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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

59 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
169 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best heat press machines

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.

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Pressing your garments for five seconds in the heat press machine before adding the image doesn’t just get rid of wrinkles. It also removes any moisture that could affect image adhesion.

What is a heat press machine?

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.

Projects using a heat press machine

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.

Types of heat press machines

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

Swing away

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

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Never leave children or pets unattended around a hot heat press machine.

Heat press machine features to consider


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.

  • Large: Machines that measure between 15 x 15 inches and 16 x 16 inches work well for nearly any home project.

Digital vs. analog

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

Temperature range

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

Heat press machine prices vary based on the type and size, but in most cases you can expect to pay between $100 and $600.

  • Budget-friendly

A small swing-away heat press machine ranges from $100 to $125. A small clamshell heat press machine ranges from $110 to $135.

  • Mid-range

A medium swing-away heat press machine ranges from $125 to $175. A medium clamshell heat press machine ranges from $135 to $200.

  • Expensive

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.

  • Hold transfers in place. High-temperature heat tape comes in handy for keeping a transfer in place on rounded items like baseball caps.
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Using a heat press machine to transfer images is much more efficient than using an iron because the machine’s pressing area is much larger.


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.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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