Dark vs Light Transfer Paper: An Overall Comparison

If you work with printing or heat transfer machines, you’ll know just how important it is to get the right transfer papers for the job.

Getting good quality transfer paper sheets can be the difference between a job done good or bad. So before you immerse yourself in this business, you need to know everything about transfer papers. 

What are Transfer Papers?

Transfer papers are a special kind of paper, manufactured especially for printing purposes. They are coated with pigment and wax, and can be only used in ink-jet printer.

Transfer papers are used for printing your designs, text or logo, which can be then transferred onto any other platforms, including clothes, ceramic, wood, glass or hardboard. 

Transfer papers are needed to transfer any design to your preferred mediums, through the process of iron-ones or a heat press machine.

What are the different types of Transfer Paper?

There are different qualities of transfer papers available in the market, as well as different types of papers for different purposes. In total, there are 9 different types of transfer paper that you can choose from: 

  1. For colored textiles;
  2. For white and other light colored textiles; 
  3. For dark-colored textiles; 
  4. For glass, crystal and acrylic; 
  5. For water-release decals; 
  6. For temporary tattoos; 
  7. For white and light colors; 
  8. For non-fabric surfaces; and 
  9. For rough surfaces of non-fabric products. 

However, only two types of transfer papers are the most popular ones: dark and light transfer paper. 

What are the difference between dark and light transfer papers?

In a nutshell, light transfer papers are used for printing and transferring to white or very light-colored fabrics, i.e. beige, cream, tan, pale pastels, light pink or blue, etc. This is a special kind of transfer paper that has a different composition, the kind where the background will blend into the fabric, and you will only be able to see the design, with no traces of the paper. 

On the other hand, dark transfer papers are used on black, brown, navy blue or dark green, or similarly dark colored fabrics. With these transfer papers, the background color is completely blocked out and only your design will be transferred on to the fabric. 

Beside these two main differences, there can be some other similarities between dark and light colored transfer papers that you can see below. 


With light-colored transfer papers, you need to print your designs, texts or logos – or whatever else you want to transfer to fabric – in a mirror or reverse image. This is needed because when using a light transfer paper, you have to put the paper face down on your T-shirt, canvas bag or cap. The design will be transferred face down to your preferred fabric surface, so it makes sense if you print it in a mirror image. 

With dark transfer paper, on the other hand, you won’t need to print your designs in a mirror image. Whatever design, text or logo you want to print, you can do it directly on the dark transfer paper using an inkjet printer. The design needs to be placed face up on the fabric, and therefore, doesn’t need to be printed in a mirror image. 


With light transfer paper, it is always preferable that you keep as little border around your designs as possible. If your design is square/rectangle or inside a box, use a pair of scissors to cut away the extra edges, only keep a little around the sides.

If the design happens to be an irregular one, you can still trim around the edges of the design, keeping as little border as possible so that your design isn’t hampered. The borders actually fade into the fabric with light transfer papers, so it may be visible if your fabric is absolutely white or very light in color. Keeping a minimum space for border will make it look like a part of the design. 

With dark transfer paper, you don’t need to trim the edges or borders; as only the design will be transferred into the fabric, the transfer paper will stay the way it is. You can still cut away the design if you want to save the transfer paper for later and have a very small design, but it is not needed for the sake of the fabric


When you are using light transfer paper, the paper itself will dissolve into the fabric with the design. The paper will be invisible (especially if you trim the edges) and only the design can be seen, but the paper will disappear just the same. You simply need to remove the backing later after the design has been transferred on the fabric. 

On the other hand, with dark transfer papers, the image printed via an inkjet printer would have to be peeled off from the back portion of the transfer paper, known as the backing.

The front portion, which is a transparent paper that holds your design, needs to be placed face up on the fabric. The image is then transferred to the fabric with an iron or a heat press machine, and the transparent sheet has to be pulled up from the fabric.


For any kind of colorful images, texts of texts to be transferred on to a white or light-colored fabric, you need the help of light transfer paper. On the other hand, with dark transfer paper, the best images to use are the ones that have plenty of white or light colors on them, to be transferred to a dark-colored fabric.

How are dark and light transfer papers similar?

Apart from their uses, there are many ways that light and dark transfer papers are similar to each other; for example: 

  • Both these kind of papers can be used for transferring designs by irons or by a heat press machine; 
  • Both dark and light transfer papers can be used in an inkjet printer to print; 
  • Both these papers are for transferring designs and images to fabric; 
  • Light and dark transfer papers can both transfer designs that are washable, stretchable and the fabric can be used for a long time; 
  • Both papers produce designs on your fabric that are soft and flexible; 
  • Light and dark transfer paper both have two parts: transparent front and backing. 

Both dark and light transfer papers are needed for transferring your images, photos, texts and logos to different fabric product, from T-shirts to canvas bags, caps to pillow cases, bed sheets to cushion covers.

It all depends on the color of the fabric you want your designs to be transferred to, as well as the colors of the image itself, to decide whether you want to use dark or light transfer papers. 

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