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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.
Table of Contents
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:
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.
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.
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.
Mug Presses are heat presses used to transfer designs to cups, mugs, and tumblers.
Cap presses are heat presses that are used to apply heat transfer materials to baseball caps.
Multi Function Presses
Multi function or all-in-one heat presses have various plate attachments to make the machine more versatile.
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.
- Tee Shirt Alignment Guides: Perfect for lining up designs on shirts of all sizes.
- Heat Resistant Tape: Perfect to keep your design in the perfect place.
- HTV Remover: Made a mistake? VLR will get it off – easily.
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?
Since 2015, Christine Schinagl has been helping crafters start and run craft businesses through her blog, Cutting for Business. As a Silhouette and Cricut crafter herself, she has a unique take on what works and what doesn’t work in the craft business world. She also teaches a course on creating digital SVG designs, available at How to Design SVGs.
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.
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: http://amzn.to/2hnxqb5
Friday 29th of September 2017
Hi I followed your link in this article and purchased the heat press you own. I did not notice when I purchased that it said sublimation tshirt heat press machine. It came today and the instructions are very much gear d to sublimation and not vinyl so I am freaked out about using Htv on it. Should I calm down and unpack it and not worry???? Btw you are amazing. I don't do anything without first checking your site. Huge hugs to you!!
Friday 29th of September 2017
Hi Deb, First - the instructions are terrible - just pitch them. Operation is simple: plug in and set temperature and time according to the vinyl manufacturer's recommendations. All heat presses can do sublimation and vinyl. Don't send it back, get it out and create. :) Thanks for your kind words.