How To Make an Iron-On Decal

Iron-on decals are a great way to personalize shirts and other fabric-based products. With a little imagination and a few tools, you can make your own customized apparel at home.

Here are the steps for making an iron-on decal.

Things you'll need:

  • Flat Iron
  • Iron-on paper
  • Inkjet Printer
  • Photo-editing tool
  • Unprinted, light-colored shirt

  • Practice on an old shirt. Ironing on a decal requires familiarity with the heat, pressure and frequency of applying the flat iron on the design. Too little of each element can let you end up with a decal that will peel off immediately; too much will burn the paper. The trick is to know when to remove the iron. There is also the matter of creases and fabric movement as you pass the iron along the surface. Use small designs on throw-away fabrics to improve your technique.
  • Prepare a design using a photo-editing application. The design must fit within the dimensions of the iron-on paper. You can use any color you like. Let the white parts of the design be represented by the shirt; leave the white parts as empty parts of the design.
  • Print the design on an iron-on paper. Insert the paper into the paper tray then print it. Use the highest quality of print to get a vibrant image. Some iron-ons require you to print the reverse of the image on the paper, so take care to manipulate the image prior to printing.
  • Lay the shirt on the ironing board. The side of the shirt you wish to print on must be on top of the board. There must be no wrinkling or creasing.
  • Lay out the paper on the shirt. Carefully align the image onto the sides of the shirt. Make sure the paper won't move as you pass the iron over it. You may need to tape the shirt to the ironing board to prevent relative motion.
  • Slowly run the flat iron over the design. Set the iron temperature for cotton. Pass the iron over the design several times. Note that the iron is too hot or your application is too slow when the paper starts browning.
  • Let the paper cool before gently removing it. Take any edge and slowly peel off the paper. When the decal seems to be lifting off along with the paper, try peeling from another edge or reheating the affected area with the flat iron.
  • Consider an iron-on paper for dark-colored shirts. This type of paper has a white layer where you print on the design. This will let the image show though a dark background, unlike the translucent quality of regular iron-on decals. You will have to trim the design so that the non-used areas are removed.
  • Turn your shirt inside out prior to washing. This will protect the design from the harsh action of the washing machine and make it last longer.

Iron-on decals have a problem of fading after several washes. You are better off using them for canvas bags and other items that are not subjected to frequent washings so that the design will last longer.


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