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

Product Name

Price Range

Press Style

Best for...

under $200

manual press (multiple sizes)

Best heat press for crafting

under $325

15 x 15" clamshell

Best 15” x 15” Crafting Heat Press Machine

under $325

9 x 12" 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 $200

9 x 12" swing-away

Best swing-away press under $200

under $500

15 x 15" draw press

Best heat press under $500

under $500

clamshell 

(multiple sizes)

Best heat press for small business

under $400

15 x 15" clamshell

Best heat press for T-shirts

under $800

15 x 15" combination

swing-away

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.

draw or drawer style heat press diagram

Quality Heat Presses vs. Knockoffs

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

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

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

6" x 7" 

3.3 lbs

1150 watts

9" x 9"  

5.73 lbs 

1150 watts

12" x 10" 

8.6 lbs  

1350 watts

mini

(1.92" x 3.25") 

0.8 lbs

150 watts

cricut easypress2 best heat press for crafting

screenshot: youtube.com

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

Three options to buy the
Cricut EasyPress2:

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

Shop Swing Design for the
15" x 15" Craft Heat Press:

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)

Two options to buy the
Hotronix Pink Craft Heat Press:

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 raise many red flags. Items at “prices too low to be believed,” or are shipped by non-US third parties, and most have plenty of negative reviews lamenting poor quality, poor customer service or poor returns policy.

Many customers are tempted into spending $200 to get one of these 15 x 15 heat presses. Most will get serviceable 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

Two options to buy the
PowerPress 15" x 15" Heat Press:

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)

Shop Amazon for the
FancierStudio15" x 15" Heat Press:

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 $300
  • Size/Style: 12 x 15” Swing-away/5-in-1 combination heat press
  • Shipping: 3rd party from Seeutek
  • Warranty: Not specified on the Amazon product page. No website for this company could be found to confirm this information.
  • 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 clones of the same 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.

MPress 9 x 12" High Pressure Heat Press: Best Swing-Away under $200

If clamshell heat presses aren’t for you, you should really have a look at the MPress Swing Away 9 x 12” heat press. This small but powerful press gives professional looking results for a low pricetag. 

First off, this heat press is sold by Heat Press Nation, who are known for their quality products, support and warranties. This heat press has a 1-year parts and service warranty from HPN, and replacement parts are available for sale even after the warranty period has ended.

The MPress 9 x 12 has a temperature rating up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit plus a digital time controller. It has a 110 volt plug and draws only 900 watts of power, so it should be a good fit in a normal household or small business.

The “strong handle” is easy to open and close and there’s a manually adjustable pressure knob to ensure your results are just the way you want them. There isn’t much of a downside to this small but mighty heat press!

What We Like

  • Swing away heat press
  • Low price
  • 1 year warranty and replacement parts available
  • Easy open handle

What We Don't Like

  • Temperature range is lower than other heat presses (400 degrees)

Shop Heat Press Nation for the
MPress 9 x 12" Heat Press:

Heat Press Nation CraftPro 15 x 15" High Pressure Crafting Transfer Machine: Best Heat Press under $500

The CraftPro 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 400 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 CraftPro sturdy construction (80 lbs) will handle the most arduous workload. As one reviewer gushed in July 2020:

“Had the press a couple weeks and my daughter just loves it. She was having to iron on the vinyl transfers in the past and it was very time consuming.

Just this last Saturday, she was able to do 40 shirts in under 2 hours, which would have took forever in the past. She has the times and heat down for the vinyl she uses and the press makes it a breeze. She especially loves the pullout bottom platen.”

Heat Press Nation offers a 1-year warranty and lifetime technical support on the CraftPro 15 x 15” heat press. There is also an option for 2, 3 and 4 year extended warranties to give you piece of mind for the long term.

What We Like

  • Drawer- style design
  • Excellent craftsmanship and components
  • Floating top platen to even pressure for every material pressed
  • Auto start timer

What We Don't Like

  • Not a thing, really!

Shop Heat Press Nation for the
CraftPro 15 x 15" Heat Press:

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 it’s 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

Three options to buy the
Siser Digital High Pressure Heat Press:

Heat Press Nation MPress 15 x 15" High Pressure Heat Press: Best Heat Press for T-shirts

This is a no-nonsense entry level heat press that can perform with “supreme durability”.  It has very robust construction, a non-stick heat plate and an easy to operate “strong close” handle that’s easy to open and close to let you operate for long periods without fatigue.

The MPress 15 x 15” operates using a standard 110 volt cord, but it also draws 1,400 watts, so you’d be best served by using this heat press on its own circuit.

It has a temperature range of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s totally suitable for diverse media like heat transfer paper, HTV and rhinestone transfers. This is an exclusive Heat Transfer Nation product, so you can rest easy knowing it’s backed by HTN’s 1 year warranty and lifetime technical support. 

What We Like

  • Easy to use interface
  • Easy to open handle
  • Rugged construction
  • Low price for a high quality machine
  • 1 year warranty and technical support

What We Don't Like

  • Clamshell opens to only about 50 degrees

Shop Heat Press Nation for the
MPress 15 x 15" High Pressure Heat Press:

HPN Black Series 8-in-1 15 x 15" Multifunctional Sublimation Heat Press: Best Combination Heat Press

The Black Series by Heat Press Nation offers commercial quality for home craft prices. At its heart is a 15 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 HPN Black Series 8 in 1 press?

  • Cap/Hat
  • 5" & 6” Ceramic Plate Presses
  • Standard 11 oz. Mug Press
  • Espresso Mug/Cup
  • Medium Tapered Mug/Cup
  • Large Tapered Mug/Cup

The Black Series 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.

Safety-wise, this combo press has a dual fuse design, so if one fuse trips, you can be operational again in seconds.  The automatic timer also has an early warning feature, beeping 3 seconds before the finish time to give advance warning to prevent overheating and scorching. It has a temperature range up to 400 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 Press Nation provides excellent online support and tutorial videos. This press is covered by a one-year warranty with option to extend up to 4 years.

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
  • Dual circuit breaker safety feature
  • Commercial heat press performance under $800

What We Don't Like

  • Can’t change main lower platen
  • Limited temperature range (only up to 400 degrees)

Shop Heat Press Nation for the
Black Series 8-in-1 Multifunction Heat Press:

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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