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Can You Use a Regular Printer for Transfer Paper? InkJet vs Laser

Thanks to transfer paper, the process for printing custom graphic t-shirts is easy. You only need a printer and computer. However, not all printers are created equal for transfer papers used for graphic garments. 

Can you use a regular printer for transfer paper? Yes, but it depends on the type of transfer paper you have. If you have a standard inkjet or laser printer, you can use transfer paper to create your own graphic t-shirts.

can you use a regular printer for transfer paper

Can You Use a Regular Printer for Transfer Paper?

If you have an inkjet or laser printer, you can print on transfer paper. Then using your home iron, you can transfer that design to a shirt, bag, or another fabric garment.

What Are the Different Types of Transfer Papers?

There are several types of transfer papers available for graphic t-shirt printing, but heat transfer paper is the most common.

Other types of transfer paper include sublimation paper (used with a sublimation printer) and vinyl transfer paper (used with a vinyl cutter) 

Each type of transfer paper has its advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right one for your project is essential.

Heat transfer paper is a paper that has special features that enable the ink printed on it to be transferred to a garment using a heating press apparatus such as a laundry iron or some other heat press device. 

Transfer papers are most effective on garments made of 100% natural fibers. This means that synthetic fabrics like satin or polyester will not perform well with heat transfer paper.

Since most printers are inkjet or laser jet printers, the type of transfer paper you would use will likely be heat transfer paper.

Types of Heat Transfer Papers

Heat transfer paper comes in two types:

  1. white transfer paper for printing on dark-colored shirts
  2. transparent transfer paper for printing on light-colored shirts

And for two types of printers: inkjet or laserjet

Here’s the best transfer paper for each printer type.

Best Transfer Paper for InkJet Printers

Here are the best heat transfer papers for your inkjet printer. Choose the transfer paper for the color garment you’ll be applying your design to.

Best Transfer Paper for Laser (or InkJet) Printers

Here are the best heat transfer papers for your laser printer. Choose the transfer paper for the color garment you’ll be applying your design to.

Are Inkjet or Laser Printers Better for Transfer Paper?

Both inkjet and laser printers can print on transfer paper, but each has advantages.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers will give you a wider choice of transfer papers that can be used on other inkjet printers, while laser printers will not have this ability. 

Inkjet printers risk ink bleeding. If an inkjet printer uses pigment ink, the transfer will have a higher chance of durability during machine washes.

Laser Printers

Laser printers can print on self-weeding transfer paper, allowing you to print without the background you would see on white and transparent transfer paper.

Laser printers have toner, which is not ink but a tube of pigmented powder activated by heat. 

While this creates an advantage for laser printers when it comes to color-fast printing, it creates a disadvantage because the toner will sometimes not print effectively to some transfer papers.

Make sure to choose transfer paper made for your type of printer (LaserJet or InkJet).

can i use any inkjet printer for heat transfers

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How to Use Transfer Paper

The process is relatively simple:

  • First, print your design onto the transfer paper using a special printer.
  • Then, apply the paper to the garment and use a heat press to transfer the design onto the fabric.
  • Finally, you peel off the paper and enjoy your new shirt! 

The press method will determine how easy this process becomes for you.

6 Tips When Using Transfer Paper

Here are some best practices when using transfer paper:

  1. Prevent bleed by placing cardboard inside of the shirt to separate the front and the back
  2. Ensure your temperature settings are optimal, preheat your press
  3. Trim your print as best as you can to eliminate the background and white space
  4. Monitor the press time according to transfer paper instructions
  5. Allow the garment to cool before removing the transfer paper 
  6. Do not wash garment within 24 hours of press job

Best Heating Presses for Each Paper Type

T-shirt printing is a perfect DIY project for people, so an iron is suitable for small projects. However, you can also use a heat press. 

The printer type you’ve used to print on your transfer paper won’t matter as you choose the method to transfer the print to a garment.

Your pressing method will depend on your production needs.

Benefits of Using an Iron

Transfer papers only need the right heat temperature and the correct pressure to transfer prints to garments.

Doing this is manageable with an iron if you have a small project. Or if you’re running a graphic t-shirt business, and need to print some test designs and prototypes.

Using an iron is not very beneficial if you have a bulk order or you need to ensure the integrity of the transfer is not compromised.

The issue that could occur with using an iron is not having the right temperature since some irons do not allow you to control the temperature but with only a few settings. You also risk not having enough pressure to ensure the transfer applies to the garment correctly.

Benefits of Using a Heat Press

Heat presses vary in price, and some are affordable. Heat presses are designed for transfer paper-to-garment printing. 

They will come with settings that allow you to control the temperature setting appropriate for the type of transfer paper and fabric used. It will also allow you to control the pressing weight, which increases efficiency and makes bulk printing a breeze. 

One setback with using a heat press is if you are just starting with a small t-shirt printing operation, you may not have the working space for a heat press. Some heat presses come with a learning curve as well.

This small heat press will apply designs up to 10″ x 10″ on shirts, hats, and bags. Or for a more pro setup, this heat transfer press will apply designs up to 15″ x 15″.

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Final Thoughts

Can you use a regular printer for transfer paper? Yes, and it works well for small orders. Traditional printers (laser or inkjet) each have transfer papers designed to work with each print method. 

There are pros and cons for each, but they are both good options for creating graphics on fabrics through your home printer with transfer paper.