Today’s post is based off a question I received from a Cutting for Business reader, who asked if she needed to buy a heat press to sell t-shirts and infant apparel made with heat transfer vinyl and her Silhouette Cameo. She’s currently using an iron successfully.
Short answer: Yes, a heat press is the standard when creating items made with heat transfer vinyl. I’d advise against selling items using heat transfer vinyl that was applied with an iron.
Long answer: Using a heat press when creating items with heat transfer vinyl is the standard if you are planning to sell them. Each brand of heat transfer vinyl is designed to be applied at an exact temperature and pressure, then peeled either hot or cold. Unfortunately, when you use an iron (even top of the line irons), you can’t guarantee the temperature you are using, and you cannot replicate the even pressure that a heat press provides. Using an iron with heat transfer vinyl is fine for personal use items and possibly gifts. However, customers expect merchandise to last and designs to not fall off after a few uses. It is better to offer a quality product that follows manufacturer’s application guidelines rather than open your business to poor reviews, unhappy customers, or customers needing items remade or refunded.
What Kinds of Heat Presses are Available?
Heat presses fall into three different categories:
- Clam Shell – These heat presses have a hot top platen that you pull straight down to press your items. Clam shell presses are often cheapest to buy and are readily available.
- Swing Arm – The top platen on swing arm presses lifts up and down and swings to one side. Swing arms presses give you more space to work, but take up a larger footprint in your workspace.
- Pull Out Drawer – The bottom portion of this heat press pulls out like a drawer giving you more workspace. Pull out drawer style heat presses are often more expensive.
Now, Which Heat Press to Buy?
I recommend getting the largest heat press that you can afford. This will ensure that you don’t ‘grow out’ of yours shortly after getting it.
I started with a 15″ by 15″ Chinese made heat press from Amazon. It was great for about a year and a half. Then, when I was using it one day, it started smoking and the wires in the electronic portion melted together (super scary!) It went to the dumpster and I picked up a 16″ by 20″ black series from Heat Press Nation. I love it, but it is heavy and hard to transport. For those days when I take my press to a friend’s house, I also have a 9″ by 12″ crafters press – and, it’s pink!
My 16″ by 20″ Heat Press
My 9″ by 12″ Heat Press
The 15″ by 15″ Heat Press I Almost Bought
If I hadn’t bought the 16″ by 20″ model above, I would have bought this one. I got to use it in person at a conference, and loved the slide out platen.
Heat Press Accessories
In addition to a heat press, you’ll also need a teflon sheet. An accessory that I personally can’t live without is pressing pillows! They help level the area you are pressing, especially when pressing along collars, seams, buttons, or zippers.
Remember, a heat press is an investment in your business. You’ll be able to deduct the cost of the machine and accessories, so be sure you enter these expenses into your Craftybase accounting program. Once you start selling items made with heat press vinyl, be sure to include care instructions with all orders. If you don’t have your own, I have a set you can download and use in your business.
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