Get The Top Rated T-Shirt Transfer Sep 03, 2012 15:18 by Matt Bird
T-shirts are cool. T-shirts with custom photos/jokes/sayings are even cooler (no really, they are). Perfect for anything from humorous presents to group events that need a common theme, t-shirt transfers can provide an easy, affordable way to take plain clothes and add some personality.
If you’re looking for the best option in the market, we’ve reviewed the four top-sellers and selected our top recommended item. If you’ve already bought one and are looking for tips/things to avoid, jump ahead to each review and see how we got on.
What You’ll Need… Not Alot
All four t-shirt transfers we tested require very little effort, and all you’ll need to make your own is:
- An Iron
- An Ironing Area
- A Heat Resistant Surface
- A ‘humorous’ picture
HP Light T-Shirt Transfers
HP C6050 t-shirt transfer - 12 Sheets per pack – RRP £17-20
HP are the dominant force in the printing world, so will their transfer live up to expectations? Start off by selecting your image, and mirroring it on your computer. MS Paint has a simple feature that will do this for you.
Print that onto a sheet of transfer paper, then cut away as much of the white space remaining on your paper as possible (remembering to still leave a border). Once you’re done, put your printout face down onto your shirt.
Iron over the transfer for around 3-minutes, ensuring you spread your time evenly across the whole picture to avoid any burning. Take extra care with the edges, as any bits that aren’t properly ironed will likely not adhere to the shirt very well, and be susceptible to damage (as we found out).We found that rotating the shirt and ironing a bit more is a good idea, as it means you get a more uniform finish on the transfer, and it will secure the design to your fabric more securely.
Once your 3-minutes is up leave the shirt to cool. You’re just moments away from the finished article. Now, for the peeling.
You should find that the protective backing paper will come away easily using just fingers. When we did it came away in just a few large pieces, leaving behind a clear design with good colours, experiencing just a little fading from the pre-transfer printout, and a nice matte finish.
We threw this HP shirt into the wash to test its resilience and weren’t disappointed. To protect the design, we washed it inside out at a fairly low temperature wash, and the shirt came out good as new! There was very little colour fading, and the only damage to the image was the part we knew we’d not ironed properly.
The white border that we had left came away brilliantly, being transparent to the point of blending nearly perfectly with the white shirt. Running hands across it it even felt similar to the surrounding material, giving a near flawless impression of it being a part of the fabric, and not just stuck on.
Printing onto this paper with dye-based compatibles instead of pigment-based originals provided a similar finish, however following washing there was some bleed to the col0urs, especially yellow and green. This probably means that they’d be alright for a one-off event (such as a stag party), but for clothes that will be washed multiple times they might not be so appropriate.
Good job HP!
Epson Light T-Shirt Transfers
Epson S041154 t-shirt transfer - 10 Sheets per pack – RRP £13-15
Having used an Epson SX235 printer full of original inks we had high hopes for how the result that their transfer paper would give. In the same way as HP, select your image, mirror it in your computer, and print it off onto your transfer.
Once the border has been cut from your design, iron it on to your t-shirt with the image face-down. As with the HP paper previously, it’ll need about three minutes of ironing on the highest heat setting with no steam, ensuring even pressure across the whole transfer.
Give it a few minutes to cool, and then peel the backing free – we found that this was more difficult than the HP backing, with it coming away in several torn bits, leaving slight marks on the final image.
It was washed at the same time as the HP transfer, so was likewise on a low heat, with the shirt turned inside out to protect the design.
The colours remained true, with the slight banding visible on the transfer itself no longer showing up on the image, however the ‘white’ border came out imperfectly, with a yellowish hue to it. Washing seems to have freed the design of the torn backing still attached to it, vastly improve the finished product.
Although the transfer itself showed no cracking or damage in the area that we had ironed less well, the overall finish was obviously different to the rest of the fabric, making it noticeable that the image was not originally part of the t-shirt.
Printing with compatibles produced a good result that was resistant to washing, however it was probably the most difficult of all the papers tried when it came to peeling the backing off, leaving lots of fibrous bits of paper. Thankfully this mostly cleared up during washing to give a good finish.
For the cheapest of the packs that we tested, Epson punched above its weight!
Canon Light T-Shirt Transfers
Canon TR-301 t-shirt transfer - 10 Sheets per pack – RRP £21-25
With the highest RRP of the on-white transfers that we looked at, you would hope that Canon’s entry in our review proved to be the best quality; let’s find out if that’s the case.
The first few steps are identical to the HP and Epson papers, with printing out your design in mirror image, cutting off the excess paper, ironing smooth the t-shirt, and carefully placing the picture where you want it to be.
Still on a high heat with no steam, carefully iron the transfer on, with firm, even pressure across the back of the whole image, paying extra attention to the edges.
You can then leave it to cool and peel the backing paper from the transfer itself. We managed this with just fingers, however it was the most difficult of the three, and left marks similar to those on the Epson paper. Once that was done though we were pleased with the overall colours, and it had a beautiful finish that was almost glossy.
Wash it on a low heat, with the shirt turned inside out to protect your design.
The colours showed no sign of fading after washing, however there was some cracking in the same corner that we saw damage to the HP transfer, due to our ironing technique, and the marks that were left behind by the peeling remained despite washing.
In a similar way to the Epson paper that we tried, the ‘white’ border was a bit off-colour, giving it a visible edge with the fabric itself, however this wasn’t as bad as the Epson. The smooth glossy finish was also lost during washing, however this is possibly desirable, depending on your needs.
Printing with compatibles on the Canon paper gave a surprisingly good result, with vibrant colours and the easiest backing to remove from any transfer (though this might have been down to having finally worked out the technique). After washing the image was still clear with minimal fading and bleeding.
So, Canon might not have lived up to its cost, but it was still a very good finished product.
Avery – Dark T-Shirt Transfers
Avery C9406-4 t-shirt transfer - 4 Sheets per pack – RRP £14-17
“Why not just use a standard white transfer kit”. We wondered the very same thing, so we took it upon ourselves to test that very thought!
Avery’s turn. Print your image onto the included paper. Don’t mirror the image, print it how you want it to appear on your t-shirt.
Cut away anything you don’t want appearing on your shirt as every part of the transfer, white background included, will end up on your t-shirt. When you’re done, gently peel away the protective backing on your transfer and place it on the T-shirt.
Inside your Avery pack you’ll find some greaseproof paper, take one sheet of this and rest it across your image, then iron! Make sure to equally iron all parts of the image or you’ll find parts of your image crack easily. Do this for about 3 minutes then leave your image to cool.
The colours came out clean and true, bar the burn mark where we were a little iron-enthusiastic. This pack seemed easier to burn than our other tested ones, but considering it follows a completely separate process this is understandable. We could not find fault on the colours, which is impressive on a dark surface, but make sure to cut your image cleanly or you’ll get jagged edges like our example above.
A big plus is the image feels well adhered to the shirt and resilient to abrasions. It even aced our wash test, with no deterioration in colours or cracking of the transfer, so we give it a big thumbs up for all the important factors.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to print onto a dark t-shirt this Avery kit is top notch (and we’ve shown that a standard kit won’t work), being easy to use with very good colour reproductions, why not try the Avery pack today?
So Which Did We Prefer…
There was no clear winner overall between the different products we looked at with this – Avery’s on-black transfers were specialist, and so couldn’t easily be compared to the others; HP gave the best balance of value for money, quality, and ease of use; Canon might have been the most expensive of the lot but gave a great finish; and Epson’s that’s the cheapest while still retaining good colours.
If you’re printing onto light fabrics then any of our Canon, Epson or HP papers will serve you well, and it’s really down to your budget, however if you’re thinking of working with darker materials then look no further than the Avery pack.
Happy T-Shirt Designing!
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and have some awesome t-shirt designs. If you do make any that use our packs, send us in a picture and we’ll add it to this post as a gallery of success!
Don’t forget to follow our 5-point checklist below to avoid messing up a shirt and wasting a transfer; we assure you it’s pretty frustrating if you do!
- Read the instructions from front to back before starting.
- Check if your image has to be mirrored or not for the transfer to work properly.
- Check if you remove the transfer’s backing before or after ironing.
- Iron the transfer thoroughly, to ensure a proper binding, but don’t over do it lest you scorch the image. Turning the fabric half-way through will help you to apply pressure evenly to all parts.
- Don’t do this without adult supervision!