How to Make Rub On Transfers

    by Julie Hampton

    About the Author

    Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.


    Rub on transfers have been around for decades and can be used on a variety of craft projects. With a few supplies, you may already have at home, you can create rub on transfers in a matter of minutes. Follow the below steps to transfer graphics and lettering to any solid surface.

    Things You'll Need

    • Ink jet printer
    • Transparency film
    • Hairspray
    • Fine mist spray hair gel
    • Hair dryer
    • Spoon or wood craft stick

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    Spray a clear even coat of hair gel onto the transparency film. Make sure the gel is lightly misted on. You do not want blobs or runs in the gel. However, all areas must be covered.

    Allow the hair gel to dry. A hair dryer can be used to speed up drying time. The average transparency should dry within 30 seconds.

    Have your artwork or lettering ready to go. You will need to print in reverse for the rub on to read correctly when it is applied. You can flip your image while you are creating it. Another option is to flip the image right before you print. Your printer may read "T-shirt" mode or "Mirror-to-Mirror" mode referring to the reversal of an image or lettering.

    Print your image onto the transparency film. The printer should be set to "Normal" as additional ink is not required when making a rub on transfer. Once printed, allow the ink to dry. Again, you may use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. Next, spray an even coat of hair spray over the dried image you have just printed. Allow to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

    Place the dried image onto the appropriate spot you would like the image to be transferred, face down. Using a spoon, or wood craft stick, gently rub the image. Remember, once the image has been placed face down, and you have started the transfer, you must not move the image or it may become distorted or disturb the transfer process. Slowly peel away the transparency film to reveal your new rubbed on graphic.

    • Make sure to allow ample drying time between all steps.
    • Always remember the image will appear in reverse. Flip your design in your computer program or prior to printing.
    • This technique also works with images stamped using dye or pigment based ink.