Well-built, sturdy, and lasts for years, users report. Tweaking temperature and timing is easy. Heats up very quickly. Responsive customer service.
Very heavy – not easy to take out and put away regularly. Non-anchored press makes opening during use difficult. Temperature can be inaccurate. Most owners have trouble getting initial settings right.
Easy to use, and relatively lightweight. Owners like its compact size, and less experienced owners find it easy to use. Users like the swing-away movement which makes it easier to access transfer items.
Smaller press size limits the type of designs and clothing sizes that can be pressed. Reports of press no longer working after a few weeks or months of use.
Heats up evenly and quickly. Temperature is accurate to within 5 degrees, users find. Relatively easy to use. Big enough to handle adult size t-shirts.
Instructions generally aren’t included with this press. Opening the clamshell can take a lot of effort. Reports of unit failing after just a few uses.
Accurate temperature and timing. No smelly “burn-off” required for new units. Press automatically releases once timer cycle completes, freeing up users to do other things.
Uneven pressure, making sublimation difficult. Clamshell can be difficult to open at higher pressure settings. Somewhat heavy and not very portable. A few reported issues with press not heating correctly.
Simple to set up and use, and gets very hot for a press at this price point. Owners like the accurate temperature and good pressure provided. Very sturdy.
Reports of machine heating becoming unreliable or failing completely after a few months of use. Handle can be tricky to unlock during use.
If you’re a serious crafter who enjoys making custom T-shirts or other fabric items, using iron-on decals can get pretty tedious. With a heat press machine, you can quickly and easily decorate your favorite fabric items, saving you time and frustration.
But if you’re not well-versed in heat press machines, shopping for one can get frustrating in a hurry. You have to know what type of heat press best suits your needs, as well as the optimal size, temperature range, and other features to make your crafting projects as successful as possible. With so many options on the market, finding the right one can be a challenge.
If you’re ready to buy a heat press machine, check out our top recommendations. If you want some pointers on choosing a good heat press machine, our shopping guide has plenty of helpful tips.
A heat press machine is a device that uses an aluminum heating element and pressure to print a graphic design on a shirt or other fabric item. Using one is similar to ironing on decals and patterns by hand, but the machine works more quickly and efficiently and provides more consistent results.
To use a heat press machine, the desired pattern is printed with special ink on special paper that enables the image to be transferred with the application of heat and pressure. The machine maintains a consistent temperature and appropriate time to make sure that each image is successfully transferred.
A heat press machine comes in handy for a variety of crafting projects, including the following.
Custom t-shirts for family reunions, charity events, school fundraisers, gifts, and other occasions.
Personalized baseball caps.
Personalized baby clothes.
Custom tote bags, cosmetic bags, and other bags.
Personalized aprons and oven mitts.
Custom pillows, cushions, and pillowcases.
Personalized placemats and tea towels.
There are two main types of heat press machines: clamshell and swing away.
Clamshell heat presses have a top plate that lifts up, so the machine opens completely. When closed, the top plate presses down on the bottom plate to apply the appropriate heat and pressure to transfer a pattern.
Easy to use
Works quickly and efficiently
Takes up less space than swing away
Some risk of burning yourself on top plate
A swing-away heat press has a top plate that lifts and swings to the side to open the machine.
Less risk of burning yourself (plate moves completely out of way)
Requires more space
When you’re choosing a heat press machine, it’s important to get the right size to accommodate your projects and your workspace.
Small: Machines that measure between 4 x 6 inches and 6 x 8 inches work best for tote bags and baby clothing.
Medium: Machines that measure between 9 x 12 inches and 12 x 14 inches work well for most t-shirts or larger items.
Heat press machines come with digital or analog timers and temperature controls. Both types can be effective. You’ll pay more for a digital machine, but for serious crafters, the better results make it worth the investment.
Digital heat press machine
More accurate temperature controls
Some timers go to 999 seconds
More expensive than analog
Analog heat press machine
Some timers only go to 60 seconds
Less expensive than digital
To successfully transfer a design to fabric, a heat press machine must reach a high enough temperature. For the most effective machine, look for a model that can heat up to at least 350°F to 400°F.
While you want to be sure that a heat press machine can apply enough heat to successfully print the design on your item, you don’t want it to apply the heat for too long or you could burn the material. All models are equipped with a time. Look for a machine that has an audible timer to alert you when your desired pressing time is reached. Also pay attention to the maximum time you can set.
If you opt for a clamshell heat press machine, look for a model that makes it easy to adjust the pressure that’s applied to the fabric. Most feature some type of knob that you turn to increase the pressure. A machine with the pressure control knob on the top is usually the easiest to use.
A heat press machine can be a somewhat pricey investment, so it’s a good idea to consider any warranty protection offered by the manufacturer. Some only offer a six-month warranty, while others include a one- to two-year warranty. Higher-end models may provide lifetime warranty protection for certain components of the press, so read the fine print very carefully.
Heat press machine prices vary based on the type and size, but in most cases you can expect to pay between $100 and $600.
A small swing-away heat press machine ranges from $100 to $125. A small clamshell heat press machine ranges from $110 to $135.
A medium swing-away heat press machine ranges from $125 to $175. A medium clamshell heat press machine ranges from $135 to $200.
A large swing-away heat press machine ranges from $175 to $550. A large clamshell heat press machine ranges from $200 to $600.
Remove wrinkles first. For best results, the material on which you’re printing your design should be as smooth as possible. It helps to press the shirt, bag, or other item in the heat press to get rid of any wrinkles before you add the image.
Protect the heat press and the fabric. To protect the item you’re pressing, as well as the heat press itself, place a sheet of Teflon or parchment paper between the item with the transfer and the top plate of the press.
Check the temperature of the machine. It’s a good idea to periodically check your heat press machine for any cold spots that might affect its performance. Use a laser temperature gun to make sure that the plates are reaching the proper temperature across the entire surface.
Q. What kind of transfers can I use with a heat press machine?
A. If you own an inkjet printer, you can purchase transfer paper and print your favorite images or designs for use with a heat press machine. The heat from the machine then transfers the ink from the paper to your fabric item, and it should hold up well to repeated washings. You can also use heat transfer vinyl to add images to items in the heat press.
Q. What kind of fabrics can I use in a heat press machine?
A. Most fabrics, such as cotton, nylon, polyester, Lycra, and spandex, can work well in a heat press, but fabrics that may melt at higher temperatures should be avoided. These include some synthetic materials, as well as thin fabrics.
Q. What kind of maintenance does a heat press machine require?
A. After each use, allow the machine to cool completely so you can clean the plates. If ink builds up on the surface, it can affect future transfers, making them less durable. Use a soft cloth dampened with mineral spirits to gently wipe down the plates and remove any ink residue. Do not scrub the heat press with an abrasive sponge. It could damage the surface. It’s also important to lubricate the machine regularly to keep the moving parts working smoothly. A white grease spray works well for oiling a heat press.
Power Heat Press Industrial-Quality Digital 15-by-15-Inch Sublimation T-Shirt Heat Press
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.