This guide describes TOP-6 best heat press machines, their advantages and disadvantages. There is also a list of things to consider before making a purchase. You may also take a look at a chart featuring the most popular products to compare their features so that you can make the right choice. The guide will tell you about the most common types of these devices, highlight their pros and cons as well as will give recommendations on which one is the most appropriate depending on how you are going to use the machine.
If you are looking for this kind of machine, you may be planning to launch your own business or engage in a new hobby. Or you may want just to save on buying expensive garments and, instead, produce them yourself at a lower cost. No matter what your plans are, having that kind of device offers you great opportunities and not only in practical terms. Just imagine, you can produce customized gifts that can impress your girlfriend, please members of your family and even make new friends. Yes, why not? Isn’t it an exciting and highly appealing activity able to bring people together? Now that you see how many opportunities these devices offer, let’s look thoroughly into the matter.
What You Will Learn From This Guide:
- What is a heat press machine?
- How does it work?
- How to use
- What are the types
- What to look for when buying a product
- TOP-5 best heat press machines
What is a Heat Press Machine?
This device is intended for imprinting a design or graphic on a surface, mainly garments such as T-shirts. For this purpose, a combination of heat and pressure is used. Apart from fabrics, designs can be laid on on caps, plated, mugs, all sorts of metal, glass, wooden, and ceramic materials. With this device, you can also transfer photos on glass items, make stylish signs on wooden plates or imprint the information on metal plates.
Heat presses can be either manual or automatic or even semi-automatic. Modern models include digital technologies allowing for better control of heat and pressure. Sure, there are other ways to transfer your artwork on these surfaces, such as screen printing, but this method is much easier and advanced.
The unit works on a high speed allowing for the production of a big quantity of finished products within a short period of time. While screen printing is likely to leave rough texture on the surface when the printing involves a number of colors, heat press machines produce smooth imprints.
The main component here is a flat plate that is intended for heating and pressure. However, there are different types of these elements. The first type has the element opening like a clamshell. The second option is designed in such a way that the top plate makes it swing away from the lower part. There are models with the drawer-type element and finally, you can consider devices utilizing air pressure.
How Does a Heat Press Transfer Machine Work?
As I have already mentioned above, the plates perform the core work here. This is a metal surface that is heated in an electronic way. Actually, you have two plates and it is the top plate that heats up to the required temperature when you turn on the unit.
When applying pressure, you can manage both time and temperature to obtain the desired results. These parameters are generally set on digital displays while some models provide for using displays for setting pressure as well. Generally, it will take for the machine at most 20 minutes to do the job, however, in some cases, the printing process may require up to 15 minutes.
Temperature is another factor you need to consider when making an application. Most models can heat up to 500° F which is an upper limit since higher temperatures can damage the fabrics. In the majority of models, you need to turn a knob on the top or the back of the unit to set pressure. However, there are also high-end options allowing to do it digitally. The level of pressure can be light, medium or hard.
How to Use a Heat Transfer Machine
Before starting the process, make sure you have selected the right ink and paper which vary depending on the type of a press heating machine and the surface you use. So to transfer images on T-shirts, all the three types of inks — sublimation, pigment as well a vinyl transfer film — can be used. In order to lay your artwork on mugs and all sorts of souvenirs, you can use sublimation inks only, while printing on caps will require pigment inks.
So the printing process involves a number of steps which we are going to look at below.
Find the appropriate location. You will need a flat and stable surface to install the machine. Opt for places near power outlets as connecting extensions is not recommended. Be sure that kids and pets cannot reach it easily. At the same time, the machine should be put at a height convenient for you to work. Also, you should be able to get access to the device from 3 sides.
Environment. Since the unit will become warm during its operation, you need to ensure a proper air movement in the room. To this end, choose a room where there are more windows and place a fan close to the machine.
Setting. Preheat the device and set the pressure depending on what the instruction says and what kind of surface you are going to process. There are 3 options: low, medium, and high.
Insert the transfer paper. The paper can be inkjet, photo, sticker or magnetic.
Printing. Place the item on the bottom plate. Press and heat it during the required time period. When the timer buzzes, open the handle.
What Are The Types of Heat Press Machines
Although these devices might look more or less similar, they are divided into four categories depending on the set of functions they perform. That is why before buying a product you should get acquainted with the main types of heat press machines.
The Clamshell Type
This is the most common configuration designed for transferring images and all sorts of artwork upon various surfaces. These are not just fabrics but ceramic, glass or other items. The device got its name due to the resemblance of its opening mechanism to an oyster shell.
The design of these models has a peculiarity — a hinge in between the two plates. Such machines can be either manual or automatic and are recommended for those who do not have enough room for large-size units. Another benefit is their affordability. However, they are not good for printing on thick fabrics or bulky items.
The Swing-Away Type
In these models, the upper plate which is the heating element swings away from the lower one where the surface intended for application is laid. This provides more space on the lower plate so that you can comfortably lay the object on the lower part of the unit. The main advantage of this type lays in the variety of items you can print on. So you should opt for such models in case you want to lay your artwork upon thick items.
In addition, these machines are more functional as many accessories, such as mug press, come with the product. This will allow you to save on buying extra components and makes your work more convenient. That is why they so popular with entrepreneurs! The downside of this type is in the larger space the unit requires.
The Pull-Out Type
The models of this type are not much different from the above-mentioned machines. Their key peculiarity is the lower plate pulling towards the operator which is more convenient for placing the items as you will not have to reach under the upper part of the unit. This option is also the safest one as you do not risk burning your hands when accidentally touching the upper plate.
These devices provide with the possibility to slip the garments over the draw which means only one side of the item will be affected. This is particularly useful for those who print on both sides. Its weak point is that the surface actually moves and you should be careful in handling the device, otherwise, you risk having inaccurate printing. Apart from that, such models typically cannot be found in the low-end category.
The Sublimation Type
This is the most common type for those who are crazy about laying high-quality artwork upon T-shirts. These machines were literally made for this purpose as they guarantee that there will be no creeping of ink, something that happens to the devices of other types. One more strong point is that the unit has a large surface which makes it easier for you to print on large-size garments, such as trousers or banners.
What to Look for When Buying a Product
Now, let’s have a look at what things you need to consider before you buy one or another model so that later you will not kick yourself for not acquiring the machine that would suit your needs best.
Size. This is what you should start with. If you are an entrepreneur, purchasing a model that is capable to print on oversized garments is a must. Let’s face it, a weight problem is typical for modern societies and its solution is not looming on the horizon. So in order to build a successful business, you should take into account the needs of all categories of population. And even though you are not going to run your own business, the size still can matter to you. You may want to make gifts for your friends or University mates, and I guess you have lots of them with excess weight and it will be unfair to deprive them of the possibility to have garments with your creative design.
Useful features. The more of them you have, the more comfortable and effective the process is. So you should learn whether the model has a digital or manual timer, a digital or analog temperature gauge, adjustable pressure as well as the possibility to plug the device into a socket. Timing is particularly important as it allows preventing applying heat for a longer period than it is actually needed. Digital timers alerting you with a sound is the best option, however, keep in mind that any feature-packed device will turn out to be more expensive.
Physical parameters. Measure the space where you are going to place the unit. Be sure it will not be too close to other objects as the device will be heated during its operation. For this reason, knowing the product dimensions you need is crucial. Weight is another important parameters, depending on what surface you are going to put the unit and whether you will move it from one place to another.
Energy efficiency. The very idea of buying a heat press machine is to either let you save money on purchasing ready-made garments or to set up your business for earning money. High energy bills will certainly hit your pocket.
Warranty. No matter how well-known and trusted the brand is and great the item looks, there is always a risk that something may go wrong or break. Just because this is a device. Ask the manufacturer whether the warranty covers only parts and whether it includes services. Also, a warranty in itself is a clear indicator of the product quality as it demonstrates that the manufacturer is confident in this model.
TOP-5 Best Heat Press Machines
Below, you will find a review of products within the price range from $100 to $300. You can choose a model in accordance with the purpose of its use. If you are going to print mostly on garments and in small quantities, more portable and cheaper options would be most suitable for you. But if you are planning to set up a business, look for models offering a variety of features and coming with additional elements. The product weight matters a lot as you will want to use it quite often and here you have a choice from 5 to 50 pounds. Such features as pressure adjustability, digitally controlled temperature and time are present in most items in the review.
Standard Heat Press Machine with Basic Features | PowerPress
Well, the unit has a standard heating plate which is 15 x 15 inches in size and comes with a Teflon coating. The latter makes it easier to use the machine as well as reduces the risk of damaging the garment. But in fact, the coating was needed to protect the bottom which is made of foam rubber, not metal. This 1400-Watt device is powerful enough, with the plate heating up to 450°F.
Both temperature and time can be controlled digitally while the data is shown on an LCD display. This model offers a unique feature allowing to keep a stable temperature throughout the whole process. In addition, this product comes with a 1-year warranty providing for free replacement of the item. Another beneficial safety feature is a replaceable fuse that prevents the unit from overheating.
However, pressure can be controlled only manually, by turning the knob. Another downside is that you cannot use attachments, such as for caps and mugs, with this model. Therefore, the range of items you can print on is quite limited.
PowerPress: Check the current price
Portable Heat Press Machine | Cricut EasyPress 2
If you are a beginner and are not planning to use the device professionally, opt for this model. Looking like an iron, the item is extremely convenient, portable, lightweight and easy to transport. Weighing less than 6 pounds, it can be lifted with one hand and is simple to handle. Compared with the previous model, this one reaches lower temperatures, no more than 400°F but this would not bother you as long as you perform relatively simple tasks.
The very process is automated. When everything is over, the device emits a beeping sound and shuts off. You can also choose the perfect time and temperature depending on the material. So in order to print a holographic sparkle on cotton, you should set the temperature at 330°F and apply heat for 30 seconds. Before that, it is recommended that you preheat it for 5 seconds.
Although being lightweight is an advantage, there are two sides of the coin. Namely, it is you who calculates the pressure, which can be either gentle (with one hand) or firm (with two hands). In fact, this is about how hard you press, which is why, personally, I would prefer the pressure being determined automatically.
Cricut EasyPress 2: Check the current price
Multifunctional 8-in-1 Heat Press Machine | VEVOR
As the priciest model in the review costing about $300, it offers an array of features and is well-suited for professional use. In contrast to the item we reviewed above, this one allows you to adjust the pressure by means of a knob, depending on how thick the material is. You may also easily unscrew the bottom plate in order to install there other elements so that you can print on various types of material.
Be it caps, glass, mugs, all sorts of fabrics or mouse pads, all the necessary elements for printing come with the product. That is why paying this price, you actually save on purchasing additional items needed to make the device a full-fledged heat press machine. With this model, you get a number of presses of different dimensions that are designed for laying images on caps, mugs and other materials.
One more strong point of this product I would like to outline is the maximum temperature the plate can heat up. The fact that it can reach as much as 480°F means that you will be able to handle the most complicated projects. Apart from that, the model is particularly convenient and safe due to its swing arm which rotates 360 degrees, preventing you from contacting the heat plate.
VEVOR: Check the current price
Fancierstudio Power Heat Press Machine
For less money, you can get a much more powerful machine, although it will not come with extra components, unlike the above-described model. So if you are not going to use a broad range of materials to print upon, this option will be the best bet for you. Of course, if you can afford to pay some $200 for having your own heat press machine.
An 1800-watt item is capable to reach the temperature of up to 699 °F, with the transfer process lasting for as long as almost one thousand seconds. However, keep in mind that setting the temperature at higher than 480°F will burn the garments intended for application.
Both temperature and time are controlled electronically, while pressure is adjusted with a knob. Needless to say that this powerful machine is very popular among consumers, gaining high ratings in online stores. The only downside worth mentioning is that is designed for printing on soft materials only, limiting your possibilities.
Fancierstudio: Check the current price
Affordable Swing-Away Heat Press Machine | ePhotoInc
If you are going to spend some $100 or so on a heat press machine, take a look at this product. The item works with high temperatures, up to 450°F and is more lightweight and portable in comparison with most of the models in this review. This implies a drawback, though, in that you cannot transfer an artwork on large-size garments. And here is a tip for you: you can print larger images in sections but it will take you several times to finish.
The temperature and time control is digital, with an LCD display and a sound alarm notifying you when the time runs out. A convenient swing-away technology is used in this model, guaranteeing safety for the user. What I dislike about this product is that its warranty lasts for 2 months only, which is not sufficient for that kind of device.
ePhotoInc: Check the current price
Comparative Chart of Heat Press Machine Effectiveness
15-by-15-inch heat plate
Cricut EasyPress 2
Lightweight and portable
15-by-15-inch heat plate
15-by-15-inch heat plate
9-by-12-inch heat plate
What heat press machine should I buy?
This depends on what you are planning to do. If you want to launch your own business, the best bet for you will be the VEVOR models as it allows to work with an array of materials. But if you want the device for entertainment, choose a portable EasyPress 2 model which resembles a big iron with the difference that there are temperature and time settings.
What temperature should I set?
The temperature should not be more than 480°F for garments but generally, 375°F will be optimal. Do not forget to preheat the material for several seconds before starting the process.
Can I print on polyester?
Yes, you can. However, since this material is very sensitive to heat, you should not set temperature of more than 300°F.
How long does a heat press machine take to heat up?
Normally, it takes no more than 20 minutes, with some models being very quick to heat up.
Can I use a heat press on wood?
Of course, you can and the result will be amazing! Using heat transfer vinyl has a number of advantages compared with applying an adhesive decal on wood. It resembles a regular paint, it really sticks to the surface and it allows you to use more colors in your artwork.