The best heat press machine is subjective to one’s needs, budget, and the space available. If you’re in need of the best performing machine there are a variety of options available in a range of budgets, features, and styles. Take note of your needs and pick one on the list that works best for you.
A heat press machine is a must-have if you plan to transfer images on t-shirts for money. There are also other easily affordable units for hobbyists who want to create beautiful imprints for friends and family. The great thing about having a heat press machine is that you’ll be able to work on a myriad of mediums and become much more efficient than with a regular iron. Again, heat press machines work quicker and have higher quality results due to the precise heat it can apply.
In this article, however, we will be telling you all you need to know about heat press equipment. We’ve also scoured the market to bring you five of the best heat press machines for t-shirts and fabric that you can not go wrong with. Let’s start by learning what to look for!
Best Heat Press Machine Buying Guide
How does a heat press machine work? For those who are totally green to this craft, a heat press machine uses heat and pressure to adhere graphics from a transfer paper or vinyl cutout to a medium, for instance, t-shirts, pillow cases, or a even mug. As you may have guessed, these units have 3 quintessential parts;
- Heating plate
- Working surface (some take different shapes for various items)
- Source of pressure
It is these 3 parts that create all the difference in heat press machines. The following section will shed more light on this.
Types of Heat Press Machines
Various devices employ different mechanisms and methods in the way the heating platen provides access to the pressing surface for loading and setup. This type of machine will determine both its capabilities as well as efficiency of use.
Clam-shell Style Heat Press machines
These machines derive their name from the way the top plate lifts up like a clam. You are better off with these models if you’re just starting out due to the simplicity and ease of use. This machine requires little instruction and operation to get started.
Why are clamshell heat press machines the best for starters?
- There are several affordable machines in this style.
- Minimal mechanism involved.
- They require less space compared to other models.
On the flip side, some are a little tricky to deal with, especially those that don’t open up wide enough. Also, laying some large garments may be a hassle. Again, a clam-shell heat press machine that doesn’t open wide enough can be difficult to work with and not having enough working room can increases your chances of inadvertent contact with the super hot top plate.
Swing Away Heat Press Machines
These machines define themselves, as you simply swing the heat platen to the right or left when loading or offloading your garments and transfer. These models reduce the risk of burns. They also offer greater freedom to spread out your items on the bottom plate with precision.
On the downside, they require a bit more space than clam-shell style heat presses. Keep in mind that they require free space either to the right or left where the top plate swings to. The trade off is obvious, the extra space required to operate the swing-away style provides for greater freedom of operation.
Draw Style Machines
Unlike the first two types of pressing machines, draw style models have a pressing plate that pulls out like a drawer, hence their name. Similar to the swinger/swing style machines, these machines give you more room to the pressing area.
Their major strength is that there is excellent precision when imprinting. They are also compact and great for portability.
On the downside, they tend to be pricier than the other models. Again, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll work on thick items like sweatshirts and hoodies. Lastly, like the swing-away, they also require more space than clam-shell pressing machines.
Hotronix Fusion is a unique model that combines draw and swing style. As expected its versatility and simplicity is wonderful but you’ll find out more in our heat press machines reviews.
Manual, Semi-Automatic, and Fully Automatic Pressing Machines
The search for a heat press machine doesn’t end with style alone, you’ll again have to choose between manual, automatic, and the semi-automatic gadgets. Here is a breakdown of each.
Manual Heat Press
In these machines, all the key aspects; time, pressure, and temperature are manually tweaked by the operator. There are knobs and buttons for that. Most Swing and Clamshell machines fall into this category.
Semi-Automatic Heat Press
Only clam-shell press machines offer semi-automatism. It’s nothing much, though. These units only release the heating plate automatically after the pre-programmed time has expired. This feature seems so obvious but it’s a good thing to know that your client’s items have a lower chance of getting scorched.
Automatic Heat Press
Automatic heat press machines are also referred to as hydraulic or vacuum presses. The piece of good news with these is that they control the amount of pressure and automatically releases the heat platen after the pre-programmed time. Importantly, these units can achieve incredibly high levels of pressure than the other 2 options. As such, you are assured of better results even when working with thick garments.
Other Considerations to Buying a Heat Press Machine
Aside from heat press style and whether the unit is automatic or manual, there are plenty of other features you should consider to narrow down your search. I have ordered the last few considerations in by the importance professionals usually weigh when choosing their next purchase.
Of course your needs may vary from a professional but the list is helpful in knowing what else you need to consider.
Heat Press Size
The best size for a heat press will basically depends on what you need it for. They come in all sizes. The smallest machines measure 4″ x 4″, 4″ x 6″ and 6″ x 8″. These are also known as Label Presses and are best for small items such as napkins, baby clothes, and table mats and mugs.
Label presses are ideal for hobbyists and businesses that deal with small items. If you need something bigger than this, you might want to consider a Small Press measuring 9″ x 12″ or 12″ x 14″.
Medium Size Presses– People with medium-size businesses can start out with these. They are mostly 15″ x 15″ and best for small and medium size items like t-shirts. They have versatile functionalities since they can work on both small and large items. They are also cheaper and more affordable than the large models. Even better, they are ideal for rooms and office with space constraints.
Large/Extra Large Presses– If you are looking for monster heat press machines, their are models that measure anywhere between 16″ x 20″ and 40″ x 64″ in plate size. You might consider one of these if you deal with large garments and large images or numbers. You can even use large presses to do multiple smaller items at once making the task more efficient.
But be warned. Large heat press machines have so much weight on them. The lightest in this category may weigh up 150 pounds! They also require lots of space. In most instances, these are units for large businesses with high turnover tasks and massive space for large equipment.
If you want a presser you can tote around in your house or take it with you in your vehicle’s trunk do do onsite work, a medium size 15″ x 15″ unit might be the one for you.
Heat Platen Quality
It’s quite obvious that we all want high-quality imprints, whether you are doing it for hobby or money. For this, you’ll want a machine with a platen that heats evenly. If you are buying the machine from a store near you, demo the unit and hover your hand across the platen to feel whether it heats evenly. How do you do that if you are to buy it online? We’ve done that for you, and every model on the list is proven to have high quality platens.
Maximum Temperature and Time Taken to Heat Up
Transferring an imprint from a transfer paper or vinyl cutouts to an item requires high temperatures. The best heat press machines can reach temperatures of up to 7500 Fahrenheit and maintain it. Check out PowerPress, for instance. It has the highest temperature range on our list and one of the best heat press machines for home use. No matter how cheap the unit is, consider a machine that can go upwards of 3500F, at a minimum.
But what matters most is how long the hot platen takes to heat up. Again, go for a presser that doesn’t take forever. The faster, the better for you. The temperatures should also be stable.
Most of the best heat press machines have these. They are essential in manual pressers. They alert you on when to lift the hot plate. So if you are considering a clam or swing manual machine, this is a feature that you should never ignore. Prolonged heat exposure can ruin garments and transfers costing both time and money.
Pressure and pressure knobs
Lastly, consider a machine that offers different levels of pressure. This is because different mediums require varying levels of pressure. By the same vein, for manually-operated units, the pressure system should be responsive to the force you put on the handle. Poorly responsive pressure systems can become a pain to operate.
This guide covered a ton an information which is sometimes overwhelming. Again, the best thing you can do is consider the type of projects you will be working with and pick the features that best suited for the given task.
If you have more than one use in mind, pick the most versatile unit or even go with multiple units each suited to the specific type of job. Owning multiple units will be especially useful for a high productivity business.
The Best Heat Press Machines – 2018 Top 5 Quick Reviews
With the variety of heat press styles and configurations it is a difficult choice picking one that works for your specific needs. Our list has narrowed that long list to some of the best machines on the market at a variety of price ranges and several different configurations. Anyone of these heat presses are a worthy invest, just pick the one that suits your needs most.
PowerPress is one of the best heat press machines under $200 on the market today. It is what most experienced artists and enthusiasts use as it is a capable heavy-duty machine that works on almost anything at an affordable price. The fact that it has firmly held its ground as one of the best-selling units speaks volumes about its performance.
PowerPress is a simple but highly functional clam-style heat press machine. It has a 15’’ by 15’’ heating plate which is a highly recommended size for folks starting out, since you can work on a variety of items on all spectrum’s. Using it is just as easy; lift the top plate up, set your preferred time and temperature, spread the garment, and bring down the hot plate. Finally, lift the plate up after the signal indicator beeps and your done.
In our opinion, PowerPress is also one of the best Heat Press Machines for starters. The LCD display provides easy time and temperature controls that you can toggle between 0 and 999 seconds and 0 and 7500F respectively. Again, it has an easily accessible and rotatable pressure knob. Its handle is also padded, and is great for doing high volume without developing blisters or experiencing back pains.
- Replaceable fuse protects the plate from overheating
- Thick aluminum plate heats evenly, and it’s stable
- Wide working temperatures and time range for different items
- Opens up wide
- Straightforward LCD
ePhotonic 9×12 Press is one of the best swing away heat press machines, providing all of the desired features at a great price point. This unit offers an incredibly lightweight and easily portable design for great for space constrained apartments and workplaces. At 33.8 pounds and 16 x 13 x 14 inches, you can easily tuck this thing away and pull it out whenever necessary.
ePhoto is also extremely easy to use. It swings 3600 in either direction. As its name would suggest, ePhoto has a rather small heating plate measuring 10″ by 12″. Though geared towards small items, it is sometimes possible to work big t-shirts. You just need to know how to spread your items on the platter, so the paper transfer lies where you need the design.
Concerning compatibility, ePhoto works on different flat surfaced items such as ceramic, glass, metal, fabric, and wood. Good news: the heating plate is Teflon-coated. This minimizes the chances of your fabrics getting scorched greatly. Again, this platen heats up to 5000F- lower than in our previous model, but it still works like a charm.
- Top plate swings away 3600
- Works on different flat-surface items
- Quality designs
If you do printing for money, then you’ll probably need a heat press machine that is extremely versatile and works on different items such as caps, t-shirts, cups, mugs, and many others. No other model would do that well than the FC2 Pro. This is a 6-in-1 model that brings;
- 1 Platen Press- 12″ x 15″
- 2 Plate Presses with diameters 5″ x 6″ respectively
- 2 Mug Presses with diameters 3″ and 3.5″ respectively
- 1 curved Hat/Cap Press- 6″ x 3″
The thing with this heat press is that its cradle releases easily to allow you to fit other pressers. Again, its heating elements heat up fast. It also offers one great option that most of the best heat pressers for home rarely offer: selectable Celsius and Fahrenheit readings.
Another impressive feature here is that FC2 Pro offers 2 sturdy handles for even pressure exertion. Again, the platen heats up quickly and evenly.
- Temperature range 32-430F
- 6-in-1 heat transfer plates
- 12″ x 15″ Press Platen for flat items
- Heats fast and evenly
- Easy to timeless to interchange the cradles
- 2 handles for even pressure distribution
- Max 5000F temps
Super Deal pretty much lives up to its name, a super deal heat press machine with lots to offer at a great price. To start with, no one would dare call this unit expensive. It’s only a few extra dollars above the 100-dollar mark. Starters looking for an affordable unit that is easy to use and with minimal space requirements should, therefore, have this one at the top of their lists.
Super Deal comes in several sizes. There’s a bigger version of this with the most revered 15 by 15-inch platen. But this 12’’ by 10’’ is still a good deal if you plan to print small-size items.
This machine is a swing-style unit, the top plate swings easily all the way to give you more room to align your fabrics on the plate and to prevent burns. Transferring is made easy by a rotatable pressure knob with a good feel and a strong handle.
- Celsius and Fahrenheit readings
- Swing-away design
- Compact design saves spaces
- Works on different surfaces
- Heats up 399F
Anyone who is serious about starting a respected printing business would be wise to invest in a Fusion heat press. Hotronix Fusion is currently the priciest model on this list and can be found for around $2k. However, it is also by far the most advanced unit on the market today and is a favorite among large scale operations. This makes it one of the best heat presses for vinyl since it has the heat power and the features for high volume.
This press is just as it looks in the picture; versatile, highly functional, and among the most durable. It’s made of aluminum alloy and, therefore, lighter than most of the units of its size. Hotronix Fusion is also durable and comes with a 1-year warranty on parts, 2-year warranty on circuitry board, and another 5-year warranty on its major components. This is great protection for such an expensive unit.
What makes it one of the best heat press machines is that it combines swinger and draw styles. So you can use it any way you wish, swing or draw. This is a great feature especially if you’ll be using it in different locations since space won’t be much of a limitation.
It also offers a touch screen display. You can make multiple time settings here depending on your designs’ and surface’s needs. There’s more! Its platen is huge at 16’’ by 20’’. Even better, it’s compatible with other smaller platens, and the process of interchanging them isn’t a hassle. Finally, it can record the most used time and temp applications for future reference and used as a quickly accessible preset.
- Utilizes swing and draw styles
- Impressive warranty
- Large platen
- Interchangeable platens
- Touch screen LCD with multiple time and temperature settings
- Time and temperature programmable presets
If you are just starting out, I highly recommend a few other guides for the best printers for heat transfers and the best heat transfer paper to go with your heat press. These articles should ensure a good start to your journey into heat transferring your creations.