T-shirt fads are always changing.  There’s always a new character that becomes popular because of new video game, TV show, or movie.  Recently Star Wars themed shirts, Captain America Civil War shirts, and the new Disney Princess shirts are all the rage with many kids, and even some adults.  There’s always a fad, it’s hard to keep up with trends!   Not to mention keeping up with them can get expensive.

A licensed T-shirt can cost as much as $20 or more!  They can leave a big hole in your wallet, specially if you have multiple kids.  Well you don’t have to spend big bucks keeping your kids in trendy t-shirts.  All you need is an iron, a printer, a package of iron on transfers, and of course a t-shirt.

You can DIY Character T-Shirts for less than $5 and about a half hour of your time.  Really, you can!  And I’ll tell you how!

I discovered iron on transfers years ago, but put it aside for years.  Mostly due to the high cost of printer ink.  Well ink can still be expensive, but I subscribed to HP Instant Ink for my new HP Printer.  It’s made the cost and convenience of buying ink cartridges easy and inexpensive.

I have the $9.99 monthly plan, there are several plans to choose from depending on your usage.  This plan lets me print up to 300 pages a month, unused pages roll over to the next month.  It’s easy, all you have to do is buy a qualifying printer, you can check the list of printers here, connect to the internet, and enroll online!  That’s it!  HP Instant Ink will know when you need ink and will send you the correct cartridges in the mail before you run out.  Of course you need an email address and credit card to enroll, the monthly fee is automatically deducted from your account.  And you can cancel at anytime.  I love it!  A year’s worth of ink now costs me $120, that beats  the $80 I used to spend  for just 2 cartridges from Office Depot.  But I digress, I was talking about character t-shirts.

character t-shirtsAnyway this ink plan makes printing iron on transfers that much more appealing and cheaper.  So this is what you need to know about iron on transfers and how to make your own character t-shirts.

First of all there are 2 types of iron on transfers, one for dark colored material, and the other for light colored material.  The light color transfer paper usually has 6 sheets per pack and costs less than dark color transfer paper which costs a couple of dollars more and only comes with 5 sheets in a pack.

You can buy transfer paper from Walmart, craft stores, and online from Amazon or other online retailers.  On Amazon the light transfer paper costs $6.99 and the dark paper $8.99.  So before you buy transfer paper decide what color your shirt will be.

You can use any color shirt you want of course.  I buy them when I find them on clearance from Walmart.  When I hit the summer clearance last month kid’s t-shirts cost me $2 each.  They were available in many colors.  Right now they have long sleeved kid’s shirts for just under $4.  I also use white undershirts, that’s probably the easiest and cheapest route.  You can pick up a package of 5 white undershirts for less than $8 from any of the discount stores, if you’re in luck you’ll find them on clearance!

Ok you got your shirt and transfer paper, what next?  You need something to print on the shirt.  You can find the image you want online, but be mindful of copyrights.  You can buy stock images from sites like Shutter Stock, many of these sites offer free images, just depends on the image.  Or you can scan a photo or other image on to your computer.  Pop the scanned image on a photo editor like photoshop or one of the free online ones like picmonkey.com and edit the image to what you want it to look like.

Once you have the image on your computer just print it out on the transfer paper.  Be sure to load the transfer paper correctly so it prints on the transfer and not the paper backing.

Most transfer paper is supported by an online app for that brand, like Avery.com or  Jolee’s EasyImage.  This is an online designer that lets you design your iron on transfer.  It’s free to use!

However you choose to design your t-shirt when you’re done you just print it out.  But before you click print remember this!

For Dark Color Transfer Paper DO NOT invert the image.  Print it EXACTLY the way you see it on your screen.

For Light Color Transfer Paper you MUST invert the image.  Before you click print check MIRROR IMAGE.

What’s the difference? On Dark Color Transfer Paper the image is printed on the front side of the paper.  Light Color Transfer Paper prints the images on the back side of the paper so it will read right to left when you iron it on unless you invert or MIRROR your image BEFORE printing.

Now that you’ve printed your image correctly you must trim the image.  I use my Cricut Explore Air to do my cutting, but really a pair of scissors will work as long as your image isn’t too intricate.  When you’re done it’s time to iron!

Wash and dry the t-shirt you are going to iron on.  Do not use fabric softener.  Now here are the next steps:

  1.  Prepare a hard surface to iron on.  Don’t use your ironing board.  I use my kitchen counter.  I place a piece of wood on the counter and cover it with a piece of cotton cloth that I have just for this purpose.
  2. Heat the iron to the setting recommended by the transfer paper, usually “cotton”.
  3. Iron wrinkles out of the t-shirt.  Let shirt cool before moving on to the next step.  To cool shirt quicker remove from the ironing surface.
  4. For Dark Color Transfer Paper – Remove paper backing, position transfer printed side up on the shirt, cover transfer with a sheet of parchment paper (it usually is included with the transfer paper).  Iron on following the instructions given with the transfer paper.  Let cool.  Slowly peel off parchment paper.  If edges of the transfer lift off, place parchment paper back on and iron again.
  5. For Light Color Transfer Paper – DO NOT remove paper backing, position transfer printed side down on the shirt (the paper backing should be facing you).  Iron on following instructions given with the transfer paper. Let cool.  Slowly peel off the paper backing.  If edges of the transfer lift off, replace paper backing and iron again.
character t-shirts

Light Color Transfer

That’s it!  Your shirt is done!  It’s ready to wear!

character t-shirts

Dark Color Transfer













Here are a couple of tips to help you out, I learned this the hard way, so I hope you avoid my mistakes!

Remember MIRROR IMAGE before printing on Light Color Transfer Paper

Load transfer paper in to printer ONE AT A TIME

Load transfer paper in to printer correctly so that image is printed on the transfer paper not the backing

Remove backing from Dark Color Transfer Paper before ironing on

DO NOT remove backing from Light Color Transfer Paper before ironing on

Make sure the shirt you are using is wrinkle free

Cool shirts before placing transfers on them

Cool shirts before peeling off parchment paper or backing

Press iron firmly on the shirt while ironing on

DO NOT move iron around while ironing on – if image is large, begin in one section, pressing firmly, LIFT iron off shirt before moving to the next section.  On large images overlap iron placement a bit to be sure you iron on entire image.

NEVER iron directly on to the transfer – for dark colors ALWAYS place parchment paper on the image before ironing.  For light colors you will iron on the transfer backing, if you need to re-iron the transfer after you peeled off the backing place a parchment paper over it first.

So there you go, easy right?  Now you can personalize your kids’ shirts anyway you want.  You can add their favorite cartoon characters, their name, or what ever they want.  I made the Spiderman shirt for Jett, he’s going thru his superhero phase, and Spidey is his fave.  The Minecraft shirt is for Devon, he’s really into the game.  And the Hello Kitty is just too cute for my little princess, Harper.

You can use transfers to make birthday shirts too.  They make every birthday special.  And don’t forget the upcoming holidays.  I’m working on Halloween t-shirts for the grandkids now!