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Heat Transfer Paper Buyer's Guide

As an avid heat press user, you may have worked with heat transfer vinyl often, but haven’t had the chance to use heat transfer paper yet. While heat transfer paper can produce full color images on a single sheet, there are some other technicalities to keep in mind. What’s the difference between light and dark heat transfer paper? Is there paper specifically for inkjet or laser printers, or how about sublimation? Here we'll cover these questions and more about heat transfer paper that will give you a better idea of what’s best for you.

What is Heat Transfer Paper Intended For?

Heat transfer paper is intended for use on garments or other items with cotton, cotton blend fabrics, or synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and Lycra. Transfer paper can permanently transfer your images onto these materials thanks to the polymer film that bonds the ink and fabric together. It’s available in the U.S. letter size of 8.5" x 11", as well as the tabloid size of 11" x 17". As mentioned earlier, using heat transfer paper can bring full color graphics or images down to a single sheet, making the process of pressing them much easier and more efficient than before.

While some papers can transfer with no visible background or white space, we recommend for most of them to either be cut by hand, or through the contour cutting feature of a vinyl cutter (also known as print & cut). But back to our first question, what IS the difference between light and dark heat transfer paper? Light heat transfer paper like Neenah Jet Pro Soft Stretch is designed for pressing on white or light-colored fabrics. Dark transfer paper like Paropy Inkjet Dark Pro is for black or dark-colored fabrics.

Since most standard printers don’t use white ink, light heat transfer paper uses the white or light color of the fabric as a substitute. Dark, or opaque transfer paper on the other hand prints like normal paper, using the white of the paper itself. Single color laser transfer paper like Forever Flex Soft is compatible with both light and dark garments. Due to how light transfer paper is applied, images must always be mirrored before printing them. Dark transfer paper, on the other hand, does not need to be mirrored. Whether pressing light or dark garments or using an inkjet or laser printer, you’ll want to be sure to always have the proper transfer paper ready for your items.

Is There A Specific Paper for Inkjet And Laser Printers?

Yes, there is in fact heat transfer paper specifically for inkjet, laser, and white toner printers. Inkjet transfer paper is best for ANY home or office inkjet printer. Our white toner transfer papers are compatible with any white toner printer. In the same manner, laser transfer paper is meant to be used with either laser or LED printers. In addition, there are single-color and full-color options for laser heat transfer paper. All heat transfer paper can only be used with the specified printer type and are not cross-compatible - you can’t use laser paper on an inkjet printer and vice-versa.

A Few Other Tips

Over-saturating the ink may cause it to bleed upon washing. Wait at least 24 hours before washing any freshly pressed garment. Don’t dry clean garments made with transfer paper. Lastly, be sure to test press your transfer media to ensure your process is correct.

So far we’ve covered what heat transfer papers are available for inkjet, laser, and white toner printers, but did you know there are also sublimation papers specifically designed for sublimation printers? This is due to the unique dyes of sublimation. The printed ink turns into a gas dye when heated up. The pressure from your heat press then forces this dye into your substrate or blank item. Only the printed image is transferred onto your blank item; there is no film or background on the paper. As a result, this will only work on white or light-colored garments and white poly-coated sublimation blanks.

In browsing through our selection of sublimation papers, you’ll find that there are two types: standard sublimation papers like TexPrint DT, and sublimation vinyl like Siser EasySubli. Because you cannot sublimate directly onto dark-colored and/or cotton garments, you will need to use a printable HTV product. Sublimation vinyl serves as a method of creating transfers for these garments with any sublimation printer. These products allow you to print directly onto the vinyl, cut & weed your graphic, and then heat press the printed and cut vinyl onto your garment.

All-in-all, heat transfer paper is a great option for delivering fantastic, full-color results on your garments. Just find the paper compatible with your printer and garment, and get creating! We offer sample packs for both inkjet and laser printers that are a great way to test some of the most popular heat transfer papers. You can purchase these sample packs here and continue learning about heat transfer papers with tutorial videos, specifications, and more.

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