Best Heat Press Machine Reviews: Heat Transfer Machines for Crafting, T-shirts and Business

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  • Heat presses are a crowded market, so we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to find the best heat press machine for your needs
  • Having a heat press is a great way to make custom t-shirts and apparel for gifts, for your business and for yourself
  • A heat press and a vinyl cutter can open up all sorts of creative possibilities for fun crafts and commercial items

Shopping for a heat press doesn’t have to be a hassle if you do your research and you know where to shop. We know the headache of looking at heat press machines that all look the same – how are you supposed to choose?

We’ve come up with a handy guide for first time heat press buyers. Whether you are looking for a press to replace your steam iron in the crafting room, or you’re looking to add a new service to your small business, we’ve got all the information you need.

Top 10 Heat Press Comparison Guide

Heat Press Model

Price Range

Press Style

Best For...

under $250

Manual Press

(multiple sizes)

Best heat press for crafting

under $325

15 x 15" clamshell

Best 15” x 15” Crafting Heat Press

under $325

9 x12" clamshell

Best heat press for beginners

under $200

15 x 15" clamshell

Best heat press under $200

under $200

15 x 15" clamshell

Runner-up heat press under $200

under $500

15 x 15" draw press

Best Draw Press under $500

under $500

clamshell

(multiple sizes)

Best heat press for small business

under $600

16 x 20" Draw Press

Best heat press for T-shirts

under $600

12 x 15" swingaway

combo press

Best combination heat press

What is a Heat Press?

A heat press is a basic appliance that uses heat and pressure to apply specialty vinyl or specialty sublimation ink to fabric, ceramics, glass or metal. The most common application is making t-shirts, but you probably have mugs, glasses, shopping totes and more around your home decorated with artwork using a heat press.

Basic heat presses allow you to set a specific temperature and time. Craft presses like the Cricut EasyPress require manual pressure while you apply your material, but commercial machines have a lever that opens and closes the press to apply consistent pressure.

Overall, heat presses are simple machines that don’t require a background in computers or software knowledge. You don’t need a computer or an internet connection to use a heat press, just a regular power source.

Different Styles of Heat Press Machines

            Clamshell: This is the most common style of lower-price heat presses. It features two platens that open at approximately 70 degrees. Most clamshell style heat presses use a lever to open and close and have a pressure adjustment knob.

Clamshell heat presses generally have a smaller footprint than swing-away design presses and can operate in a tighter space. Experienced users warn new buyers that working on the lower platen can be tricky, as the hot upper platen leaves a cramped workspace at the back of the platen (and the risk of singed knuckles). Protip: wear gloves when first using a clamshell heat press to protect your fingers!

clamshell style heat press diagram

            Swing Away: Instead of opening and closing on a hinge like the clamshell press, a swing press lifts straight up and rotates to the side. Small shirt printing business owners love this style of heat press because it allows unobstructed views and access to the workspace on the lower platen, and it reduces the danger of contact burns with the upper platen. Swing presses also allow for better results pressing thicker materials.

One drawback to the swing-away press design is that you need a wide-open workspace to accommodate the side-to-side movement of the upper platen.

swing away style heat press machine diagram

            Draw/Drawer: Draw presses are a combination of clamshell and swing presses. The upper platen opens like a clamshell, but the lower platen slides out like a drawer so you can have full access to the workspace and be out of range of the hot upper platen.

            Multifunctional Heat Presses (5 in 1, 6 in 1 or 8 in 1): Combination heatpresses come with specialized platens to press smaller or curved objects like coffee mugs, hats and plates. Typically, you will get different shapes of mug presses for different applications: tapered, straight, large, small, etc.

swing away style heat press machine diagram

Considering Quality Heat Presses vs. Knockoffs

Shopping on Amazon for heat press machines is mentally draining. If you have been reading about the huge influx of low quality products flooding the site from overseas sellers, you’ll see it in full force in the Heat Press category. 

There are machines with questionable-sounding brand names and many eyebrow-raising knockoffs of the Cricut EasyPress. You might be able to get a heat press for under $200, or a 5-in-1 press for under $300, but buyer beware.

Read reviews carefully, use product listing evaluation tools like Fakespot and make sure you know the warranty and returns policies before you buy. Look outside of Amazon for manufacturer websites; many sellers don’t have them. Many of these listings that seem too good to be true probably are.

There are two specific 15″ x 15″ heat presses that have been sold on Amazon for more than 10 years at under $200 that make our recommended list. If you are looking for a machine capable of high volume output or with more features for small business, we recommend you shop for established brands at independent retail outlets.

We’ve listed our top picks for every experience level from quality brands with good warranties and established track records.

Cricut EasyPress2: Best Heat Press for Crafting

While best known for their vinyl cutters, Cricut has also developed a home heat press just for crafters. The Easy Press 2 combines the speed and evenly distributed heat of a professional heat press with the convenience and portability of a home steam iron.

The Easy Press 2 gives home users access to professional quality pressing without the headache of having a large, stationary heat press in the home. The Easy Press 2 is essentially a portable heat platen that you press manually on a flat surface in your craft room.

cricut easypress2 best heat press for crafting

screenshot: youtube.com

This home crafting press works with most combinations of fabric and iron-on or sublimation material.  It heats to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and has an automatic shutoff feature as well as a safety base. It is lightweight and requires some physical pressure during the pressing, but most users should be able to manage it. The EasyPress 2 also features a ceramic plate coating instead of Teflon, and two separate heating elements inside the platen.

When using the EasyPress 2, users can refer to an online heat press guide to get the optimal temperature and time settings for every combination of heat transfer material and base material. Time and temperature settings are easy with the easy-to-read digital interface right on the EasyPress.

Cricut EastPress 2 Dimensions, Weight and Wattage

EasyPress 2 Size

Weight

Wattage

USD Price

(MSRP)

12" x 10"

8.6 lbs

1,350w

9" x 9"

5.73 lbs

1,150w

mini

(1.92" x 3.25") 

0.8 lbs

150w

The downside of the EasyPress 2 machines is that they are not suited to small business use. Most commercial presses are 15” x 15”, larger than the largest EasyPress. The EasyPress also requires more time to press than other clamshell presses, not just because of the manual press method and lower pressure, but also because you need to press both sides of the garment.

Finally, unlike all of the other heat presses we’ve reviewed, the Cricut EasyPress 2 does require a computer connection to register the machine and also update the firmware from time to time. It also seems that the USB cable require to do this is not included with the machine.

Overall, users are enthusiastic about the EasyPress 2 and the large number of tutorial videos and support articles available. They give it high marks for the ease of use and storability, as well as the consistently good results it produces.

What comes with the Cricut EasyPress 2?

  • Cricut EasyPress 2
  • Safety Base
  • Welcome Booklet
  • Quick Reference Chart
  • Materials for practice project

What We Like

  • Easy to use manual press
  • Portable and easy to store when not in use
  • 110 volt plug can be used in regular outlets
  • Lightweight
  • Easy time/temperature settings
  • Handy and accurate online heat settings guide
  • Comes in 4 sizes and 3 different colors
  • 1 year warranty

What We Don’t Like

  • Needs to interface with a computer for registration/updates
  • Pressing both sides of material is required

Swing Design Craft Heat Press: Best 15 x 15″ Crafting Heat Press Machine

Swing Design has its own line of clamshell heat presses in a range of fun colors. This 15” x 15” press is great for pressing t-shirts, tote bags, rhinestones, baby clothes and many other items. It has easy to use time and temperature controls and a temperature range of up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for HTV and sublimation projects.

Unlike many other lower-price craft presses, the Swing Design 15 x 15 has an oil-heated platen, rather than an electric coil element. This means more even temperatures across the platen, but also means a longer warm-up time before using.

Overall, this heat press has a lot to recommend it. It has a simple interface; it has basic safety features and a work surface big enough to do a wide range of projects from small crafts to large batches of t-shirts.  

The Swing Design 15 x 15 comes with a 1 year warranty and lifetime support should anything go wrong. It’s heavy (50 lbs.) due in large part to the steel construction. It has a standard plug for a 110v outlet, but it’s recommended (like all heat presses) that this heat press use a dedicated circuit.

What comes with the Swing Design 15 x 15″ Craft Heat Press?

  • 15″ x 15″ Silicon Removable Rubber Base Mat
  • 15″ x 15″ Teflon Protective Sheet
  • $200 gift card for the So Fontsy Design web store

What We Like

  • Easy to use heat press
  • Simple controls
  • 1 year warranty and lifetime support from Swing Design
  • 4 bright colors (pink, teal, coral, white)
  • Steel construction
  • Oil-heated platen

What We Don’t Like

  • No auto shut off feature

Hotronix Pink Craft Heat Press (9 x 12″): Best Heat Press for Beginners

The Pink Craft Heat Press is a great option for home crafters and others needing a small, reliable, light-duty heat press. It’s made by Hotronix, one of the top names in heat presses and comes with a lifetime warranty on the heating element (1 year warranty on everything else).

Overall, this small and surprisingly lightweight heat press (35 lbs) is a great addition for serious crafters making shirts, bags or doing sublimation projects. There are no interchangeable plates for this press, so you can’t switch it up to do mugs or hats, but in our opinion, that’s fine.

It has a standard 110 volt plug for household outlets, it heats up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit while drawing only 780 watts. For crafters looking for a small, lightweight and portable machine, the Pink Craft Heat Press is a great choice.

What We Like

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Lifetime warranty on heating element from Hotronix
  • Teflon coated heat platen
  • Best heat press for beginners

What We Don’t Like

  • Only one size available (9 x 12″)
  • One color (pink)

PowerPress 15 x 15″ T-shirt Press: Best Heat Press under $200

As I said earlier in this article, the heat press category on Amazon is full of products and sellers that may give you pause before buying. Items at “prices too low to be believed,” or shipped by non-US third parties; most have plenty of negative reviews lamenting poor quality, poor customer service or poor returns policy.

Many customers are tempted to spend $200 to get one of these 15 x 15 heat presses. Most will get completely adequate machines. My advice is to always take the claims of the manufacturer (and of most reviewers) with a grain of salt. We’ve researched the top selling heat presses on Amazon, and we’ve got two to recommend.

The Powerpress 15 x 15” heat press looks generic and similar to the FancierStudio press (down to the same debossed t-shirt logo on the lid), but the terms of sale are quite good.

This heat press is fulfilled by Amazon, meaning it qualifies for free returns in the event of a defect with the machine. PowerPress also offers a one-year warranty and free support. Replacement parts are available and returns for refunds are accepted within 30 days.

This heat press has a temperature range up to 455 degrees Fahrenheit with a Teflon coated upper platen and a silicone pad on the lower platen.  It has a 110 volt plug that will be compatible with household outlets, and it draws 1,400 watts – enough to warrant having it on its own breaker.

There are no interchangeable plates for this press, and the digital control is very basic and easy to understand. It comes pre-assembled so you should be able to plug it in and start pressing right away.

What We Like

  • 1 year warranty with replacement options
  • Free returns
  • Teflon coated upper platen
  • Low price

What We Don’t Like

  • Draws a lot of power (1,400 watts)
  • Some reviewers complain of a stiff opening mechanism

Runner-up: FancierStudio 15 x 15″ Power Heat Press

The Fancierstudio 15 x 15” heat press is cheap and basic, and has been sold on Amazon for at least a decade, and the Fakespot review analysis shows that genuine reviews of this product are quite good.

This press has a standard digital time and temperature setting and a range of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a standard 110v plug for household use, but it draws 1,400 watts, so you probably want it on a dedicated circuit to keep from tripping the breaker.

FancierStudio offers a 6-month warranty on this product, and their return policy mirrors Amazon’s. Returns are allowed up to 30 days after purchase, but from reading user comments, customers are required to pay return shipping, which could be quite hefty for this 47.5 lb. heat press.

What We Like

  • Low price for 15 x 15” heat press
  • Long seller history on Amazon
  • Simple interface

What We Don’t Like

  • Draws a lot of power (1,400 watts)
  • Short warranty (6 months)

Other Popular Heat Presses on Amazon

  • Category: under $200
  • Size/Style: 15 x 15” clamshell heat press
  • Shipping: 3rd party from TUSY
  • Warranty: Reviewers reference a two-year warranty, but that is not specified on the Amazon product page. No website for this company could be found to confirm this information.
  • Category: under $200
  • Size/Style: 15 x 15” clamshell heat press (a clone of the PowerPress and FancierStudio heat presses)
  • Shipping: 3rd party from ePhotoInc
  • Warranty: Not specified on the Amazon product page or on the product listing at the company’s own online store.
  • Category: under $250
  • Size/Style: 12 x 15” Swing-away/5-in-1 combination heat press
  • Shipping: 3rd party from F2C Direct
  • Warranty: Not specified on the Amazon product page. No website for this company could be found to confirm this information.

This list could go on and on. The bottom line: Amazon’s “Heat Press” category is full of offshore, third-party sellers selling similar machines. Most are not shipped by Amazon. Most do not include any warranty information.

There may be people who have purchased these presses and are genuinely happy with their results, but there are too many red flags in this category.

Heat Transfer Warehouse WalaPress 15 x 15″ Draw Press: Best Heat Press under $500

The Walapress 15 x 15” heat press can be a real workhorse for your small business or home crafting workshop. Its professional quality construction lets you work without struggling with stiff hinges, and the drawer-style design lets you have full access to the work area without taking up lots of precious workspace.

This heat press has a temperature range up to 482 degrees Fahrenheit so it’s great for heat transfer vinyl of all types as well as just about every kind of fabric you can press on. The plates are not interchangeable however, but we don’t mind.

The Walapress’s sturdy but lightweight construction (60 lbs) will handle a heavy workout but remain reasonably portable. Another thing we really like is that there is a ton of clearance at the back of the press. When the press is open, there is about 6 inches of vertical clearance under the edge of the platen. When the drawer is open, there is a huge workspace that will save your knuckles from the hot press.

source: HTW 15×15 WalaPress first look (youtube.com)

Heat Transfer Warehouse offers a 6 month warranty on this press, and a 3 month warranty on the electronics and heating element.

What We Like

  • Drawer–style design
  • Tall vertical clearance under upper platen and huge work area
  • Adjustable floating top platen provides even pressure for every material pressed
  • Auto start timer
  • Swappable heat pad

What We Don’t Like

  • 6 month warranty

Siser Digital High Pressure Press: Best Heat Press for Small Business

Siser, the maker of the top selling heat transfer vinyl, has a pro-level heat press that is just the ticket for any small business looking for consistency and quality results. Whether you are using heat transfer paper, HTV, rhinestones, sublimation ink, screen printed transfers or direct to garment prints design, the Siser digital press will provide unmatched quality results.

This professional quality clamshell press a one year warranty and weighs in at a rugged 66 lbs (30kg). There are three size options available for different needs:

  • 11″ x 15″
  • 15″ x 15″
  • 16″ x 20″

The Siser heat press has an automatic flotation feature so it provides even heat to thick materials. It has a temperature range from 205 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit, and it uses a regular 110 volt outlet, so you can use it in any setting. It even has its own built-in circuit breaker for added safety.

What We Like

  • Professional quality materials
  • Floating upper platen
  • Non-stick coating
  • Thicker platen for better heat retention
  • Over the center pressure adjustment knob for perfect pressure

What We Don’t Like

  • Would prefer longer warranty for commercial machine

Heat Transfer Warehouse Manual Draw Press: Best 16″ x 20″ Heat Press

If you are looking for an oversized heat press at a budget price tag, the WalaPress 16 x 20″ manual draw press is worth your attention. The huge platen slides out to accommodate jobs of any size, and the wide jaws allow for spacious work area without the risk of singed knuckles.

The Walapress 16 x 20” operates using a standard 110 volt cord, but it also draws 1,500 watts, so you’d be best served by using this heat press on its own circuit. It’s also heavy (75 pounds) but for a press this size, it’s still light enough to be portable to take to trade shows.

This huge press has a temperature range of up to 482 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s totally suitable for diverse media like heat transfer paper, HTV and dye sublimation projects. This is an exclusive Heat Transfer Warehouse product, and it is backed with a 6 month warranty.

What We Like

  • Easy to use interface
  • Huge 16 x 20″ platen
  • High clearance below the upper platen
  • High Maximum temperature (482℉)
  • Low price for a high quality machine

What We Don’t Like

  • 6 month warranty

8 in 1 Combo Swing Away Heat Press Machine Bundle: Best Combination Heat Press

htw 8 in 1 combo press

The 8 in 1 combo swing away press bundle from Heat Transfer Warehouse offers commercial quality for home craft prices. At its heart is a 12 x 15” swing-away heat press for t-shirts and other garments and fabric goods. Also included are everything you need to press hats, mugs and plates.

What heat platen attachments come with the HTW 8 in 1 press?

  • 5.5″ x 3″ cap platen
  • 2″ – 3″ for 5-10 oz Straight Shaped Mugs
  • 3″ – 3.5″ for 11-22 oz Straight Shaped Mugs
  • 3.5″ – 4″ for 12 oz Cone Shaped Latte Mugs
  • 3.5″ – 6″ for 17 oz Cone Shaped Latte Mugs
  • 4.5″ circular platen
  • 6″ circular platen

The HTW multi-press has many features that will make your work much easier. The pressure adjustment knob has been modified to let you optimize pressure for thick materials (up to 2 inches) easily with a smooth action that won’t twist your wrist off.

The combo press from Heat Transfer Warehouse has a temperature range up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit, and a regulation 110 volt cord so it can be used in a regular outlet.

This is a great option for small and home business, schools and maker spaces. It ships fully assembled and Heat Transfer Warehouse provides excellent online support and tutorial videos. This press is covered by a one-year warranty.

What We Like

  • Swing away design
  • Maintains consistent heat for long work periods
  • Heats up quickly
  • Smooth pressure adjustment knob and easy to open “Strong handle” reduces work fatigue
  • Can press materials up to 2” thick
  • Even heating across all elements
  • Commercial heat press performance under $600

What We Don’t Like

  • Limited temperature range (only up to 428 degrees)

Our Heat Press Buying Guide

Heat Press Temperature Controls

Most heat presses for home and small business use simple digital controls for both temperature and time range. Temperature can be set in single degree increments; time settings can also be set in one-second increments.

Every heat press will require time to pre-heat before you can use it. This can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes, so be patient!

Temperature requirements: The temperature range for heat presses can be quite variable, although it’s good to know before hand that most applications do not require super high temperatures. Some clamshell presses heat to a maximum of 400 degrees, while some advertise their products of being able to heat up to 700 or 800 degrees.

In these cases, it’s more important that the heating element be accurate and that heat is evenly distributed. The highest temperature rating is not required.

  • How hot does a heat press need to be for HTV? There is variation depending on the particular vinyl used (glitter, holographic, glow in the dark) and what kind of fabric it’s applied to (cotton, poly cotton, spandex, etc) but generally the pressing will be done at between 300 and 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • How hot does a heat press need to be for sublimation? Sublimation pressing of garments or ceramics takes place at a higher temperature than heat transfer vinyl. While temperature and time will vary depending on the types of materials you are using (always press according to manufacturer instructions), it is typically in the 375 to 400 degree F range.

A handy tool to have with any heat press is an infrared thermometer (laser thermometer) so you can take temperature readings at different spots on the platen to ensure you are getting even heat.

What is a Platen?

When I was first researching heat presses, I learned a new word: platen. It refers to the upper or lower plates that press against the fabric or other blank material in the heat press. Why aren’t they just called plates? Good question!

Platen is a term used since the advent of the printing press in Europe to refer to these flat plates, enduring until modern times. Fun fact, the roller of a typewriter is also called a platen. Now get off my lawn you dang kids!

Automatic Platen Release features

One great feature you might consider paying more for on a heat press is an automatic opener. Higher end models have a self-release feature that opens the press after the timer ends. This really helps when you are multi-tasking, as you don’t have to constantly keep your eyes on the press because it will pop open and not scorch your project.

Cleaning and Maintaining your Heat Press

It’s inevitable that you’ll make a mistake or have a slip up when you are using a heat press. It happens to even the most experienced operators. You can get melted adhesive on your platens, or inks or other residue, and if left, it can bake into the plate or interfere with your next job.

Because many heat platens these days have a Teflon or similar coating, it’s not recommended you use an implement that can scratch the finish. Instead, turn off the machine, and use a damp cloth and mild cleaner to wipe the mess off the platen. Cleaning a still-warm platen will be easier than one that’s cooled completely, so it’s handy to keep some cleaning solution nearby.

Heat Press Warranty and Returns

Always check the warranty and returns policy of any heat press before you buy. Many lower cost heat presses offered through third-party sellers on Amazon offer short warranties (6 months or less) and very short return windows (30 days). 

Third party Amazon sellers generally will not cover the cost of return shipping, which can be very expensive considering the weight of these items. Some third party sellers may also charge restocking fees, making the return of a cheap, broken machine cost prohibitive.

The good news is that there are many independent retailers with warranties and support for their products than can put your mind at ease. One great thing about most heat presses is that replacement parts are not hard to find and repairing them yourself is supported by most manufacturers.

Conclusion

At its most basic, a heat press is a very simple machine that combines temperature and pressure to adhere materials together. Despite it’s straightforward nature, there can be variables that affect your projects, like uneven temperature, uneven pressure or uncooperative mechanical components. It’s tempting to look at the sea of similar looking machines and opt for the cheapest, easiest solution, but as the old adage goes, paying for quality counts.

If you get a cheap press from a dubious seller, you might get lucky and get a perfectly normal machine; you might also get a lemon that wastes your time and your money. In the long run, buying a heat press from a reputable seller with good warranty protection and service plans will pay for itself in saved time, consistent results and happy customers.

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