How to Print on Denim

by Maggie Allen ; Updated September 28, 2017

Plastisol heat transfers are a great way to make your jeans special.

jeans pocket image by AGITA LEIMANE from

Denim offers unique challenges to printing because of its thickness and strong weave. Using plastisol heat transfers will work to add artistic detail to your jeans or denim jacket. For the more adventurous, use multiple patches to create a unified design.

Wash your denim. Use very little detergent and make sure it is thoroughly rinsed. If this is the first wear, use the dryer to prevent later shrinking. If these are your old favorite jeans, let them air dry. Air-dried jeans can be wrinkled, so iron them and let them cool.

Lay the denim flat and arrange the patches, making sure the patch is centered or positioned as you want. You can trim or remove parts of the patches as necessary for the size of the jeans or jacket. Use a ruler or line of pins to make sure the patch is straight.

One you’ve measured, trimmed and rearranged the transfers, place them face down on the denim in their final spot. Remove any pins you’ve used to secure them. Ensure there are no wrinkles in the denim beneath the patch.

Iron on the patch using a hot iron (set to the cotton level). Do not use steam. Don’t rub the patch on, but gently press the iron to the design and lift off. This technique ensures you won’t move the design with the iron. Once the patch is set, apply a little more pressure and hold it slightly longer to let the design completely adhere to the denim.

Remove the design gently. Use one hand to remove the design and the other to keep the denim flat. Peel the back of the patch starting from the outside corners. Enjoy your fashionable new jeans!

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About the Author

Maggie Allen is a political science doctoral student and a trained facilitator of environmental conflicts. She has traveled extensively for her work and began writing on these experiences in 2006, including policy papers for international organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in international development from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Northern British Columbia.