Which heat press is best?
Heat press machines are essentially bigger and better versions of pressing an image onto a T-shirt with an iron. If you like creating custom clothing, whether for yourself or a business, grabbing one is essential. You don’t need to drop serious cash for a heat press either, as some starter presses barely cost into the triple digits.
If you’re looking for a quality option, the best is the Fancierstudio Digital Heat Press. It heats up quickly and can last for many years and many printings.
What to know before you buy a heat press
Heat press types
There are three main types of heat press:
- Clamshell: This is the most common kind of heat press as it takes up less space and is generally the easiest to use. It has a stable bottom plate and the top opens and closes from a hinge in the back. Use caution with the top plate; burns are common for the reckless.
- Swing away: This press type is less common as it requires more space and usually costs more than clamshells. However, there’s less chance of burns thanks to the top plate lifting directly up and swinging to the side.
- Handheld: This press type is the most affordable. It’s essentially the top plate of a clamshell press that’s not attached to anything and requires no bottom plate. You just heat it up and press it down with your hands. Technically, irons are a kind of handheld heat press, too.
Heat presses come in a range of sizes:
- Small heat presses are best for those who rarely use them or who only print small logos. They’re usually in the 4-by-6- to 6-by-8-inch range.
- Medium heat presses are best for hobbyists or small businesses. They should be able to print anything outside of extra-large images on everything. They’re usually in the 9-by-12 to 12-by-14-inch range.
- Large heat presses can tackle anything and are recommended for those running businesses. They can be as large as 16 inches by 16 inches.
What to look for in a quality heat press
Digital vs. analog
Heat presses can have digital or analog controls:
- Digital controls give you more options at the helm, and typically more accurate ones to boot. However, they also cost more.
- Analog controls are usually more affordable but can be restricted, such as having shorter timers.
Heat presses need to get hot to successfully transfer your designs off the paper and onto your object. That said, different objects and images have different heat requirements to be transferred as perfectly as possible. As such, look to get a heat press with a wide temperature range and one with highs of 350-400 degrees at minimum.
On top of raw heat, you also need to apply that heat for a set period of time. Too little and the transfer won’t complete; too long and your object will burn. As such, all heat presses come with a timer, but better heat presses have timers with larger maximum time limits and especially timers with alerts so you don’t accidentally miss the timer reaching zero.
The easiest way to gauge any item’s quality is to check its warranty. The longer the warranty, the more faith a manufacturer has in its products. Look for heat presses with at least one year of warranty coverage. The best have lifetime warranties, but these typically have high costs.
How much you can expect to spend on a heat press
Starter heat press machines typically start around $100 and go up to roughly $200. The best and biggest machines for nonbusiness owners top out at around $500-$600. Business owners can spend $3,000-plus on a heat press.
Heat press FAQ
What kinds of items can I customize with a heat press?
A. Just about anything made of thick fabrics that don’t melt at high temperatures such as cotton, nylon and polyester. Clothes such as T-shirts are the classic option, with less common ones being placemats, tote bags and even pillowcases.
Where can I get the designs for transferring to my items?
A. There are two main avenues for getting designs. The easiest is to use an inkjet printer to print designs you find or make yourself onto special transfer paper. Otherwise, you can use a die-cutting machine to print designs onto heat-transfer vinyl.
What’s the best heat press to buy?
Top heat press
What you need to know: This press is roomy and easy to use, perfect for small businesses or busy home-based creatives.
What you’ll love: It’s a clamshell-type press with digital controls and a printing space of 15 inches by 15 inches. It has a silicon pad glued down enough to stay put but not enough to be difficult to remove and replace.
What you should consider: It’s heavy enough to make hauling it out and storing it away a chore. Some consumers had issues with uneven heating.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top heat press for the money
What you need to know: This small heat press is excellent for pressing the occasional design into fresh T-shirts.
What you’ll love: There’s no bottom plate, you just set it on top of the item you want to press your image into. It has a safety pad to rest it on while heating up and cooling down. The press plate is 10 inches by 10 inches.
What you should consider: Its temperature range of 210-410 degrees is narrow. You have to apply pressure with your body weight.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is a slightly less expensive heat press for busy creatives and small business owners.
What you’ll love: It’s a clamshell-type press with digital controls and a printing space of 15 by 15 inches. It has a maximum temperature of 400 degrees and a timer that goes up to 9,999 seconds. It has a one-year warranty.
What you should consider: Some purchasers struggled to open the press once it was done. It doesn’t come with instructions; you need to request them from the manufacturer.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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