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The Best Transfer Papers

Anna Kepa/Shutterstock.com
🕚 Updated May 2022

Have you ever wanted to buy a decal or t-shirt but can't find one with just the right logo or design? If so, you may want to consider making your own. These transfer papers can help you design your own stickers, clothing, tattoos, and more.

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  Best for Decals/Stickers Best for Tattoos Best for Fabric Best for Wood and Canvas Best for Dark Fabric
Clear Transfer Paper Roll
Tattoo Transfer Paper
Inkjet White And Light Color T-Shirt Transfer Paper
Carbon Transfer Paper
NuFun Activities
Printable Iron-On Transfer Paper for Dark Fabrics
Our SummaryTransfer paper with a see-through grid for perfectly aligned placement.Multiple sheets of four-ply transfer paper that's designed specially for creating tattoos.Heat transfer paper made specifically to suit light-colored fabrics that are ironing-safe.If you want to use your transfer paper on less traditional surfaces, such as wood or canvas, these sheets are your best bet.Heat transfer paper made specifically for use on dark-colored fabrics.
ProsBuilt-in grid, large quantity, highly compatible, adhesive backing, durable, indoor/outdoor use.Four-ply, can be used freehand or in thermal copiers, easy to use, good-sized sheets.Works on most fabrics, cutting machine not required, unique bonding method, images won't crack or peel, machine washable.Works on unusual surfaces, wide application, two sizing options, inexpensive, erasable, reusable sheets.Easy to use, designed for dark fabrics, works with most irons and fabric types, compatible with inkjet and laser printers, washable.
ConsHigher price, can't use with fabric.Transfer paste not included, jamming risk.Inkjet printer-compatible only, smaller quantity.Less effective on dark surfaces, not great for sewing projects.Low quantity, will look odd on light fabrics.
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The Best Transfer Papers

Hands drawing a floral design on transfer paper.
Anna Kepa/Shutterstock.com

Buying Guide for Transfer Paper

Lined graph paper with the name Christina on it.

Why buy transfer paper?

Transfer paper is a type of specialty paper made with a coating of pigment and wax. It’s generally thinner than most paper. And, of course, transfer paper has a purpose that regular printer paper does not: It is used to transfer a design onto fabrics and other surfaces. All you have to do is print out your desired image onto the transfer paper and then use some sort of heat press, usually an iron, for the image to adhere to your fabric, canvas, wood, or other desired surface. There are also types with adhesive backing meant for making stickers or decals. Whatever sort of DIY craft you plan to use your transfer paper for, it will offer you a way to make unique, custom items at a swifter and more affordable rate than ordering them.

What should you look for in transfer paper?

  • Use: The main consideration when buying transfer paper is knowing whether you plan to use it on clothing or not. The transfer paper that puts logos and pictures on shirts and other clothes is very different from the transfer paper used to make items like decals. If you plan to make decals or stickers, transfer paper with a built-in adhesive is a must. Also, be sure that any transfer paper you buy will work on whatever material you plan to use it on.
  • Dark vs. Light Fabrics: Not all transfer papers for fabrics are created equal. Some will be more effective or are designed specifically for dark-colored fabrics, others for lighter or white fabrics. If you plan to use your transfer paper to put a logo on a pillowcase, tote bag, or item of clothing, be sure to pick your paper according to the color of the fabric.
  • Amount: You can buy only a handful of sheets of transfer paper at a time, as few as five, or up to hundreds at a time, with plenty of options in between. You can even find full rolls worth of transfer paper in different sizes. Whether you’re making one or two custom t-shirts or making decals for a class of 200, you should have no problem finding the right amount of transfer paper for your project.

Is there anything else worth considering in transfer paper?

Compatibility is a key element to keep in mind as well. Transfer paper is meant to be used in accordance with several types of other tools. Odds are, you’ll need to print your image or logo off of your computer, so make sure that the transfer paper you use is compatible with your printer, whether inkjet or laser; not all transfer paper will work with both types. Other tools you’ll want to check and see if your transfer paper is compatible with include cutters, die-cutting machines, and heat press machines. While all of these are not strictly necessary for the process, compatibility with these types of tools may make your task quicker and easier.

Our Picks for the Best Transfer Papers

Best for Decals/Stickers

YRYM HT Clear Transfer Paper Roll

Transfer paper with a see-through grid for perfectly aligned placement.

Pros: This tape-like transfer paper is designed with a perfectly proportioned grid in order to achieve precise and level alignment when placing your adhesive. Both the paper and grid are see-through, so you can see exactly where you’re applying your image at all times. Transfer your images onto pretty much any smooth surface, from ceramic to glass, windows to walls, metal to paper, without leaving any residue behind. The adhesive is just the right level of sticky, strong enough to smoothly transfer your designs, text, and images but not so sticky as to cause hassle. This transfer paper is also durable and resistant to tearing, nor will it rip or tear your project. It’s equally effective for outdoor and indoor use. This roll measures 12 feet wide by 50 feet long, providing you with plenty of paper for various projects, and is compatible with all cutting machines.

Cons: While this roll isn’t ridiculously expensive by any means, it is more costly than most. And while it’s compatible with pretty much any smooth surface, it’s not compatible with fabric. You won’t be able to use it to put prints on t-shirts or other clothing.

Bottom Line: Making decals and stickers is one of the most common uses for transfer paper, and this roll of vinyl, adhesive-backed transfer paper is perfect for exactly that. Whether you want to put text or a print on ceramic pottery, wooden signs, water bottles, or other non-fabric surfaces, this top-notch transfer paper has you covered.


Best for Tattoos

cridoz Tattoo Transfer Paper

Multiple sheets of four-ply transfer paper that's designed specially for creating tattoos.

Pros: This specialty transfer paper is designed for creating your own tattoos. It’s four-ply for greater effectiveness; there’s a stencil layer, a protective tissue paper layer, a carbon paper layer for the actual transferring, and a yellow backing sheet for support and steadying, making it easy to trace and transfer images from paper to skin. You can create your tattoos freehand, or you can use a thermal copier if you don’t trust your own artistic abilities. The sheets are big enough to create large bicep or thigh tattoos or several smaller tattoos at once.

Cons: In order to properly use this transfer paper for tattooing, you need some sort of transfer paste. Unfortunately, you don’t get a stick of any sort of transfer paste or media with your purchase, so you’ll have to buy your own separately. And because the paper is four-ply, it’s thick and could potentially jam your copier or printer.

Bottom Line: You may not think of transfer paper as a useful item for creating and designing tattoos, but these sheets were designed specifically for that purpose. Whether you want to give yourself a temporary tattoo at home or bring a pre-drawn design to the tattoo parlor for reference, this four-ply transfer paper is a fantastic choice.


Best for Fabric

PPD Iron-On White and Light Color T-Shirt Transfer Paper

Heat transfer paper made specifically to suit light-colored fabrics that are ironing-safe.

Pros: This pack of transfer paper sheets is specifically designed to work on fabric—white and light-colored fabrics specifically. It’s compatible with any and all cotton or polycotton fabrics. Transfer the text, image, or logo of your choosing onto fabric with either your domestic iron or a heat press machine. Unlike some transfer paper, you should only ever cut these sheets with normal scissors, not cutting machines. For printing, you can use any regular print ink with any brand of inkjet printer. The transfer paper has a special coating that is uniquely formulated to bond with the fabric. This leaves your image soft and flexible, easier to stretch and move with the cloth. This, in turn, prevents them from cracking or peeling. Once the image or text of your choice has been applied, the t-shirt or fabric is fully machine washable.

Cons: This transfer paper only works with inkjet printers. It isn’t compatible with laser printers. And this pack only includes 10 sheets, so it’s not the best choice for large-quantity projects.

Bottom Line: Whether you want to personalize your own t-shirts, aprons, cushion covers, or flags, this transfer paper is the perfect choice for all these surfaces and more.


Best for Wood and Canvas

Outus Carbon Transfer Paper

If you want to use your transfer paper on less traditional surfaces, such as wood or canvas, these sheets are your best bet.

Pros: These sheets of carbon transfer paper are great not just for traditional projects that involve transfer paper, such as making stickers or decals, but they work equally great on less conventional surfaces—clay, canvas, wood, even rocks. This wide application means these carbon transfer paper sheets can be used for a wider range of different projects, especially since they’re reusable, unlike most transfer paper. While it will need replacing eventually, you can use each sheet several times over as long as you don’t cut the paper, so it’s more cost-efficient. And even by transfer paper standards, it’s quite inexpensive, so you’ll be able to complete your DIY projects at a lower cost.

Cons: While this transfer paper is theoretically suitable for dark, light, and clear surfaces alike, many users found it was less effective on darker surfaces. And while it will work on some fabrics, specifically thicker ones like canvas or linen, it’s not the best transfer paper choice for most sewing and textile projects.

Bottom Line: Transfer paper is more traditionally used on fabrics or to make stickers and decals, but these sheets were designed with less conventional surfaces in mind. It’s more versatile than most despite its low cost.


Best for Dark Fabric

NuFun Activities Printable Iron-On Transfer Paper for Dark Fabrics

Heat transfer paper made specifically for use on dark-colored fabrics.

Pros: If you have to add designs, words, logos, or images to darker-colored fabrics, this is the perfect transfer paper for you. It’s straightforward to use. Just design or pull up your desired image, print it off on this paper, cut out the design, peel it, place it on the desired spot on your dark-colored fabric, and iron it on. It works on t-shirts, hats, aprons, tote bags, pillowcases, and more. The paper is compatible with standard inkjet and laserjet printers and cutters and die-cutting machines. It can also be used on various fabric types, including cotton, poly blends, canvas, burlap, tissue paper, and even ribbons. The top-notch patented material ensures that your images will remain sharp and clear even after the fabric has been washed multiple times.

Cons: You only receive five sheets of transfer paper and two sheets of parchment paper with your purchase, so you’ll have to order multiple sets for larger-quantity projects. And this paper was designed to work with darker fabrics, so while you can theoretically use it with white and lighter fabrics, the prints will look odd if you do.

Bottom Line: Darker fabrics are traditionally harder to use with transfer paper, but these sheets were designed to combat this issue. Even if you have a t-shirt, face mask, apron, or another textile in the darkest shade of black, this transfer paper will allow you to customize it with the print or text of your choice without issue.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an experienced printmaker or just starting out on your DIY journey, investing in some quality transfer paper is a great way to design your own t-shirts, stickers, decals, and more. Even just a few sheets will be a valuable addition to your home arts and crafts kit.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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