsion reacts more slowly to diffused white light. To achieve clear and fast insolation, it is best to use a concentrated light source such as an ultraviolet lamp.

  • To preserve your image on the screen and avoid reflections, place a blackout fabric or black paper under the screen.
  • Choose your light source according to the reactivity of your emulsion. Ultraviolet lamps are the most efficient, but you can install a halogen spotlight or an incandescent bulb of at least 150 W.
  • If you want, you can invest in an insolator or make it yourself.
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Step 6. Prepare your sunstroke setup

Before you expose your screen to light, you need to layer your elements in a specific order.

  • Place a large piece of cardboard or a tray on your work support.
  • Then put down your fabric or black paper.
  • Place the emulsion coated silkscreen screen.
  • Place your transparent sheet on the screen. The pattern must be in contact with the emulsion in order to be transferred in the correct direction. If necessary, secure the sheet with adhesive tape.
  • Place a transparent pane of glass or plexiglass.
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Step 7. Insolate your screen

Turn on your light and aim it at your pattern. The exposure time depends on various parameters such as the characteristics of your emulsion, the type and intensity of the light source used, the exposure distance or the thickness of the screen printing screen. Check the leave-in time on the leaflet accompanying the emulsion. It can vary from 2 to 90 minutes. The change in color of the emulsion, which turns to a dull gray-green, may be a sign of the end of sunstroke.

The exposure time is a crucial factor in the success of your screen printing. Indeed, overexposure prevents skinning, because the emulsion is too burnt. Conversely, if the exposure time is too short, the emulsion not being burnt enough, the pattern is not correctly transferred. In both cases, it is unusable

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Step 8. Strip your screen

This step removes the ink that has not hardened on contact with light. After washing the screen, your pattern should therefore appear. For the skinning, remove the glass plate and pass your screen under a jet of cold to lukewarm water. Keep it upright to prevent water from stagnating and wash both sides until there is no foam.

  • If you remove too much emulsion, it means that your screen has not been exposed to enough light. Carry out a new phase of sunstroke and retry the count. If you do not get a satisfactory result, it is better to repeat the experiment.
  • If you are unable to wash off the emulsion, it means your screen has been overexposed. In this case, you must completely clean the screen with a specific product and start your screen printing again.
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Step 9. Prepare to print the pattern on your t-shirt

Buy ink as well as a doctor blade to deposit it. You can choose the color according to your tastes. Note that if your pattern is multicolored, you must provide one screen per color. As with sunstroke, printing requires special editing.

  • Stretch without distorting your t-shirt to avoid ink smearing and creases that could spoil your design. To do this, wedge a piece of wood or a jeannette in your clothing.
  • Put a reserve of ink on top of the design. Using a doctor blade or spatula, distribute the ink in a thin layer on the screen. The latter must be saturated with it in order to ensure a good impression.
  • Place the screen on the garment. Make sure that only the frame is in contact with the fabric. Otherwise, you risk staining the garment or it may stick to the screen.
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Step 10. Print your design on the t-shirt

Depending on the type of ink used, the printing process differs. It can be cold or hot. Check the instructions on the leaflet that came with the ink. Let your image dry and your new t-shirt is ready to wear.

  • Cold printing is easier and faster. You just need to scrape the design in a quick and continuous gesture so that the ink passes through the mesh of the screen and settles on your garment. In principle, one pass is sufficient. You can even reuse the same pattern by adding ink again.
  • Hot printing requires placing your screen under a heat source. It could be an iron, sunlight, or an ultraviolet lamp.

Method 3 of 3: Print a t-shirt with Inkodye ink

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Step 1. Iron your t-shirt

Lay your garment on a flat surface and iron it to remove any wrinkles that may spoil the print. In particular, make sure that the area to be printed is completely smooth.

  • Set your iron to the highest temperature or use the specific program for cotton.
  • Make sure to deactivate the "steam" function of your iron.
  • Inkodye ink is a practically colorless and photosensitive ink marketed by the company Lumi. Its use, simple and fast, allows to obtain high quality prints on cotton. So choose this material if you use this ink to decorate your t-shirts.
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2nd step.Prepare your t-shirt and negative

Stretch your t-shirt by sliding a piece of cardboard into your garment. Then smooth with the palm of your hand. To prepare your negative, all you need to do is print the pattern directly onto transparent film. It is not necessary to print it upside down, as the negative sits on the ink as is. There is a specific printing medium for Inkodye ink known by the trade name of Inkofilm film.

Placing a piece of cardboard in the t-shirt helps prevent ink dripping through the garment. In addition, the cardboard can be discarded or reused at the end of printing

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Step 3. Mark the print area

Choose the location of your design on the t-shirt. Make a cardboard or plastic frame and tape it to the shirt.

  • By delimiting the printing area, you avoid dripping and other ink splashes outside this area.
  • If you don't plan a border around your design, you can make a frame slightly smaller than the latter to avoid ink smearing around your print.
  • If you prefer, you can just stick colored tape directly on the garment. Run your finger along the edges of the tape so that it adheres fully to the fabric. Otherwise, ink may seep underneath.
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Step 4. Pour your Inkodye ink into a container

Shake the bottle before pouring the contents into a container provided for this purpose.

  • Prefer a plastic bowl to keep as much product as possible.
  • The amount of ink varies depending on the size of fabric covered. For a 30 cm square, allow 30 ml of ink.
  • Work in a dimly lit, but well ventilated room. This is because Inkodye ink reacts to natural light, but it is still a chemical.
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Step 5. Apply Inkodye ink to your t-shirt

Dip a brush or roller into the bowl. Remove excess ink by rubbing the tool against the sides of the bowl to prevent dripping and spattering. Then fill in your print area.

  • Apply a thin, even coat of ink, being careful not to saturate your garment.
  • Inkodye ink is relatively colorless. The amount applied is therefore difficult to gauge. However, note that it is better to put in too much than not enough, because you can remove the excess with a sheet of absorbent paper. Once the emulsion is applied, remove the excess product.
  • Inkodye ink is colored, but its tint is only visible as reflections. If it allows you to create only monochrome patterns, the range of effects is quite wide. Depending on your desires, you can opt for a red, orange, purple or sepia Inkodye emulsion.
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Step 6. Remove the frame

The latter is no longer necessary after applying your ink.

If you used duct tape, do not remove it. Indeed, you risk leaving fingerprints on your ink. Also, if you think it may have slipped under the ribbon, it is best to leave it in place

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Step 7. Place your negative on the ink coated area

Apply enough pressure to adhere to the ink.

  • Smooth out the negative with the edge of your hand. This gesture eliminates any air bubbles and promotes adhesion of the negative.
  • Secure the negative to the garment using sewing pins. Arrange them around the edges of the negative, making sure they do not touch the design.
  • You can also put acetate film on the negative.
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Step 8. Expose your ink to natural light

Lay your garment in the sun or under an intense light source. Since the ink is photosensitive, the pattern will be transferred directly to the fabric.

  • The duration of exposure to sunlight varies from ten to twenty minutes. Prefer times of the day when the light is most intense, such as late morning or early afternoon.
  • If the sun is low, increase the exposure time.
  • You can also use an artificial light source such as an UV lamp.
  • After about five minutes, the transfer process begins. It is also visible, because the image gradually darkens.
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Step 9. Peel off the negative

Bring your t-shirt to a room with little sunlight to block the reaction of the Inkodye ink. Lay your garment flat, remove the pins and lift the negative by one of the corners to peel it off.

To make sure you preserve your design, remove the negative in a dark room

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Step 10. Wash your garment

Remove ink with hand or machine wash. Your image will take on the desired color and will be sharper and brighter. Let dry and wear your new garment.

  • It is best to wash your garment in the washing machine, as the ink can be difficult to remove by hand.
  • Wash in hot water to remove ink residue. You can use a specific detergent or take your usual detergent.
  • If necessary, perform a second wash.
  • Let your t-shirt dry and admire the results.


  • If you have to restart your screen printing because of an insolation fault, it is important to clean your screen with suitable products. Otherwise, you risk spoiling your work.
  • If your screen printing screen has holes left by a lack of emulsion, you can use masking tape or filler.
  • If you have opted for the technique using transfer paper, follow the washing instructions in order to damage your pattern as little as possible. Note that some brands offer sheets of silicone paper to increase the adhesion of the pattern and protect it. The use is relatively simple since it suffices to pass the hot iron on the silicone sheet placed on the pattern.
  • With Inkodye ink, you can also create shadow effects using objects. To do this, replace the negative with an object. Only the areas of the fabric covered with ink and exposed to natural light will be colored.
  • Turn over your printed t-shirts before washing or ironing them. This will prevent premature damage to their pattern.


  • Do not touch the newly transferred designs. Wait until they are completely dry.
  • Note that transfer paper is a single-use product.
  • Be sure to take your precautions when handling the iron.
  • Despite its professional rendering, screen printing is expensive in energy, time and material.

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