Best Inkjet Printer for Heat Transfer in 2021

The beauty and quality of heat transfers products, made correctly on the best inkjet printer for heat transfer, will ensure that they are a hit, and the investment in even the best heat transfers equipment is actually quite low.

💡 Please note: This article may include affiliate links. When you buy through those links, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Table of Contents

I think we all sometimes like to justify the purchase of a new gadget, and one of the favorite justifications for working artists and crafters is that our new _____ (fill in the blank… printer, graphics tablet, pencil set, espresso machine etc.) will pay for itself in no time.

More espresso, faster work, more productivity, more billable work per hour – within 7,000 hours or so this Nuova Simonelli will pay for itself!

But the topic of this article – inkjet printer for heat transfers and the best heat transfers supplies – really is like that.

On top of it all, the printers for heat transfer I will recommend are not just the best for heat transfers, but the best printers for artists and crafters in general – great for heat transfer prints, for beautiful and long-lasting fine art and portfolio prints, for working prints and for any other purpose.

In fact, pretty much all of the stuff you need for heat transfers printing, as described here, can be really useful and nice to have for lots of other projects, and it is all invaluable to any working commercial or fine artist, and even art students and beginners.

What is a Heat Transfer Printer?

Heat transfer printers use a method of printing artworks, logos, words, or designs onto fabric – usually t-shirts – using an inkjet printer. 

You simply print your words and/or images onto a special heat transfer paper and then use an iron or heat press to transfer it onto T-Shirt. Yep, it really is pretty much that simple!

What Do You Need for Heat Transfer Printing?

You will need a normal computer and an inkjet printer for heat transfers to make the print, but again you do need a special paper to print onto, and either a nice handheld iron or a basic heat press to make the transfer. 

If you already have the printer (and essentially any inkjet will do – though not always with the best results), then your start-up costs are really low, but you may want to consider a bit of an upgrade to a printer for heat transfer that will offer higher quality and make the whole thing work better – and especially a printer which works well with pigment based inks, which are water- and fade-resistant.

You can also consider getting a heat press, which does make things easier, and a Cricut, which can really set your work apart – and anyway, a Cricut is a super-cool gadget which does so many things, and will, I’m sure, pay for itself in no time!

What Special Equipment Do You Need for Heat Transfer Printing?

Let’s talk about each of these items separately, and consider how they all come together to make the complete heat transfer setup, and allow you to make the very best heat transfers prints and products.

We’ll consider the following:

  • What Is the Best InkJet Heat Transfer Printer?
  • What Is the Best Ink for Heat Transfer Printer?
  • What Is the Best Heat Transfer Paper?
  • What Is the Best Iron or Heat Press for Heat Transfers Printing?
  • What Is the Best Fabric for Heat Transfers Printing?
  • What Is the Best Trimmer/Cutter for Heat Transfers Printer?

What are The Specs of the Best Heat Transfer Printer?

Although you can use almost any normal printer for heat transfers – inkjet or laser printer, small or large, low or high quality – we are going to focus on quality inkjet printers at various price points. 

Laser printers can be nice, but I’ve seen and heard too many horror stories about special heat transfer paper activating with the laser printer normal heat-fusing process and jamming, even destroying, the printer. 

Anyway, I actually prefer the results I get from the inkjet printers for heat transfer, and they are much more popular with artists overall.

There are also other types of printing processes you might hear about, like direct-to-fabric printers and sublimation printing, and they will accomplish the same kinds of results. 

Sublimation printer has the, to me at least, deal-breaking drawback that it only really works well with polyester fabrics, and anyway it can be a substantially more expensive process – both initial setup and running costs over time. 

And sublimation printers for heat transfer can be fiendishly expensive, and are really more suitable for larger operations and full commercial ventures.

So, we come back to heat transfer, which can give you really beautiful printing on fabric and allow you to make really high quality and very marketable products – long lasting, fully washable and fade and run resistant – and so we come back also to the inkjet printer for heat transfer. 

You will find that a couple of things are extremely nice to have in a printer for heat transfer, and in fact if you have had even the slightest notion of upgrading your current printer this might be the perfect time, considering that the features to look for in the best printer for heat transfer are also what you need in the best printer for artists in general.

Specifically, having these things in your new printer for heat transfers can make a really big difference to the quality and durability of heat transfer products, the beauty of the prints themselves and the ease of the overall process:

  • Larger Format Printing – specifically, wider than 11 inches
  • Great Color Printing, usually with more color cartridges (our recommended printers have between 6- and 11-color systems)
  • Pigment based Ink (all of our recommendations except for the least expensive one come standard with pigment based cartridges)
  • High Resolution
  • Generally high quality in materials and construction and good reliability

Large format printing is easy enough to understand, as you can make larger graphics and have more flexibility in design, and so of course are better colors and higher resolution – higher quality printing, with bold and saturated colors, clean lines and fine details, will make any t-shirt really pop, and will make all of your art prints look better too.

And though many sites and how-tos recommend basically any kind of printer ink, and even seem to confuse dye based ink printers and pigment based printers, this is actually a very important distinction. 

All of my recommendations for the best printers for heat transfer (except, again, for the inexpensive Canon IP8720) use full pigment based ink systems, and so you don’t really need to worry, but let’s talk about it a little more anyway.

What Ink Is Best for Heat Transfer Prints?

While there are a lot of different types of inks that people use in inkjet printers, the most basic breakdown is of two types of ink:

  • Dye Based Inks – water-soluble inks which will bleed in water and fade more quickly
  • Pigment Based Inks – solid-powder inks which are not water-soluble, offer better color quality and far superior longevity

Dye based inks are standard for most inkjet printers and are definitely aimed more at amateur and casual users, and indeed they look good and will work fine for most art and general printing. 

Pigment based inks, on the other hand, while a little more expensive, have a beauty and depth of color which I don’t see in most dye based inks, and won’t fade either in the sun or over time like their less expensive counterparts will.

Anyway, pigment based inks won’t dissolve, run or fade in water, which for heat transfer on fabric, like t-shirt and other clothing, make them the clear choice. 

And while you can often find printers with the option of using pigment based inks, it seems that the print head really should be optimized for these inks, and many printers which normally come with the less expensive dye based inks have trouble with pigment inks, including clogging and inconsistent printing.

So, before we talk about the rest of the kit, let’s look at a few perfect choices for the best inkjet printer for heat transfers, with five great printers which are really ideal for heat transfer and pretty much anything else any artist, graphic designer, hobbyist or crafter might want to do.

Overview: The Best Inkjet Printer for Heat Transfer in 2021

  1. Canon IP8720 Wireless Printer, AirPrint and Cloud Compatible
  2. Canon IP8720 Wireless Printer, AirPrint and Cloud Compatible

    Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE)

    6 Color Individual Ink Tank System

    Borderless prints up to 13x19 inches

    Model in the UK / Germany - IP8750


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless Color Wide-Format Printer
  4. Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless Color Wide-Format Printer

    6 color Claria photo HD ink

    Large format rear media tray & 200 sheet front tray

    Borderless art prints up to 13x19 inches

    Model in the UK / Germany - XP-15000


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300
  6. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

    Wireless Color Wide-Format Printer

    Prints up to 13"X 19"


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000
  8. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

    Professional Photographic Inkjet Printer, 17 x 22-Inches


    Buy Now on Amazon
  9. Epson Stylus Photo R2000 Wireless Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer
  10. Epson Stylus Photo R2000 Wireless Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer

    Resolution up to 5760x1440, an eight-color pigment ink set, a maximum document size of 13x19 inches


    Buy Now on Amazon

There are definitely less expensive printers on the market today, but for a printer that not just claims that it will work with water-fast and fade resistant pigment inks, but actually does work with them, and for really beautiful prints overall, larger format and more flexibility and superior material quality and reliability, it is well worth it to pay a little more.

Canon IP8720 Color Inkjet Printer

Best Value for Money
Canon IP8720 Wireless Printer, AirPrint and Cloud Compatible

Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE)

6 Color Individual Ink Tank System

Borderless prints up to 13x19 inches

Model in the UK / Germany - IP8750


With amazing performance and specifications for a printer in this price range, including super high resolution on documents up to 13×19 inches, the Canon IP8720 not only is the least expensive best printer for heat transfers I know which is really suitable for heat transfer, but also one of the very best values on the market today – not to mention an overwhelming favorite among artists. 

While the IP8720 does not use full pigment based inks, the excellent Canon inks are water-resistant and fade-resistant, and the six ink system allows for great color accuracy and range – really unheard of at this price!

Epson Expression Photo HD XP 15000

Affordable
Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless Color Wide-Format Printer

6 color Claria photo HD ink

Large format rear media tray & 200 sheet front tray

Borderless art prints up to 13x19 inches

Model in the UK / Germany - XP-15000


Remarkably affordable for a printer of this quality – with beautiful colors, stunning high resolution printing and superior materials and construction – the Epson Expression Photo XP 15000 has a six-color system of pigment based inks for not only outstanding color range, accuracy and subtlety, but also colors that are water-proof and washable, sun and fade resistant, and the XP 15000 will print up to 13 by 19 inches. 

Approaching the extraordinary level of performance and overall print quality of the three more expensive printers below, and at a much lower price, the Epson XP 15000 is perfect for superb fine art prints, heat transfer and pretty much anything else.

Canon Image ProGraf Pro-300

Affordable imagePROGRAF
Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

Wireless Color Wide-Format Printer

Prints up to 13"X 19"


Stunning image print quality on paper up to 13×19 inches make this one of the most popular choices for even professional photographers and commercial artists, and at this price the Canon Pro-300 is an amazing value and easy recommendation for even the most serious amateurs, and a perfect choice for heat transfer and any other work. Comes with a complete set of nine pigment based inks.

Canon Image ProGraf Pro-1000

High quality
Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

Professional Photographic Inkjet Printer, 17 x 22-Inches


With a full 11-color system of fine pigment based inks, the Canon Pro-1000 offers about the best color range, accuracy and beauty you can get at anywhere near this price, and is noticeably superior to the already amazing Pro-300 above. Heat transfer is perfectly served with the Canon ProGraf printers, and the Pro-1000 is overall one of the finest printers I’ve ever used, and highly recommended.

Epson Stylus Photo R2000 Wide Color Inkjet Printer

Epson Stylus Photo R2000 Wireless Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer

Resolution up to 5760x1440, an eight-color pigment ink set, a maximum document size of 13x19 inches


With the best color reproduction I’ve ever experienced this side of super-costly full commercial printer for heat transfers, the Epson Stylus Photo R2000 may seem expensive, but actually represents an astonishing value, and allows serious artists to get into the top level of performance and reliability without breaking the bank. 

With resolution up to 5760×1440, an eight color pigment ink set, a maximum document size of 13×19 inches and superior mechanical registration and precision, the R2000 is extraordinary for heat transfer and for anything else.

Best Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper

Here is the list of the best heat transfer papers for printing heat transfers on T-Shirts!

Yes, it really is that simple, a specially designed thin heat transfer paper with a wax coating which you can make a high-quality print on and which allows you to use an iron or press to transfer that print onto fabric or other materials. There are, however, a couple of basic considerations:

  • Are you using an inkjet printer? If so, get heat transfer paper specially optimized for inkjet printers, not laser
  • Are you printing on light or dark fabric? – Black or dark colored fabric requires a special transfer paper with a white background, so that lighter colors don’t get lost against the dark fabric, while with light colors or white you can print on a clear heat transfer paper, which is also lighter and softer, with just as good of results.

An excellent transfer paper for color inkjet printers, available in both light fabric and dark fabric varieties, is PPD Transfer Paper:

Best Heat Press for Heat Transfer Printing

You can use a normal household steam iron to apply your heat transfer prints to fabric, although you might want to keep the steam reservoir empty since steam or moisture might cause problems with the fresh printing. 

  1. Sunbeam Steammaster Steam Iron
  2. Sunbeam Steammaster Steam Iron

    1400 Watt Large Anti-Drip Nonstick Stainless Steel Iron with Steam Control and Retractable Cord, Chrome/Blue


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Fancierstudio Power Heat press
  4. Fancierstudio Power Heat press

    Digital Heat Press 15 x 15 Sublimation Heat Press Rhinestone Heat Press T-Shirt Heat Press 15x15 B/BLK


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Fancierstudio Heat Press
  6. Fancierstudio Heat Press

    16x20 Heat Press Sublimation Rhinestone Heat Press 16x20PW BLK


    Buy Now on Amazon

If that’s the direction you go, you should consider getting one just for this purpose, rather than using your everyday iron. That said, you do not need to spend a lot, and just a basic but high quality clothes iron, like the Sunbeam Steammaster 1400 Watt Non-Stick Iron, would be fine.

On the other hand, there are many advantages to using a press, and especially if you are a dedicated crafter or hobbyist and may have other uses for a good print quality (though still inexpensive) press, this may be the way to go.

A good hobbyist’s press will offer:

  • Precisely Adjustable Temperatures and Pressure Settings
  • Faster Pressing Time
  • Greater Working Area
  • Better, More Consistent and Predictable Results

A press is, though, more expensive, but if you can find a good, high quality press for a low price I think it would be an excellent investment, and will make your heat transfer products and other arts and crafts projects easier and give better results. 

I recommend the well made and easy to use Fancierstudio 1800 Watt 15×15 Inch Press as the best value, or their Fancierstudio 1800 Watt 16×20 Inch Press for larger designs.

Best T-Shirt for Heat Transfer Printing

For comfort, durability, the ability to take and hold a transfer, and for overall hipness I would always use 100% cotton, and if you are selling your heat transfer t-shirts or other products you will find that customers prefer cotton too, and are always more likely to buy a cotton product over polyester or even cotton/poly blend.

Fruit of the Loom

Cotton T-Shirt for Heat Transfer Printing and Painting with Acrylic Paint on Fabric


You can find some really nice basic t-shirts to use as blank canvases for your heat transfer designs, which shirts will make the prints look bold and beautiful, will not shrink and will be durable and look great for a long time – a sure way to increase repeat business! I would recommend inexpensive but excellent quality shirts like the classic Fruit of the Loom 100% Cotton Heavy-Duty T-Shirt in a variety of sizes and colors, and coming in a good value six-pack.

Best Trimmer and Cutter for Heat Transfers

  1. Cricut Maker
  2. Cricut Maker

    Different colors

    Make stickers, paper crafts, iron-ons, vinyl decals, sewing projects, leather crafts, and more!

    


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Cricut Explore Air 2
  4. Cricut Explore Air 2

    Different colors

    Your Personal DIY Cutting machine - flawlessly cut over 100+ different types of materials

    


    Buy Now on Amazon

Our final bit of kit for the complete heat transfer setup is an amazing arts and crafts tool that is incredibly popular with and loved by crafters and DIYers everywhere, and yet is rarely mentioned in relation to heat transfer printing projects Cricut computer controlled cutting machines.

Once you have printed your design onto heat transfer paper you should trim the excess paper off, and the closer you come to and follow the design the better. Ragged cutting, too much border or an outline which is markedly different in shape or flow than the printed design itself will always make the end product look poorer.

Now I’m pretty good with a pair of sharp, good quality scissors, but I am not perfect, and even at my best I am often not completely satisfied with my hand-cutting. 

But with a Cricut I can simply transfer my design – that is, the same design I have already printed onto the heat transfer paper – to their app, and the Cricut will perfectly trim the excess paper off automatically, and works with paper up to 11 inches wide – and about a gazillion other materials as well, including thick leather and wood. Still, the precision with even fine materials or thin paper is amazing.

An incredibly cool and useful device, the Cricut Maker will make your heat transfer projects look much better – more attractive and more professional – and the process quicker and easier. It will also do so much more, and may become one of your favorite and most-used tools. I can’t recommend it highly enough, for heat transfer printing and countless other things, and if you need further justification, well, I’m sure it will pay for itself in no time!

For more information on the wonderful Cricut Maker, please check out my article: The Best Sticker Maker and Sticker Printer in 2021

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Heat Transfer Printers

What Kind of Printer Do You Use for Heat Transfer Paper?

Virtually any inkjet printer will handle heat transfer paper, but for the best results you should consider getting a printer that is high resolution, has superior color accuracy and range, uses pigment based inks and can print onto larger paper. Such a printer can be expensive, but doesn’t have to be – like the excellent and remarkably affordable Epson Expression HD XP-15000 or Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000.

Can You Use a Regular Printer for Heat Transfer Paper?

Yes, almost any normal inkjet printer will work fine with heat transfer paper, but you will get much nicer results from a printer with higher resolution and superior color capability, and it’s even better if it uses pigment based ink and will print onto larger surfaces. The inexpensive Canon IP8720 is a great choice, and something like the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 will offer a really significant upgrade.

What is the Best Printable Heat Transfer Paper?

I highly recommend PPD heat transfer paper, which is inexpensive and consistently very high quality. PPD paper is available in both 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17 inch sizes and for light and dark fabrics, and will make your projects turn out beautifully. For best results, you also should consider getting some PPD Silicon Sheets, which go between the paper and the iron or heat press and will protect your art and the fabric.

What Kind of Ink is Used for Heat Transfers?

You can use any kind of ink cartridge to print onto heat transfer paper, but for best results, you should use a printer with pigment based ink cartridges, which are water-resistant and fade-resistant. Optimally, the printer should have at least 6-8 separate ink colors (the more the better), but printers that use pigment ink cartridges will always have at least that many colors. You can get a lot more information in the article above Best Inkjet Printers for Heat Transfer in 2021.

What Kind of Printer Do You Need for Iron on Transfers?

You can use basically any printer for iron-on transfers, but certain factors will give you markedly better results – like a printer with higher resolution and one that has at least six ink colors. If you are getting a new printer for iron on transfers, or any kind of printing, you may also want to consider a model that has pigment based ink cartridges, and one  that can print on larger surfaces – the affordable Canon IP8720 and the superb Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 are both excellent choices.

Can You Use a Canon Printer for Heat Transfer Paper?

Yes. In fact Canon printers are probably the most recommended for printing onto heat transfer paper. A wonderful entry-level choice, with great color and high resolution, is the Canon IP8720, which will even print onto larger surfaces, and for an affordable and essentially professional level printer the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is hard to beat.

Is it Better to Screen Print or Heat Transfer?

Screen printing will give a more bold and striking image on fabric than heat transfer printing, and screen printed products can sell for higher prices if you are doing this professionally. Heat transfer, on the other hand, is quite a bit easier, and with the right printer, paper and fabric can also give really beautiful results. Please check out my two related articles – Best Heat Transfer Printer in 2021 and Best Screen Printing Printer in 2021 for more information.

Which Paper is Used for T-shirt Printing?

What paper you use for printing onto t-shirts, or any fabric, depends on which process you are using. For example, if you are doing heat transfer or iron-on printing, you want to use a high quality heat transfer paper, like my favorite PPD Heat Transfer Paper. If you are doing screen printing (also called silk screen printing) you would want to use a good transparency paper, like the excellent and affordable GoldUp USA Inkjet Transparency Film.

Final Thoughts: Do Heat Transfer Printed Products Sell Well?

Featured
Online classes for artists and creatives

Improve your art skills and learn how to make money as an artist with my easy-to-follow online classes such as Making Money as an Artist, Color & Light, Color Palettes, Perspective & Composition, Instagram, and more!

GET THEM HERE

It’s great to try new things, explore new media and new techniques and even take on whole new types of crafting, but even with the excellent value offered by my recommendations above there is still a definite investment in gear – not to mention time and effort. Anyway, we are, or want to be, successful commercial artists, and so naturally we ask a couple of basic questions:

  • Do people actually buy heat transfer t-shirts and other products?
  • Can I make money with heat transfer products?
  • Is heat transfer worth the investment?

If a few factors are in place, the answer is a big yes! In order to actually make money you should have:

  • A marketplace for selling, like Etsy, and/or
  • A well-viewed website or Facebook page
  • The best quality products
  • Beautiful, funny, unique or appealing designs – the more original the better
  • Excellent photographic representations of those products, as well as good verbal descriptions

With all of this in play you can not only have a ton of fun, and make really beautiful stuff, but you can also do quite well with any heat transfer printing products and actually make money with them. At the same time, if you get good gear that is really useful to you in other ways – and, like with a good printer for heat transfers, clearly better print quality than the one you already have – the investment makes good sense in other ways as well.

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Heat Transfer Printer and Printing: How it Works and the Best Heat Transfer Printers & Supplies – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.

Other articles in the Printers series:

More Reviews and Guides: