Heat Press Buying Guide – 5 Things To Keep In Mind

When it comes to making your own custom t-shirts, nothing beats using a heat press machine (at least in my opinion!). You could, of course, make tees and baby onesies with an iron, and that’s a great way to start. But if you’re wanting maximum quality, and maximum coolness, look no further than a heat press machine.

What To Consider When Buying Your First Heat Press Machine

In this post I want to share with you 5 things to keep in mind when buying your first t-shirt press. There are so many different options out there, and I hope to make it a little easier for you!

1. Beginning – Heat Press or Iron?

Are you just starting out with heat transfer vinyl projects? Have you tried doing iron-on transfers?

I highly recommend starting out using an iron – don’t just go out and start with a heat press, you might not like it! Iron-on transfer projects still look great and make wonderful t-shirts, but they lack in a few areas.

The benefit of a heat press is that you can set the time, temperature and pressure in a way that you cannot with an iron. But it is best to start with an iron to get a feel for the work and become accustomed to the process. Read this post on everything you need to know about iron-on heat transfers.

2. Style – Clamshell or Swing-Away?

There are two main styles of heat press machine: clamshell and swing-away style. As you might guess, a clamshell style press opens and closes, up and down, like a clam! A swing-away machine lifts upwards, and then can swing 360 degrees around.

When it comes to the cheaper heat presses, a clamshell machine is better as they are stronger and less prone to faults. They are also better in that they require less room, not needing as much space to swing around.

On the other hand, the main benefit of the swing away style is a clearer work area. You are able to lay out your t-shirt and transfer without warming the knuckles!

3. Size – Big or Small?

There are a range of heat press sizes including 10 x 12, 12 x 15, 15 x 15 and 16 x 24 inches. And there are actually even smaller machines than that, which are used for pressing small labels and brand names onto garments.

Which size should you get? Well, it really depends on how much space you have for your press, but I recommend getting a 15 x 15 inch machine to begin with.

You will be able to press all sizes of t-shirt with this size, but it’s not overly huge like the 16 x 24 inch machine. I also find that a machine smaller than 15 x 15 is just a little too small.

4. Brand – US Made or Chinese?

The American made heat press machines are definitely the best. Brands like Stahls, Geo Knight and Hix make high quality, durable machines. However, these can be very expensive and are not usually for beginners. Only grab one if these machines if you have it in the budget and you know you’re going to use it!

Chinese made heat press machines are a lot cheaper, and can be found on Amazon and Ebay. These machines are very suitable for beginners, being easy to use and good at pressing vinyl transfers. There are a number of different sellers basically selling the same press. For more information on what to look out for in an online seller, read these tips on how to choose a heat press online.

5. Price – Expensive or Cheap?

While the US made machines will generally cost you upwards of $1000, small cheap heat presses can be found for just over $100.

I recommend budgeting $200 for a starter heat press. There are a number of machines available for around this price and these will make great home craft presses, or beginner business presses. There will be a percentage of these cheaper machines that come with faults and may need to be returned and refunded, but you are much more likely to get one without faults as you are to get a lemon.

What is the Best Heat Press?

The best heat press is the one that fills all your requirements, which are different for everybody!

Everybody has their perfect style, size, brand and price, and you need to consider your needs to decide which is best for you. However, if you would like some more guidance, please check out this list of best heat press machines for beginnners and small business.

Thank you for reading, I hope this has helped you as you begin your search for a new heat press!


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