23 Common Mistakes To AVOID When Using T-Shirt Transfer Paper

23 Common Mistakes To AVOID When Using T-Shirt Transfer Paper
Authored By Michael Soltis 0 Comment(s)

Using transfer paper is a fun way to make your own custom t-shirts. While this is a very straightforward process, there are a few things that can derail your project. To ensure you get long-lasting, beautiful results every time, today we will discuss the most common mistakes people make when using t-shirt transfer paper.

t-shirt transfer paper stuck to shirt

Choosing the Wrong Paper

Before buying transfer paper, check your printer and the type of fabric you will be using. There are some all-purpose transfer papers on the market, but you can increase your results by buying paper that is specifically designed for your inkjet or laser printer. Then go a step further and choose transfer paper designed for light or dark fabrics. Also be sure to check the instructions to see if your transfer sheets are suitable for your fabric. While most work on cotton or cotton blends, it may not be suitable for silk or other linens.

Incorrectly Setting and Loading the Printer

A crisp, clear image starts with print quality. The paper’s instructions may have specific settings for your printer. Follow those instructions. If a guide is not provided, you can optimize the settings by doing the following:

  • Paper Type: switch the setting from plain paper to photo or transparencies
  • Quality: switch the setting so it is on the highest print quality
  • Size: ensure the size is letter/standard/8.5 x 11
  • Color modes: choose the most vivid option and make sure the default option to greyscale is not on
  • Orientation: depending on your design, you may need to switch between your portrait or landscape settings
  • Double siding: turn off the double side option if you have it on as a default
  • Watermark: turn off the watermark setting if you have it on as a default
  • Economy mode: turn off ink saving settings since you want as much ink as it takes to get a beautiful transfer
  • Header/footer printing: turn off this setting if you have it on as a default
  • Mirror mode: turn this on if you want your image to print as it would be seen in a mirror. If you are unsure of if you want to do this, turn on print preview after you activate this setting so you can see how it would look.

Once your printer settings are taken care of, it’s time to load the printer. Check the package instructions and/or printer’s manual to see if you need to load the paper with the protective backing side facing up or down. Load one sheet at a time to help reduce jamming.

This may seem like a small thing, but if you are using a home printer, extend the paper catcher. If your printout falls to a table or the floor, it can bend the paper or shift the ink. Once printed, transfer the sheet to a flat surface (or leave it on the catcher) and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Do not stack new printed sheets on top of a freshly printed one.

Not Being Careful When Cutting

Carefully use sharp scissors to cut out your design and take your time. Rushing this step and cutting into, or leaving too much space around, your design will impact the next step (the iron transfer process). If your design is complicated and difficult to cut, consider a tool like the Cricut®.

Issues with Ironing t-shirt transfer paper stuck to shirt)

It is imperative to use a suitable surface for ironing on the transfer. The wrong surface can affect your end result and be a fire hazard. A firm, hard, heat-resistant surface is ideal – an ironing board is best. When ready to iron, do the following:

  • Use a heat-protected flat surface or an ironing board
  • Make sure your surface can take some pressure
  • Make sure the surface is clean
  • Turn the steam function on the iron off
  • Heat the iron to the temperature recommended for the paper. Do not attempt the transfer before the iron reaches this temperature.

Once the surface and the iron are both ready, it’s time for the fun part – the transfer process.

One of the biggest mistakes people make during this part is not applying enough firm, even pressure, and not moving the iron around on the whole design. You will need to exert more pressure than you would for ironing a shirt, so don’t be afraid to press down firmly. Be as consistent as possible with your pressure and move the iron smoothly over the entire design. Don’t forget those edges or any part of the design that is not connected to the main image.

Removing the Backing

Follow the instructions on when and how to remove the backing. You are working with fresh, hot, ink; a common mistake is removing the backing too quickly and disturbing the still-drying ink.

Wearing or Washing too Early

Now that you have followed the instructions above, you have a beautiful, crisp design and you are ready to proudly show it off – but wait! Even though the ink appears dry, it will take about 24 hours to completely set. Set the t-shirt flat and away from excessive sources of heat or moving air (like a fan) during this time. After the 24 hours have passed, you can wear and wash your garment.


Despite your best efforts, your design may not look as you expected. This is especially true if you do not have experience with heat transfer paper. For this reason, it is best to have another t-shirt and transfer sheet ready in case you need a redo. Since transfer sheets come in packs and plain cotton t-shirts for crafting are readily available at very low prices, you can easily have what you need on hand in case your original design is not quite what you wanted. You have not wasted the first shirt as it can become a PJ top or be cut up for reusable rags.

Here are some common reasons you might need a redo.

  • No color or color not as expected: switch printer settings from greyscale to color and turn on the most vivid color options. Also, ensure all your ink cartridges are sufficiently full.
  • Patchy transfer: usually caused by not pressing firmly and ironing smoothly, ironing on an uneven surface, ironing on a fabric not recommended for the transfer, or ironing before the recommended temperature is reached.
  • Fast fade: don’t wash or wear your t-shirt until 24 hours after the transfer. Should you follow that rule and still experience fading, purchase a higher quality of transfer paper.
  • Cracking and peeling: iron too hot, paper quality is poor, or wrong fabric choice. Only iron using the recommended temperature range and use transfer paper that is guaranteed to be washable and long-lasting. Ensure you are ironing onto cotton or a cotton blend.


T-shirt transfers are fun and easy, but there are common mistakes that can trip you up. To get the best results, purchase the right type of paper, change the printer settings, load the paper correctly, heat the iron properly, only iron on an appropriate surface and on the right fabric, and don’t wear or wash your design for 24 hours. Have an extra shirt (your package of paper comes with several sheets) in case your first one doesn’t turn out. Check our troubleshooting guide if you are re-doing your design. The best results are achieved with high-quality transfer paper and by following the recommendations for your paper and printer.

Royal Elements sells high quality heat transfer paper for making custom t-shirts, and we are happy to provide you with all the information you need for this and other vinyl sticker paper projects.

Have you made a t-shirt using our heat transfer paper? If so, we would love to feature your design. When posting online, show us your work by using the hashtag #royalelementsstickers.

Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements today to get your heat transfer paper, and to see the many other kinds of vinyl paper we offer.


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