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How to Transfer a Drawing Onto a Cotton Shirt

Original drawings can be applied to cotton without the hassle of a print screen.
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Applying original T-shirt designs or drawings to a regular cotton shirt used to mean learning how to use a screen printing kit. Anyone who has ever worked with one of those kits knows how tricky and costly screen printing can be. With the dawn of high-tech scanners, personal drawings and designs can be captured and transferred directly onto cotton shirts without the mess and hassle of screen printing and with just a few technological and household tools.

Place the drawing you want to transfer face down on the bed of the scanner. Scan the drawing, and open the scanned image of the drawing with a photo editing program on the computer. Make sure that the scan of the drawing is clear and free of smudges or blurred edges that could appear on the shirt unintentionally.

Reverse the image of the drawing in the photo editing software so that it is a mirror image of the original. This step ensures the drawing appears on the finished cotton shirt just like the original drawing and not backwards.

Print the reversed image on high quality transfer paper. Follow any specific manufacturer's printing instructions for the transfer paper you use.

Heat up the iron on a medium-high setting. Cut out the drawing from the transfer paper if there is excess paper around the image you are applying.

Place the cotton shirt right side out on the ironing board. Place the front of the printed drawing face down on the cotton shirt in the area you want the drawing to appear. Place a towel over the transfer paper.

Press the iron over the entire image firmly. This step should take around a minute, give or take, but follow any manufacturer's instructions for the transfer paper. Too much heat can damage the image and too little will not allow the image to adhere properly.

Remove the iron and allow the image to cool slightly. Test for any loose edges on the transfer paper. Apply the iron again to any areas that need extra heat to adhere properly to the shirt.

Things You'll Need:

  • High resolution scanner
  • Computer with photo editing software
  • Printer
  • Transfer paper
  • Scissors
  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • Clean cotton shirt
  • Thin, clean cotton towel


Wash any garments which contain transfer images inside out to maintain the quality of the image.


  • Never leave a hot iron unattended.
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