How to make a transfer print?

This method of decoration is only suited to patterning synthetic fabric, such as polyester, nylon, lycra or acrylic. Transfer printing is the best used were you wish to produce an intricate multi-coloured design on cloth. In fact, it is the only method of printing different colours simultaneously (don’t mention here professional digital printing). Transfer printing can be employed to pattern both finished garments and lengths of fabric.

The main advantage of decorating clothing in this manner is that the finish doesn’t fade during machine washing. The only point to bear in mind when decorating made-up garments is that you must place a piece of thick paper between the front and back to prevent the coloured paints from transferring through both layers during the heat-transfer process.

Transfer printing is very economical to carry out. In fact, you can use the same paper design over and over again until the design fades beyond the recognition. The only stage that needs special care is the heat-transfer process itself, since if you move the cloth or paper while it is being ironed you will smudge the design.

When applied to paper, transfer paints are very dull in appearance and this can be misleading since they are in the fact very vibrant when transferred to cloth. If you are in doubt as to the final colour, it is worth testing different shades on a remnant of fabric before starting a project. To give your design extra depth, place textured objects such as shells or rope under the layout paper and rub over them with wax transfer crayons to create a textured effects. You can then transfer the embossed pattern to the cloth in the normal way.

Transfers are available as paints, inks or crayons from craft stores. Unlike many fabric-painting techniques, you can mix different brands of transfer paint and use pencils and crayons simultaneously.

Material you need

synthetic fabric


marker pens in different colours

masking tape

layout paper

transfer pens, paints and crayons in assorted colours




How to make it?

1 Using coloured marker pens, draw your design on paper to the exact specifications. Choose shades that are as close as possible to the transfer paints you intended to use. If you don’t have the exact colours, indicate where they should go using a pencil. Tape your paper design onto a work surface and, using masking tape, secure a piece of layout paper over the top.

2 Using your original design for reference, trace over the pattern with coloured transfer pens, paints or crayons. Use the paint or ink directly from the pot and wash the paintbrush frequently to prevent the colours from becoming muddy. Leave design to dry thoroughly.

3 Crinkle up a large piece of newsprint and tape it onto a work surface using masking tape. Iron the fabric flat and then tape it over the newsprint. The crinkled paper will give your final design added texture and depth.

4 Place the decorated layout paper face-down on the fabric and secure the corners with masking tape.

5 Set the iron on a medium heat and carefully iron the paper from top to bottom. Make sure that the paper doesn’t slip as you transfer the pattern since this will result in a smudged design.

6 Finally, lift off one corner of the paper to make sure that the pattern has transferred to the cloth. If it has, carefully peel back the transfer paper. If not, repeat the heat-transfer process. Unlike ordinary fabric paints, there is no need to fix transfer paints because they are automatically fixed durin the ironing process.

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