Getting into the garment decoration business can be both scary and exciting at the same time.
And if you’re getting into heat press (vs screen printing), things can also get pretty expensive fairly quick. With all the options and heat press features in the market these days, it pays to do your research.
Now over the years the simple heat press has evolved much like the automotive industry.
People wanted more stuff, so the bells and whistles grew. Sadly some new features are useless marketing tactics that really don’t do anything except get you to pay more e.g. “humanized design” – comfortable rubber grip for long-time use?! :DD
Fortunately, there were some pretty innovative stuff that came out over the past decade. But that also means you can’t ask yourself the basic questions anymore, “should I buy a 12×15 or 16×16? Automatic or manual? Is 1000 max temp enough?”
Advancement in technology and global distribution has given us more to think about. Heat presses from China or Taiwan today isn’t as it used to be – cheap clunkers with failed heating elements. Some machines from those regions today are sturdy, reliable workhorses that rival the best made American presses. And the price isn’t too bad either.
So if you’re a small business owner or a beginner on the hunt for the best heat press machine, I’ve researched and selected the features below to help you make the best decision in your quest.
Let’s get down to it.
8 heat press features to seriously consider before making your purchase
This feature provides additional space under the heat press which allows you to load the garment to easily decorate the front, back or side without having to remove it from the platen.
It’s a nifty innovation that will save time and increase productivity when you’ve got 50+ orders to fill.
Heat presses these days come equipped with both Fahrenheit and Celcius. This may seem trivial but keep in mind, if you’re getting heat transfers from another country/region, instructions may come in standards different from what you’re used to. Best to check with the heat press manufacturer first.
Great to have if you’re expecting a ton of work down the line!
This feature automates the heat transfer process by opening the lid once the timer goes off, effectively reducing fatigue (on shoulders and wrists) and the risk of over application while increasing production. The auto open feature comes loaded with gas or springs.
Made popular by Chinese manufacturers in 2010, these presses come with a handle at the platen of the machine to pull out like a drawer.
This has evolved into its own heat press category but I feel it’s a feature that’s super convenient. It also provides plenty of space to keep your hands/arm safe from the heat. Also it’s a refreshing take on the traditional swing away and clamshell.
Now know how important evenly spread-out heat is, another crucial factor is pressure.
For manual heat presses, a pressure adjustment twist knob will usually do the trick. But if you’re going to work with different transfer types from different manufacturers, getting a digital readout will no doubt save you time and energy.
Perfect for someone planning to service different clients with different requirements.
I would chalk this up in the ‘nice to have’ category, although this really depends on how diligent you are at keeping track of things.
I personally know garment operators producing 300 pieces per day who swear by this feature especially when working with a variety of transfers from different suppliers.
“Think of it like an oven. You have pre-sets for different recipes. This will not only save you time, but material as well.” says Tom of Good Stuff Screenprinting. “If not, you always have a pen and paper to fall back on.”
I hope some of these features I’ve laid out will point you in the right direction and better understand the available options.
For some starting out, a lot of these will be overkill if you’re the average hobbyists. But no one really buys a heat press machine for a hobby, so you must be thinking about a business somewhere along the way.
What’s the best heat press machine?
I believe nobody has the answer except you, so ask yourself:
What’s my budget? A heat press machine is an investment. Spend too little and you might lose more money in the long run. Spend too much and it’s harder to recoup your money.
What are you getting into? T-shirts? Hats? Mugs? Everything?
How much operating space do you have? Many will advise you to get the biggest heat press you can afford, you know, just in case. I think that’s a horrible idea. Even if you have the space for a 20×20, if you don’t need it, why bother? Check out the two types of heat press styles here
What type of clients do you want? Corporate type clients or sport clubs? Because collared t-shirts are cotton and sport jerseys are polyester, each require different applications.
What kind of transfers do you press? Vinyl? Flock? Sublimation?
Which brand of heat press should I go for? This really depends on where you are. We’re seeing a lot of Chinese made presses that are solid and cheap. As like everything else, do your due diligence.
I hope this article has shed some light into your search for the perfect heat press. In case you have questions, put them in the comments below.