How to Print Custom Design on Shirt (with Video!)

Since the blog, I started to experiment new ways of designing, and not just on paper or digitally, on fabric, on wood, even on my cork trivet. In the period of time between July and August, there are numerous of my friends that are having their birthdays, so I’d figured, it would be the perfect opportunity to give them custom print designed shirt as gifts.


You’ll need:


1.    The shirt that you want to put your design on; for this project, I use 100% cotton as the shirt material, but it would also work on denim, artificial leather, a mix of polyester and cotton, or canvas. Basically, I would recommend fabric with a nice thin-flat surface, so it would be easy later when transferring your image onto the fabric.

2.    Transfer paper for t-shirt printing; I bought the PPD DIN A4 Transfer Paper for Dark Textileson Amazon. For 5 sheets in the size of A4, it costs 8,11€. There are indeed transfer papers for light-colored textiles, but I’d figure, the results of the printed images would be more vibrant, if I use the paper for the dark ones.

3.    Heat-resistant parchment paper; this opaque paper would help you stick your design onto the shirt, without damaging anything. If you buy the PPD Transfer Paper, the parchment paper is included.

4.    A scalpel or cutter or simply scissors; to cut your designs.

5.    Any inkjet printer you can put your hands on; I have one inkjet printer at home that I normally use for my studies, and it’s Canon MG5700.

6.    An iron and ironing board

7.    Your design image; I made the designs digitally on my iPad with Procreate as the app. You can also make your design on Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, or you can maybe draw analog and digitalize them later on with Illustrator, anyway you want it!


Let’s start.


1.    We’ll start with the design that you want to print on the shirt. I recommend that it should have a 300 dpi and a high resolution between 800-1500 px. The document setup I put for my shirts are all DIN A4 (21 x 29,7 cm) sizes, since the sheet itself is A4, with a 300 dpi. You can print as many colors as you want, since you would print them with a normal inkjet printer, so either an RGB or CMYK color settings wouldn’t be a problem. 

The grid side on front

2.    After you’re satisfied with your design, it’s time to print them. Remember to put the unused part of the paper, meaning the adhesive part/sticker side, on the front. It would not work, if you put the blank side on top, because it would then print the design on the sticker part, and you’re going to have to throw them. Instructions are also stated on the product usage, if you buy the same transfer paper from PPD.

3.    This is now the tricky part. You have to cut your design, incredibly neat and tidy, until only your designated-designed-area is left. You would have to cut away all the unwanted parts of the paper. 

4.    Prepare your iron and peel off the sticker from the backside of the design. Adjust your design onto the shirt.

5.    Set your iron on to a high temperature, put the parchment paper onto the shirt and covering your design, and begin to iron the design onto the shirt.

6.    Start from the edges of the design and then slowly and gently iron all areas of the design for about 1-2 minutes.

7.    Finish by putting the iron to side and let the design cool off for about 2 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and the design should now stick tightly onto the shirt.


Pay extra attention on these things;

·      Since you’re going to have to cut-off all unwanted parts away from your design, you’re going to want to make your design as easy as possible for a human to cut. On my first experiment, I did some crazy ornaments on the outlines, which I regret so, so bad. Hard, complicated forms of design would just make it harder for you to cut them, and if it’s not tidy enough, it would simply ruin the design, since the transfer papers are, unlike normal papers, they have a very soft fabric-like-surface, which makes it harder to cut details on it.

·      Go big. All hail the transfer papers that makes everything much, much easier for us to design shirts, and for that, you might want to upsize your design. I did the design on a DIN A4 setting, but my designs were all just as big as the half of it, which is DIN A5, since I don’t want to waste the transfer paper. In which, I also regret, because A5-designs are just not big enough on a human body.

·      Make sure to wash your shirt 24 hours after application. You may put them into the wash machine, but I would recommend to turn the shirt over and not to iron the design.


And that’s about it. The results turned out to be really good. The transfer paper stick firmly to the shirt and it doesn’t ruin the texture of the fabric nor it’s surface. I definitely would recommend the transfer paper from PPD. They give a good quality and it also comes with the heat transfer paper as well as structured instructions, and most of all they’re easy to use.

Other designs that I’ve made: