What is Considered a Light Colored Fabric?

“For use with White, or Light Colored fabrics.”  You often see this in the instructions of light heat transfer papers.  What does this mean?  Where is the boundary between light colored shirts and dark colored shirts?

The answer isn’t that simple.  It really is a case by case basis.  When determining whether your colored shirt will work with your light transfer papers, you need to determine the type of image it is.

All Black Images
If your image only has black in it such as simple black text or simple line graphics, etc.  It is likely to work on a darker colored shirt such as red and blue shirts.  For most light transfer papers, you will still have to trim around your image to reduce the polymer background.

Photographs/Graphics with solid, non-neutral colors such as reds, deep or dark blues, and greens.
These images can be printed onto colored shirts like pink, beige, or light blue.  But keep in mind that there may be a bit of color distortion depending on the image and the shirt color.

Photographs/Graphics with gradients, drop shadows, light or neutral colors such as grey, light blues, and some yellows.  
These images should only be printed on white fabric only.  This is because colors will distort significantly due to the large amount of white used in the graphic.  Wherever white is used (in gradients, drop shadows, and to produce light colors such light blue), the shirt color will show through and mix with the image.

Black Only Image
Examples of a Black Colored Image on white, pink, and a dark colored fabric.
Black Colored images work well with the colored fabrics shown above
Colored Image
Examples of a Colored Image on white, pink and red fabrics
This colored image works well with both white and pink colored fabrics. On the red fabric, the yellow mixes with the red and the image cannot be printed well on a dark colored fabric.
Photo comparison
Examples of a Light Colored Image on white, pink, and red fabric.
This image only works with a white colored fabric. This image will not print well with most colored fabrics

On light transfer papers, keep in mind that any white areas of any image will become the color of the shirt, as most laser and inkjet printers do not use white ink.  The white comes from the paper.  When using light transfer papers, the white base paper is peeled off leaving the ink and a transparent coating on the shirt.

If unsure whether your image will work on a colored shirt, it is a safer bet to use a dark heat transfer paper instead of a light one.  Dark heat transfer papers will work on any colored fabric.  However, dark transfer papers tend to be a little bit thicker and costs a little more than light transfer papers.

TrimFree Laser Transfer Paper


There has been a lot of talk about TrimFree on the web and I have decided that I should do a post to clarify any questions that transfer paper users have about this paper.  Also, on our next post, we will try to explain some of the problems that a small number of users have been experiencing.

TrimFree Shirt image

TrimFree is a self-weeding laser transfer paper for white or light colored fabrics.  What does this mean?  Although transfer papers have improved, greatly reducing the visibility of the unimaged areas of the design, it is still necessary to trim the paper to minimize the amount of polymer background that is transferred to the garment.  When using TrimFree, trimming is not necessary because it will only transfers the areas on the design where toner is present.

Here is a comparison between normal laser transfer paper and TrimFree.  It may be difficult to see the polymer background, please click the images to enlarge

TrimFree and Regular Laser Transfer Paper comparison Laser and TrimFree Transfer Paper comparison

TrimFree can be used to image some dark colored shirts such as red, orange and royal blue when the image just contains black toner.  Additionally, TrimFree can be used to image garments using foil.  As with red, orange and blue fabrics you only use black toner for this application.

Here are some examples below:

TrimFree on Red Shirt with black toner only Gold Foil TrimFree Shirt TrimFree with Rainbow Foil TrimFree with Gold Foil on Black


TrimFree is the latest advancement of laser transfer paper; however it has its limitations.  On images that have drop shadows, gradients or skin tones the user may find that these areas of the image don’t fully transfer.  Knowing this limitation will allow you to properly assess the image prior to printing to determine if TrimFree should be used or if a laser transfer paper for light shirts is more suited.

In general, we suggest that TrimFree be used when the image consists of solid colors such as logos or vector graphics.  This is not to say that you can never use TrimFree when the image contains drop shadows, skin tones, or gradients but we do suggest you test the image prior to printing your full production.

Below you will see one with drop shadows, gradients, and skin tones.  The drop shadow was dark enough to show, however the skin tones didn’t transfer as well.

TrimFree with skin tones

With photographic images we recommend using a laser transfer paper for light colored fabrics.  The majority of photographs are square making any trimming quick and easy.


TrimFree will work well on most printers but there are some printers that use a type of toner that will either press poorly and/or give you unacceptable wash results. The reason for this is because the self trimming aspect of the paper is a chemical reaction between the toner and the paper coating when heated.  The coating fuses with the toner to adhere to the shirt.  So the success of the paper depends on the composition of the toner.  With some of the printers we do not recommend, the image will print and transfer fine but the wash results will be poor.  On others, it is just very difficult to get good printing results.

Our testing has shown that Okidata printers and Canon Copiers provide the best results when using TrimFree.  Both of these brands will give very good printing, pressing and wash results.  Alternatively, we have found that Brother and HP will not provide good results when using TrimFree and are not recommended by Joto.

Regardless of the printer or copier being used we always recommend that you test the paper with your printer to ensure you can achieve the printing, pressing and wash results that will meet your customer’s expectations.  To aid with the testing we offer sample packs free of charge for you to evaluate prior to purchasing the paper.


Foil application can only be done with TrimFree transfer paper.  It cannot be done with other laser transfer papers because they release a polymer coating even where there is no image.  As stated above, TrimFree only releases where there is toner and it is the toner/coating that hot stamp foil sticks to when pressed.  The foil that is used for TrimFree can be bought at any screen printing supplies shop.  It is the same foil that screen printers use and is applied the same way, using a heat press.  Click the following link to watch how TrimFree and foil are applied.

TrimFree with Foil Video
Click to Watch Video

We have also posted a tips and hints cheat sheet about how to use TrimFree and to solve some of the problems that a small amount of users are experiencing.  TrimFree Tip Sheet

We have done a number of TrimFree shirts for personal birthday parties,  hockey teams and the response was fantastic!  The key to the success of applying TrimFree is knowing the limits of this paper and doing some minor testing on your own so that you can familiarize yourself with this new technology.  The ones who are able to master TrimFree will have a definite advantage over his/her competitors.

By Dickson
Joto Paper