If you are looking to get into the t-shirt business, a t-shirt press machine and a vinyl cutting machine are real must-have items.
Fortunately, nowadays the best heat press machines can be used for a much wider variety of application and don’t just function as a t-shirt press machine. Opening up many opportunities for businessmen and artists alike.
Heat Press Machine Basics
A heat press will let you print designs or templates from some kind of substrate onto fabric such as t-shirts, bags, hoodies, socks, etc., by applying heat for a short amount of time. Ideal for making customized gifts or products. The time and temperature can normally easily be adjusted using a computer interface.
A wide variety of substrates can be used depending on your project’s needs. For example heat transfer paper, heat transfer vinyl, rhinestone or embroidered patches. Heat presses are thus often used in combination with a die-cutting machine or vinyl cutter. You can use the software that comes with the vinyl cutter to make a design and use the heat press to transfer them to a T-shirt.
Heat Press Models
There are 4 standard heat press models. The work you want to do and your previous experience will largely determine which is the best heat press machine for you.
The Clamshell shell model heat press is the most straightforward and intuitive model. If you are looking to buy a heat press for the first time, we would recommend going with this model. The upper plate opens up to an angle of around 75 degrees similar to a clamshell or alligator’s mouth. Since the top plate opens vertically it can be operated in small spaces. A common drawback to cheaper machines with this model type is that they don’t always pressure evenly.
Swing away heat press models are ideal for transferring onto thicker products such as tiles or plaques. The upper plate opens straight up and then swings to the side. This allows for even pressure across the entire plate. Additionally, it gives an open workspace so you don’t have to worry about accidentally burning yourself on the top plate.
Unlike the previous two models mentioned, a slide out drawer model will allow you to move the lower plate instead of the upper plate. It is easy to operate and relatively safe but requires more space than either the clamshell or swing away model.
If you are looking for more than just a t-shirt press machine, this might be the kind of model for you. Multifunction models allow you to interchange different heating plates. It also allows for extra add-ons in case you want to print on curved surfaces like mugs or cups.
Criteria for Finding a Good Heat Press
The best heat press machine for you depends on your personal preferences and goals. Besides the different models described above, the size of the plates and the temperature at which you press are very important. Additional features are offered by heat presses at a higher price point, but these are not strictly necessary for beginners that are still learning how to use a heat press machine.
Temperature and pressure are the most important factors for a successful transfer. Depending on your substrate (paper, vinyl, rhinestone) and onto which material you are transferring (fabric, ceramic) you might need different temperatures. Make sure that the maximum temperature of the heat press is adequate to do the job.
Also, verify if you can easily adjust the temperature and the indicated temperature is the actual temperate of your heat plate. You can easily measure this with an infrared thermometer.
Cheaper models only have a heating element in the center of the plate and therefore have a lower temperature towards the edges of the plate than the center. This may lead your substrate to stick when you try to peel it off.
The size of the heated plate can be a limiting factor in some projects. You can only go as big as you heating platform, while you can go as small as you can print on your transfer paper or vinyl. You can’t transfer a full chest image if your press is smaller than the image itself.
Bigger is not always better though. If you plan on only transferring small design, onto a sleeve, for example, a smaller model might be easier to work it. Choose the size that fits your project.
That being said, if you plan on doing a wide variety of projects or not quite sure yet, bigger might be better after all.
If you opt to buy a t-shirt press machine for small businesses or industrial application, you might find a lot of additional features. For amateurs, these might seems as an unnecessary luxury while for others it’s the ideal way to speed up the manufacturing process.
Some noteworthy features that the best heat press machines offer include a timer that will automatically stop heating and automatically opens the plates for a faster work pace and prevent burning any fabric.
Additionally, some machines will allow you to save several different routines with a preset temperature and time. Reducing the hassle of setting up the machine every single time.
Finally, if you buy a foreign brand it will be convenient to make sure it has an option to change between a Celsius and a Fahrenheit display option.
Heat Press Machine Reviews
Below we listed some of our favorite heat press models you might want to take a look at.
One of the most popular t-shirt press machines for beginners is the PowerPress model. This clamshell model heat press is ideal for many applications such as transferring letters, numbers, and images on not only t-shirts but also bags, jigsaw puzzles, ceramic tiles, etc.
Durable enough last for several years and can handle dozens of shirts in a single hour after getting used to the workflow. Overall, very good value for money.
Plate Size 15”x15”
Weight 53 lbs
Temperature Range 0-500F
Time range 0-999 s
Electronic timer and heat control
The Zeny heat press pro 6 in 1 will allow you to take on a wide variety of projects. The additional element allows you to even press on hats or mugs, which is impossible to do with a regular flat plate.
Besides the regular platen press, this model comes with a heat press, mug press, silicon pad and cotton pad.
Due to the many different options, it might take a while to learn how to use this heat press machine properly. Many have mentioned that the manual is very difficult to understand.
Plate Size: 12”x15”
Weight 56 lbs
Both Fahrenheit and Celsius scale
Detached cradle unit.
Electronic timer and heat control
The Gecko heat press is a big player among high-end heat press machines. It is mainly designed for large production orders. Due to its industrial strength, it is highly durable and good long-term investment.
The heating coil guarantees consistent heating throughout the entire plate and the heating temperature and time and easily be adjusted. And the spring assisted lift handle lets you open and close the plates with minimal effort.
Plate Size: 15”x15”
Weight 54 lbs
Temperature range: 212-437 F
Time range: 0 – 999 s
Digital temperature and time control
Spring assisted lift handle
- How do I use a heat press machine to make my own T-shirts?
- Which vinyl cutter is to best for beginners?
- How do I use the Silhouette Studio software to make my own T-shirt designs?
- How to make rhinestone shirts using a heat press?