Transfer paper, also known as transfer sheets or tattoo paper, allows you to print an image or design that can then be transferred onto another surface like fabric, wood, or skin. But can you use transfer paper in a normal inkjet or laser printer?
How Transfer Paper Works
Transfer paper has a special coating that allows an image printed in reverse from your printer or copier to stick to its surface. Once printed, the paper is trimmed down and the image is heat pressed or ironed onto the final surface you want to transfer it to, such as a t-shirt, canvas bag, or plaque.
The heat and pressure cause the toner or ink from the paper to release and adhere permanently to the new surface. The paper backing is then peeled away, leaving the image behind.
Key Takeaway: Transfer paper works by allowing printed designs to temporarily stick to its coated surface before being transferred to different materials with heat and pressure.
Checking Printer Compatibility
Most consumer inkjet or laser printers should technically work with transfer paper. However, to save frustration and wasted materials down the line, always check your printer manufacturer’s recommendations first.
Many models specify using heavier weight 20lb copy paper as the lower limit for their trays or bypass feeds. Transfer paper tends to be lighter weight, from 12lb to 15lb bond. Forcing too light or thin paper through could create jams.
Temperature is also a factor. Inkjet transfer paper specifically requires high heat for the transfers to work. Laser printers already generate significant internal heat from the toner fusing process. This makes compatibility less of an issue there.
Key Takeaway: Always check if your specific inkjet or laser printer lists transfer paper as compatible media before attempting use to prevent jamming.
Printer Settings and Test Prints
If your printer model is compatible, you still need to prepare the paper and print test sheets before creating final transfers. Here are some key steps:
- Printable side up – Load transfer paper printable side up in the tray, bypass, or manual feed slot. The treated coating should face towards you.
- High quality settings – Choose photo paper, high quality, or custom media settings. Avoid quick draft modes using less ink or toner.
- Mirror image mode – Text and images should print in reverse so they read correctly when transferred.
- Test with small designs – Print a few simple designs first to get positioning, settings, and heat press times dialed in before attempting full designs on expensive transfer paper.
Key Takeaway: When using transfer paper in a compatible consumer printer, adjust settings to high quality, mirror image as needed, and test with small prints before final transfers.
6 Tips for Great Transfer Results
Follow these tips once you’ve confirmed print compatibility to help transfers better withstand washing and wear:
- Use 100% cotton – Natural fabrics like cotton shirts and canvas bags hold transfer inks better than synthetic blends. Polyester often blocks transfers from setting properly.
- Trim close – Cut out transfer paper designs with sharp scissors as closely as possible before applying. Removing the extra transfer paper coating prevents it from interfering with ink bonding.
- Medium heat – Follow heat press time instructions precisely, but use medium level heat around 375°F – 400°F to avoid scorching cotton.
- Avoid bleeding – For the first wash, turn shirts inside out and use cold water to prevent image bleeding around the edges.
- Smooth bubbles – If air pockets form during the transfer press, use a silicone print tool or paper smoother to flatten them while the paper is still warm. This helps the ink fully adhere to the fabric.
- Heat press again – For greater durability, after peeling the transfer paper off, heat press the fabric itself for another 15 seconds to further bond the design.
Key Takeaway: Precise trimming, medium heat levels, and post-press care helps transfer paper printed images withstand washing without fading, cracks, shrinkage, or bleeding over time.
What About Sublimation Paper and Printers?
Sublimation printing represents an advanced form of heat transfer using specialized paper and inks. When paired with a sublimation-ready printers like Epson, Ricoh, or Sawgrass and appropriate polyester fabrics or coatings, the results can resemble direct-to-garment printing.
However, discussing full sublimation techniques goes beyond the scope of using standard transfer paper. Just recognize that more heavy-duty transfers are possible for those willing to invest in wide-format sublimation printers and materials.
Key Takeaway: If interested in next-level sublimation printing and transferring onto polyester rather than cotton, specialized larger printers, inks, paper, and fabrics can create exceptionally vibrant and durable results.
Conclusion and Summary
To answer the original question – yes, you can use transfer paper in a normal consumer inkjet or laser printer provided the model specifically lists light transfer-type paper in its documentation as compatible media.
Always print small test transfers first to sort out ideal settings and application techniques before attempting full designs. When pressed properly onto cotton fabrics, transfer paper allows stunning one-of-a-kind printed apparel, decals, and more – all from your home office equipment.
Key Takeaway: Check printer compatibility, test settings with small transfers first, apply to 100% cotton using medium heat levels, and trim paper closely for best home transfer results that can withstand repeated washing and wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is transfer paper?
Transfer paper has a special polymer coating that allows inkjet or laser printed images to temporarily adhere so they can be heat pressed onto final materials like t-shirts, mugs, and more.
- What are some alternatives to transfer paper?
Sublimation printing uses special dye inks and paper to print polyester fabric or coated items. Waterslide decal paper transfers printed designs onto smooth surfaces with water or clear lacquer. Sticker paper allows printing self-adhesive vinyl stickers.
- Can you use regular paper as transfer paper?
No, regular copy or printing paper lacks the special polymer coating found on transfer paper that allows an image to transfer under heat and pressure. Do not attempt printing on regular paper and heat pressing the results.
- Why won’t my transfer stick to the shirt?
Failing to trim around transfer designs closely can leave excess paper coating interfering with ink adhesion. Ensure you heat press at the proper temperature and duration as well. Textured fabric surfaces can also prevent full ink bonding – stick to smooth cotton shirts.
- How do you cut out transfer paper?
After printing mirror images of your designs in reverse, use sharp scissors or an X-Acto knife on a cutting mat or smooth board to carefully trim around each one with precision. Leave no visible borders of transfer material.
- How do you seal transfer paper?
To better seal designs and prevent cracking or fading over time, briefly press the printed area for 10-15 seconds after peeling away the transfer paper backing for more durability.
- Can you use transfer paper more than once?
No, transfer paper is single-use. The polymer coating is expended during the initial ink transfer and paper carrier removal. Any attempts to reuse transfer paper produces very faint, poor quality results.
- Is transfer paper the same as heat transfer vinyl?
No. Transfer paper temporarily sticks printed designs to paper so they can be heat transferred to fabrics. Heat transfer vinyl has adhesive backing so vinyl printed designs can be directly heat fused onto materials permanently.
- Can you put transfer paper in the dryer?
It’s best to turn transfer printed garments inside out and wash in cold water first. Tumbling in the dryer can prematurely crack and fade transferred designs. Air dry instead whenever possible.
- How do you laminate transfer paper?
Since transfer paper images need direct contact with the surface they apply onto, laminating them would block contact. Instead, heat seal the transferred prints afterward for protection or apply a liquid laminate coating.
- Can all printers print on transfer paper?
While most consumer inkjet or laser printers technically can physically accept transfer paper, always check your printer manual. Many have specific weight limits like 20lb+ paper to prevent misfeeds and jams that thin transfer paper could cause.
- Is transfer paper waterproof?
Unsealed transfer paper allows moisture penetration over time, especially on fabric. For water resistance apply a fabric protector spray or liquid laminate coating after heat pressing transfers. Avoid washing inside-out to minimize abrasion and fading.
- Why does my transfer have a box around it?
If visible box outlines show on finished transfers, it typically indicates insufficient pressure, heat level, or pressing duration was used when applying the transfer initially. Follow manufacturer guidelines precisely.
- Can you use transfer paper in a Circuits or Silhouette?
Yes, electronic cutting machines like Circuits and Silhouette have special transfer tip blades and settings adjusted for the light paper weight. Print your design mirrored onto the transfer sheets first before precision cutting.
- Can I reuse old ink cartridges to print transfers?
While possible, refilled or expired ink/toner cartridges can clog more easily on transfer paper’s coating. For best image transfer quality, use brand new print cartridges with compatible high release formulas and no clogs.