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The Beginner’s Guide to Heat Presses

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Hey crafter! Doing some research on heat presses? Let’s talk today about everything you need to know to get started with a heat press in your Silhouette, Cricut, or sublimation small business.

Before we get started, this article isn’t a list of the best heat press machines and me telling you to go buy them all. Instead, it’s helpful information about all the different types of heat presses available – and my recommend supplier.

Beginner's Guide to Heat Presses -

What is a Heat Press?

A heat press is a tool used in crafting to apply heat transfer materials to blank products like shirts, bags, and hats.

What are Heat Transfer Materials?

Heat transfer materials are those that are applied to blanks using a heat press. They can be: heat transfer vinyl (HTV), printed designs on heat transfer paper, printed sublimation transfers, screenprint transfers, embroidered patches, rhinestones, infusible inks, and more.

How Does a Heat Press Work?

A heat press uses heat and pressure to either adhere materials to your blank product (heat transfer vinyl or transfers) or transfers specialty ink to your blank product (sublimation).

Do You Really Need a Heat Press?

If you are planning on selling products using heat transfer materials, you’ll need a heat press.

Different heat press materials are designed to be applied at an exact temperature and pressure. 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.

Customers expect merchandise to last and designs to not fall off after a few uses. It is always 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 Types of Heat Presses Are Available?

Flat Heat Press

These are the most common heat presses. They feature a large, flat space to place your blank product. After placing your material on top of your blank product, you close the heat press and the material or ink adheres to your blank product.

Flat heat presses come in a few different styles:

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.

Clamshell heat press on white background.
This is an example of a clamshell heat press.

Swing Away

The top platen on a swing away press lifts up and swings to one side. Swing away presses give you more space to work (and you are less likely to bump your arms on the hot platen), but take up a larger footprint in your workspace. Also, they are perfect for pressing thicker materials – like wood frames.

Swing away heat press on white background.
This is an example of a swing away heat press.

Slide Out Drawer

The bottom platen of this heat press pulls out like a drawer giving you more workspace. I have an ultra clumsy friend who swears by her slide out drawer heat press so she doesn’t accidentally bump the heating element.

Slide out drawer heat press on white background.
This is an example of a slide out drawer heat press.

Mug Press

Mug Presses are heat presses used to transfer designs to cups, mugs, and tumblers.

Mug press on white background.
This is an example of a Mug Press.

Cap Press

Cap presses are heat presses that are used to apply heat transfer materials to baseball caps.

Cap press on white background.
This is an example of a cap press.

Multi Function Presses

Multi function or all-in-one heat presses have various plate attachments to make the machine more versatile.

Multi function press on white background.
This is an example of a multi function or all-in-one heat press.

Heat Press Accessories

In addition to a heat press, you’ll need some accessories:

  • Teflon Sheets: These nonstick sheets help protect your design from getting stuck to the platen.
  • Pressing Pillows: These help level an area you are pressing, especially when pressing along collars, seams, buttons, or zippers.

Where Should You Buy a Heat Press?

I’ve worked with a few different heat press companies since 2015 when I started this blog, Cutting for Business. Hands down, I recommend Heat Press Nation. (And no, I’m not being paid to say that.)

Why Do I Recommend Heat Press Nation?

  • They know their stuff. Heat presses is what they do! The whole business of Heat Press Nation is… well, heat presses! They know how they work, they know what doesn’t work, and they know the different features of each model.
  • I’ve met many of them in person. They aren’t just an internet company I’ve found and partnered with. I’ve worked events side by side with the team. And, when I can, I just watch how they interact with customers.
  • I trust them. There are some companies out there who will upsell you on something you don’t need. I am confident in sending Cutting for Business readers over to Heat Press Nation, because I know they will take the time needed to match you with the right heat press for your price point.
  • They know better than I do. Heat Press Nation will be able to keep you up to date with the latest news, best presses for home crafters, and the best options for professional use.

Which Heat Press to Buy?

Before I send you over to Heat Press Nation to start shopping, I want to leave you with my opinion on heat presses.

I recommend getting the largest heat press that you can afford. This will ensure that you don’t outgrow it shortly after getting it.

I started with a 9″ by 12″ heat press. Then I extended the shirt sizes I was offering into 3X, 4X, and 5X. Well, bigger shirts need larger designs. While I could use a 15″ by 15″ press, a 16″ by 20″ heat press made larger projects easier.

Tell me in the comments, what heat press do you have?


Thursday 15th of February 2024

Do I have to put a cover on the heat press pads (upper, lower)?

Christine Schinagl, Cutting for Business

Friday 16th of February 2024

You'll want to use a teflon sheet over your project. See here:


Monday 25th of May 2020

I have the Cricut Explore and want to start a small business from home. I'm on a fixed income, would you recommend Cricut's Easy Press to start with? I want to start selling my items. Thank you in advance!

Christine, Cutting for Business

Monday 31st of August 2020

Some crafters do use the Easy Press for their business, but it is easier to get the correct pressure with a heat press. You could look into a small press for the same cost as the Easy Press.

Denise Peters

Thursday 29th of March 2018

Do you know of any other sites that rent heat presses? I am just starting my business and I am on a limited income so I wanted to see if there might be other companies that would donate a heat press to me for advertising their product. Thanks


Monday 2nd of April 2018

I do not. Personally, unless you have social media followings in the thousands, I doubt you'll find a company to donate a heat press to you. Most heat press manufacturers are well established and don't need a small at home business advertising for them.


Tuesday 9th of January 2018

Hello...can the rental press be used to apply a patch to hats? The patches have a self adhesive backing on them. Thanks!


Saturday 13th of January 2018

Yes, you could apply patches with a heat press.


Saturday 11th of November 2017

Hi~ I clicked on the link for the one that you own it takes me to Amazon but no pic or price. Do you know if that particular one is still available? Thanks for your time. Michelle


Monday 13th of November 2017

Hello! I updated the link for you: