What Is A Heat Press?

What Is A Heat Press?

Are you looking to purchase a printing heat press? If so, it’s important that you know what to look for before making your purchase. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about printing heat presses so that you can make the best decision for your business. We’ll discuss the different types of heat press machines available and their features and benefits. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the best heat press machine for you.

What Is A Heat Press?

A heat press is a machine that is used to transfer images or designs onto a substrate, usually fabric, by the use of heat and pressure. Heat presses are commonly used in businesses that deal with garment printing, such as t-shirt companies, but they can also be used for other applications, such as mugs, plates, and more.

The secret to a successful transfer with a heat press machine lies in the ideal combination of time, temperature, and pressure. If you’re not familiar with how it works, here’s a quick rundown: You take a blank shirt and lay the transfer design on top of it. Then, you close the heat press so that the ink, adhesive, or vinyl can melt slightly into the fabric of the shirt using controlled levels of heat and pressure.

Most times, people choose to use a pressing iron because it’s more affordable and smaller. However, heat transfer machines will give you much more consistent results because it evenly distributes the heat and pressure. This is especially important if you’re running a business because you need to be able to produce high-quality products that your customers will love.

 Types Of Heat Presses

An individual folding some clothes

There are 3 main types of heat presses. Below, we discuss all of them:


As the name implies, these types of heat presses come with top and bottom plates that look like a clamshell or jaws. They’re not only cheaper but also sturdier and don’t take up as much space.

Swing Away Heat Press

The main similarity between these types of presses and clamshell-type presses is that the top heating plate providing heat is movable. However, a key difference is that on these swing-away presses, the top plate can rotate 360 degrees and be moved completely out of the way. Although they are safer, they sacrifice some sturdiness and require more clearance room.


Draw-style heat presses have a movable bottom plate, in contrast to the previous two types with a movable top plate. This bottom plate can be extended out like a drawer. Users of this type of heat press must be cautious when making the transfer so that the bottom plate doesn’t move.

If you’re looking to print t-shirts, we believe that clamshell models are one of the best heat press machines available. They’re time efficient and typically sturdier than other types of printers. You also usually don’t need to pay as much attention to detail when it comes to garment layout.

Asides from the ones mentioned above, we also have manual and automatic heat presses. Small businesses that don’t plan on mass-producing items should get a manual press. Automatic presses are best for businesses that require high output. Not to mention, they help to reduce wear and tear on the operator.

What To Consider When Choosing A Heat Press

A model posing for a shoot

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking for the perfect heat press for your business:

1. Volume

The number of garments you plan on printing every day will dictate which heat press is best for you. Are you in need of a machine that can quickly print 100 t-shirts within one hour? Or are you only interested in using it sporadically to print a handful of shirts for your child’s soccer team? The more long-lasting, commercial-grade machines will be able to produce greater numbers quicker.

2. Size

The size of the heat press will also be dictated by how many garments you plan on printing. If you’re only going to be printing t-shirts, you won’t need a very large machine. However, if you’re planning on using it for other applications like mugs or plates, you’ll need to make sure that the machine can accommodate those items.

3. Type

As we discussed earlier, there are three main types of heat presses: clamshell, swing away, and draw. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Consider which type would be best suited for your needs before making a purchase.

4. Budget

Of course, budget is always a factor when choosing any kind of machine. Heat presses can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. It’s important to find a machine that fits your needs without breaking the bank.

5. Features

Different heat presses come with different features. Some common features to look for include an adjustable pressure knob, a digital temperature and time display, and a removable silicon or Teflon sheet. Consider which features are most important to you before making your purchase.

What Types Of Things Can A Heat Press Be Used For?

Clothing items up for display

There are various methods by which a heat press can be used. Below, we discuss some of the most popular applications for heat presses.

Screen-printed transfers

This is a process in which you take your design, print it onto a special piece of paper, and then use a heat press to transfer the design onto the garment. This is a popular method for printing t-shirts because it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment.

Cure Plastisol Inks

Plastisol ink is a thick, gooey substance that needs to be heated in order for it to turn into a solid. This is why a garment must go through a heat press in order for the ink to adhere properly to the fabric. The duration and temperature will depend on the garment material as well as the type of ink being used.

Vinyl Transfers

Another way to embellish garments without having to do any printing yourself is by using heat transfer vinyl. As with screen-printed transfers, all you need is a design, a vinyl cutter, and of course, a heat press. You simply cut out your design from a sheet of vinyl, weed away the excess, and then apply it to the garment with a heat press.


Sublimation is a printing process that uses heat-sensitive inks. The inks are first printed onto a sheet of transfer paper and then transferred to the desired substrate using a heat press. This printing method is often used for polyester garments as well as ceramic mugs and plates.


Appliqués are simply fabric patches that are applied to garments – they can be either sewn on or glued on. If you’re going to be using glue, you’ll need to use a heat press in order to properly adhere the appliqué to the garment.

Direct-to-garment printing

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a process in which ink is printed directly onto different materials. This printing method has become increasingly popular over the past few years, and as a result, there are now many DTG-specific heat presses on the market.

How Do You Use A Heat Press?

A model posing for a shoot

Below, we walk you through the basic steps of using a heat press.

Set Your Heat Press Settings

The first and most crucial step after your press is plugged in, turned on, and ready to go, is to set the heat press to the perfect settings according to the specific transfer type you will be using. Every single heat press transfer has its own special application instructions that must be followed correctly so the transfer applies without any issues

If you don’t follow the recommended pressure, time, and temperature settings, your design may look like it transferred correctly at first. However, it won’t hold up against a lot of washing and will probably fade quickly. Follow the instructions included with your particular transfer or vinyl material to get optimum results.

After you find the right settings, jot them down on a small piece of paper and attach them to the press or keep it in a place where you’ll remember. By doing this, when you’re ready to heat press again, you won’t have to go looking for the instructions.

Arrange Your Shirt On The Heat Press

Now that the press is warmed up and ready to go, it’s time to place your shirt onto the lower platen. Ensure the area you are heat pressing is clean and free of lint or debris. If it’s not, your transfer may not adhere as well or could even be ruined.

Next, position the shirt so that it is centered on the lower platen. If you are heat pressing a design that is larger than the platen, you will need to position the shirt so that the design falls within the parameters of the platen.

If you are heat-pressing multiple shirts, be sure to leave enough room between each one so that you can easily access them when it’s time to remove them from the press.

Apply Your Transfer To The Shirt

Now it’s time to apply your transfer! If you are using a pre-made transfer, simply peel off the backing and place the design onto your shirt. If you are making your own transfer, refer to our guide on how to make heat press transfers.

Once your transfer is in place, it’s time to put the upper platen in place. Make sure the shirt is still centered, and then close the press.

Apply Pressure And Heat

Now that the press is closed, it’s time to apply pressure and heat. The amount of pressure you need to apply will depend on the type of transfer you are using. For most transfers, you will want to apply moderate pressure.

As far as heat goes, again, refer to the instructions that came with your specific transfer. Each transfer has its own ideal temperature range. Set your press accordingly, and then let it do its thing!

Remove Your Shirt From The Heat Press

Once the timer goes off, it’s time to remove your shirt from the heat press. Carefully open the press and remove the shirt. If you are using a hot peel transfer, you can peel off the transfer immediately. If you are using a cold peel transfer, wait for the design to cool completely before removing the transfer.


If everything went according to plan, you should now have a beautifully pressed garment! If not, don’t worry. Heat press mistakes happen to everyone. Just remember to always refer to the instructions that came with your transfer material and heat press before each use. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time!


You May Also Like

Custom Hoodies: 100’s of Options To Design, Wear, and Share

Custom Hoodies: 100’s of Options To Design, Wear, and Share

Custom hoodies have evolved beyond the realm of college and team merchandise to become a staple of personalized streetwear. Whether you're a brand looking to offer unique merchandise or an individual wanting to make a statement or memory tangible, the custom hoodie...

Looking For DTF Printing In The DMV?

Looking For DTF Printing In The DMV?

Are you looking for DTF printing in the DMV? The ink has barely dried on the printing industry's latest innovation, and already it's been a game-changer, with many of the DMV's printing businesses reaping its rewards. Direct to Film (DTF) printing has stormed into...