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Making Iron-Ons for T-Shirts

KronusKronus Registered User regular
edited February 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
I have been interested in making my own T-shirts for quite some time now, and though I've finally convinced myself to give it a try, I have no idea what I'm doing. In particular, I'd like to know:

- Is there a specific brand/type of heat transfer paper that I should be looking for?
- Are there any differences between dark and light T-shirt iron-ons such as quality?
- Should I try to get my designs printed at somewhere like Staples with a laser printer, or will my inkjet printer produce the same results?
- During my research I've read that white doesn't transfer onto dark t-shirts. Can I get away with making it an off-white color if necessary?
- Does T-shirt material make a difference?


Any other hints/tips/tricks for getting started would be greatly appreciated.

Kronus on

Posts

  • HadjiQuestHadjiQuest Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I am curious about this, too.

    I would even be willing to buy a laser printer if it helps.

  • yourspaceholidayyourspaceholiday Registered User
    edited February 2008
    I've been making shirts for a long time, and here's what i've encountered:

    If you're going to use iron-on transfers, Avery makes some really good light and dark transfer paper. They last a long time (I've had some go 1-2 years before any cracking) and look professionally screen printed.

    The difference between light and dark is that the light paper only works on light colored shirts (I would say royal blue is too dark for light transfer paper, if you're looking for a threshold). Anything that is white on the transfer paper will be clear on the shirt, so it's a lot easier to cut out complex designs. They work best with dark designs since everything will come out somewhat translucent (i.e. green on a light blue shirt might look weird, but black will come out black). On the dark paper, EVERYTHING on the transfer paper gets transferred, even the white. This is great, because you can get white into your designs, but it also sucks because you need to trim it exactly on the edge, otherwise you'll get a border. The transfer is also opaque, so as long as you follow the instructions to the T, the transfer you print out will be exactly what you get on the shirt. As far as printing goes, I think you need an inkjet, since it's the ink that transfers (I could be mistaken, but that's what I always used). Just make sure the picture has a good enough resolution and you'll be fine.

    Depending on how many colors you want to do, I'd strongly recommend stenciling it yourself with acrylic paint. It's much more time consuming, but you get an infinitely better quality shirt that will last forever. It's best to practice on something other than a shirt to get the hang of multi-layer stenciling since it can be a bit tricky and requires some thinking ahead, but it's well worth it. Some things to watch out for if you do stencil:
    1) Plan out your layers ahead of time, and make sure you cover everything. It sucks when you have a little gap between layers.
    2) While painting, put a sheet of cardboard inside the shirt. This will prevent bleeding, and will also stretch it out a bit which will give you a better end result since it can get in between the fibers
    3) Don't be afraid od getting to thick with the paint. Do at least 3 coats. The colors will look better if you do a white primer coat if you're stenciling a dark shirt, too.

    Whichever method you choose, good luck. It's a time consuming process, but I enjoy it a lot and the end result is really great. I get a lot of compliments on mine and a bunch of people ask where they can buy one. Plenty of them look jealous when I tell them it's a one of a kind.

  • EverywhereasignEverywhereasign Registered User
    edited February 2008
    Holy-Longpost Batman. But I've been down this road and want to share.

    After trying it a couple - three times I ended up going to a silk screening company last year. They do really good work and the increase in cost was worth the huge increase in quality. If you're planning some event and want a shirt just for that, but don't really care about it after that. Iron On is perfect. If you want something that will last, go to the pros.

    That being said, it's cheap to do, if you don't like the results you can go to someone else after.

    - I've never really shopped around for transfer paper. They all seemed to work the same, but I've always gone with the more expensive ones available.

    - Dark shirts will show the transfer material. That is to say, that you need a border around your design of blank transfer paper. This blank paper will show up on the T-shirt. If you carefully cut around your design it won't look bad, but it won't look great.

    - I've used inkjet and laser, both worked the same. DON'T use a professional printer that sends the paper through a series of rollers. These heat up the paper and result in a paper jam of monolithic proportions.

    - About the off white, yes and no. Remember that you're printing using your printer. Printers don't print white, they print the absence of colour and let the paper show the white. Your "paper" will be the t-shirt, so it's colour will show through. Every time I've tried to use various off white colours the printer just speckles colour on the white space. You still have lots of blank space, ie you still have the original problem. To prevent this, make your design using a blank background, then set the background of your image to the colour of your shirt, you'll see where the problems are very quickly.

    - I've always used cheap 100% cotton t-shirts. Keep in mind that these iron ons do not last long. After a few washes it will crack and start to fade, quickly getting to the point where you don't want to wear the shirt. The first time you wear it, it'll look great. After the first wash, everyone will know you made the shirt yourself.

    Some tips. Remember to invert the image. After printing afew dozen I had one slip through, triple check before ironing.

    - The transfer paper is pretty cheap, if you have an old shirt kicking around, try it on that one first. You will learn much from a practice run.

    - Use a very solid, very flat surface to iron-on the Iron On. I used a kitchen counter, a had one thin towel on top of the counter. Using an ironing board is too squishy, using to many layers of towel does the same thing.

    - If you're going to do front and back, don't remove the backing from the first one, let it cool a little bit, turn it over, place a towel in the shirt between the two layers, iron the back, carefully let it cool. Remove the backings.

    - If you have a cat/dog make totally sure that there is no hair on the paper or the shirt before you iron. Otherwise it will be there forever.

    - Let the shirts cool as flat as possible. This is also a downside to iron on, the transfer material tends to make a stiff area around the design. It softens up after wearing it, but this softening is tiny cracks being made. These crack will let the ink fade.


    Like I said, the first time I did it, it was for a cottage weekend with afew dozen friends. We really only planned on wearing the shirts once so we could look like fools and laugh at each other. After doing that afew times, we decided that we had some really good ideas for shirts that we would actually wear in the real world. That's when we went pro. My other three iron on shirts are used for kicking around the house, or camping. If you and your friends have come up with great ideas for shirts that you would love to wear. Spend your time on design and shop around for a place that will make them for you. The place near me does fantastic work and ends up being around 15 dollars Canadian for one, if you buy 20 or so.

    "What are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am? I'm the goddamn Batman!"
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