Hello everyone, I am Kenny and I have been using heat press machines to print t-shirts. On this site, you will find all the information you need on getting either used, cheap or good quality heat press machines.
This is the current heat press machine I am using at home. It is called the MAXX Clam heat press. It works really well. But before we go into the details, lets talk about what you need to look out for when looking to buy a heat press machine.
What is a Heat Press Machine?
A heat press machine is an equipment used to print a design(usually on a special release paper) onto a garment(t-shirts, tote bags, hoodies etc.) via heat transfer with a preset period of time. A standard heat press machine can heat up to as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Find and Choose the Right Heat Press Machine For Your T-Shirt Business
There are primarily 3 types of heat press machines. Each of them are able to print t-shirts but they do have some differences.
1) Clamshell Heat Press
The clamshell is the most beginner friendly machine type. They open and close like an alligator’s mouth. Here are the some of the pros and cons of the machine.
- Easy to use and very beginner friendly
- Takes the least amount of steps to operate it and time efficient
- All layout work when printing t-shirts can be done under the heat source
- Takes up less space as the top rises at a vertical angle
- Easily portable to events for live t-shirt printing demo
- Ideal for printing t-shirt in volumes due as less time is needed(50+)
- The automatic version lightens your work load without you having to open it after each print
- Not as suitable for thicker garments such as hoodies
- You can hurt yourself easily if you are not paying attention to the top platen when its heated up
- Less precision than the swinger and draw heat press
- Limited view on the layout area
- Sometimes you get uneven pressure when trying to print on the garment due to the way pressure is applied when pressing it down
- Requires some force to apply good pressure
2) Swinger(Swing-Away) Heat Press
The swinger machine allows the upper platen to be swing away either clockwise or counter clockwise from the lower platen.
- Greater precision than the clamshell
- Easier to setup your garment for printing
- Even pressure on the entire garment
- Gets a complete view on the layout area
- Safer than the clamshell since you are not working directly under the heat
- Great for experienced users
- Requires more steps to print your garment
- Takes up more space
- Harder to use, especially for beginners
- Less time efficient in exchange for precision
3) Draw Heat Press
The draw heat press allows you to pull out the lower platen.
- A complete view of your layout area for the garment
- Excellent precision when it comes to printing
- Very safe to operate
- Easily portable for events compared to the swinger heat press
- Efficient and well suited for high volume printing
- Heat free surface on the lower platen
- Requires more space than the clamshell
- Quite troublesome sometimes if you are printing thicker garments like hoodies and sweat shirts
Which Heat Press Machine Do You Recommend I Buy?
Good question. If you know exactly what you want to print as mentioned above, here are my 3 recommendations for you. As much as I love my Maxx Clam, I suggest you go with the cheaper alternatives to reduce your t-shirt business startup costs.
|Type||Clamshell||Clamshell||Swinger + Draw|
|Features||- Electronic time and Heat control|
- Silicon gel base board Pressure adjustable
- Coated non-stick heat platen
|- Digital timer|
- Adjustable temperature
- Adjustable pressure knob
- Non-stick coated heat platen
- 1 year warranty
|- Flexible rotation and draw
- Touch Screen Technology
- Heat free workspace
- Auto on/off settings
- Preset individual timings
- Aluminum alloy frame
- 4 hour sleep mode
- Lifetime warranty for heating element
|Size Available||15x15||15x15, 16x20||16x20|
|Item Weight||53 Pounds||64 Pounds||140 Pounds|
|Comments||1) Very easy to use|
2) Digital timer allows easy configuration
3) Very light and great to bring to trade shows
4) Budget friendly
5) #1 Best Seller on Amazon
|1) Budget friendly|
2) Great for people that want to get their feed wet in the t-shirt business
3) Very easily portable to events due to being very light
4) Not as durable as the MAXX Clam heat press
|1) High quality heat press for users that need precision on their t-shirt printing
2) Offers both swing-away and draw
3) Most suitable for numbers and letters
4) Takes up more space than the clam shell heat press
|Price||~$240 brand new||~$250 brand new||~$1950 brand new|
|Amazon||Check Amazon Price||Check Amazon Price||Check Amazon Price|
Wait a second! These are too expensive for me! What should I do???
There is another option if you cannot afford them. I have written a detailed article on where to find heat presses as cheap as $100USD.
Which Heat Press Machine Should I Choose?
This will depend on what you are trying to do.
If you are looking to print t-shirts in volumes for churchs, special event shirts or custom jobs for people, I recommend the clamshell(auto) heat press. It is time efficient and the garment layout does not require as much attention to detail.
If you are printing t-shirts with rhinestones, numbers and letters, I recommend the swinger or draw heat press. These types of jobs require precision and you need a complete view of the layout area and both those heat press machines provide that.
If you are doing sublimation printing, then I also recommend the draw heat press. These require top notch precision and accuracy with the printing and you need to spend more time making sure the t-shirt turns out right.
If you are doing direct to garment(DTG) printing, I suggest the auto clamshell. These are often done in volume and you need a time efficient machine to do these.
If you are on a budget, then I suggest the manual clamshell. It is the cheapest and it allows you to get started in t-shirt printing.
Things to Consider Before Making a Purchase
Here are some things you need to think about before buying a heat press machine.
1) What is my budget?
This is often the biggest factor with most beginners. Soon-to-be new heat press owners ponder about this all the time. My answer is that you should only spend within your limits. If your budget is $500, go for the Gecko heat press machine I recommended.
Now you often pay for what you get. A high quality heat press machine that is durable is going to cost a lot more. Almost all heat press machines offer lifetime warranty for the heat platen since they are extremely durable and has no issues.
When you compare two presses of the same size, just look at the weight. If one is 130 pounds and the other is 160 pounds, what does that say about the material used? A durable high quality machine will always be heavier since it has better materials in it. A heat press machine needs to within stand the constant movements and clamping. A light heat press will not be able to handle that well in the long run.
3) Support from the Company
Is the company reliable when it comes to helping the customer. Are they quick at resolving issues? Which presses are easily maintained on site and do not need to be returned? A heat press with no support means you won’t be able to do anything if it breaks down.
4) The Heat Platen
One of the factors when looking at how well the heat platen distributes heat evenly. You can only do this if you are looking at a demo or you are buying a used one from someone else. Make sure you test it by turning it on and hover your hand close to the platen to feel the heat.
5) Digital Timer
You do not want to buy a heat press with no digital timer. You don’t want to run the risk of burning your t-shirts or tote bags.
6) Adjustable Force and Pressure Knobs
If you are looking at clamshell heat presses, make sure the adjustable pressure knob can help you control how much force you apply on the garment. Some machines(especially used ones) have poor pressure knobs and if you are constantly using too much force, it can hurt your back. Apply too little force and your design won’t stick on the garment.
Force is subjective as it varies from a 100 pound person to a 250 pound person. The knob needs to be flexible enough to be able to accommodate the 2 spectrum.
7) Temperature and Time
For a standard heat transfer, the temperature requirements are about 350 degrees Fahrenheit and usually 10 seconds is enough to print a garment. It will vary if you are doing thick garments such as hoodies and sweat shirts.
8) Size: 15 x 15 vs 16 x 20
I personally prefer the 16 x 20 as it is bigger and you have more space to work with. But if you are on a budget, go with the 15 x 15. It won’t be as comfortable or easy printing larger garments(XL t-shirts and hoodies), but it also depends on your business. If you are catering to kid’s t-shirts, you won’t need a 16 x 20 machine.