Heat Press Machines for Creative DIY Ideas
Perhaps you’re a hobbyist, or someone looking to start a small business by making personalized T-shirts, caps, and mugs. A heat press machine is specialized for producing these personalized items. It’s a bit of an investment at first since you’ll also need a sublimation printer, which prints heat-sensitive images on paper that you can press onto these items. And your choice of a machine will depend on the volume of how many T-shirts and things you want to produce.
You may be thinking: how will I have enough space for a heat press machine? Many of them measure 15” x 15”--which can easily fit on a desktop, and yet they still can give professional results. And there are also smaller, portable machines for hobbyists, that are not much harder to use than a typical laundry iron. And, if you want to make more than just personalized T-shirts, there are special attachments for other specialty items.
We’ll go through some of the options and features so that you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which type of heat press machine to buy.
Types of Heat Press Machines
Clamshell: In this type of device, you place the T-shirt or other object upon which you wish to apply the image between two metal plates called “platens”. The heating element is located in the top platen. You place the print on top of the T-shirt and clamp down on it with the top platen, much like a clam closing it. The heat causes the ink in the pattern to go directly from solid ink to the gaseous state while fusing it with the fabric or other material. An example is the PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press Machine.
PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press Machine
Swingaway: In this design, the upper platen can rotate, and you swing it into place over the item that you’re printing. This design allows you to apply pressure evenly over the whole surface. It’s a better, more accurate alternative if you print on thick fabric, like a sweatshirt. An example is the Vevor 15” x 15” Heat Press.
Vevor 15” x 15” Heat Press
Portable: There are also portable models, which work very much like an iron. An example is the Cricut Easy Press 2, which comes in three sizes, depending on the range of prints you plan to make. It’s superior to just ironing on a pattern with a clothes iron, because the Cricut EasyPress 2 has a uniform heat over the entire face of the platen. (Laundry irons are hotter in some places than in others, and may lead to uneven results.)
Cricut Easy Press 2
What reviewers say
Applying pressure: People who used the popular PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press said that it took a while to master how to apply pressure. The handle is supposed to “pop” into place and keep the pressure applied, without you having to hold it in place. People noticed that a vinyl print will not stick if you don’t apply the right amount of pressure.
Place a Teflon sheet when ironing: In order to ensure that the design doesn’t get applied to both the front and the back of the T-shirt, it’s recommended that you place a Teflon sheet between the shirt and the silicone platen underneath, to keep the print from sticking.
Types of media that you can print: Besides a print made from sublimation ink, that you prepare by means of a dye sublimation printer, heat press machines can also print decals made from heat transfer vinyl (HTV). Other media include inkjet transfer paper and laser transfer paper images, and plastisol (plastic extrusion) transfers.
Selecting the time and temperature: There are heat presses with a digital display, letting you dial in the preferred time to apply the heat and the desired temperature. There are heat presses with overheat protection, in order to avoid accidents such as fire.
What size to select: Select the size of heat press by the types of jobs that you want to perform. For example, the Cricut 6” x 7” heat press will be good for small items, such as baby wear, hats, and ties. Their 9” x 9” heat press will be sufficient for T-shirts, jackets, and tote bags. And their 12” x 10” model will be ideal for blankets, banners, and large bags.
- The PowerPress Industrial Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press is a clamshell-style press specially designed for preparing T-shirts. It gives you a 15” x 15” surface with which to work. You type in the working temperature, up to 455 degrees Fahrenheit and the required heating time, and it does all the work.
PowerPress Industrial Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press
- The F2C Pro 5-in-1 is a swing-away heat press machine for T-shirts, which has special attachments for hats, mugs, plates, and caps as well. It has a 12” x 15” nonstick surface as your workspace. Each project attachment simply slides out, allowing you to change from among the five options with ease.
F2C Pro 5-in-1 Swing-Away Heat Press Machine
- The Cricut EasyPress 2 is a compact heat press machine for ironing sublimation prints onto T-shirts and on vinyl items such as tote bags or aprons. It comes in three sets of dimensions: 6” x 7”, 9” x 9”, and 12” x 10”. You turn it on, wait for it to reach the desired temperature--usually no more than three minutes--and iron the print onto the item you selected. It’s superior to a typical laundry iron because the Cricut Easy Press is specially designed to be uniformly hot on the entire surface.
Cricut EasyPress 2
- The Vevor 15” x 15” Heat Press is a swing-away 8-in-1 heat-press, allowing you to transfer sublimation prints onto items such as T-shirts, hats, mugs, caps, and plates. It has a platen press for T-shirts, with additional attachments for hats, mugs, and plates.
Vevor 15” x 15” Heat Press
- The Tusy 15" x 15" Sublimation Printer Heat Press can be used to personalize T-shirts, pillow cases, bags, mouse pads, and more. It can transfer images to cotton, heat-transfer vinyl, and more. It has an LCD display to show you the temperature and time. You can set the temperature up to 482 F. There is a knob to adjust the pressure you apply, which will vary depending on the thickness of the material. It has an automatic shutoff if the machine gets too hot.
Tusy 15" x 15" Sublimation Printer Heat Press