Do You Need a Heat Press in Your Silhouette or Cricut Business?

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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

Do You Need a Heat Press in Your Silhouette or Cricut Business? - by

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My 9″ by 12″ Heat Press

Do You Need a Heat Press in Your Silhouette or Cricut Business? - by

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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. 

Do You Need a Heat Press in Your Silhouette or Cricut Business? - by

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If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and purchase a heat press, I’ve got two options for you: 1) A Cricut EasyPress or 2) a heat press rental program.

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.

Teflon Sheets:

Pressing Pillows:

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.

Share with another crafter by pinning on Pinterest:

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45 thoughts on “Do You Need a Heat Press in Your Silhouette or Cricut Business?”

  1. Thanks so much for another great, informative article, Christine!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at heat presses….dozens of times!!!
    I have a question for you about pressing pillows….Are you pressing them while they are empty or when they have stuffing or a pillow foam inside? I’m curious because there was a discussion in a Facebook group a few days about this.
    Have a great day!

    1. Good morning! When I make decorative pillows, I press them empty. I’m not sure you would be able to get enough pressure to get the heat transfer vinyl to stick well if you pressed it stuffed. If you look at my Project Gallery you’ll see that I’ve made a lot of pillows with my heat press. All my pillow covers are from IKEA, and are $4. Good luck!

  2. What about the attachments for mugs and hats? In particular the mugs? I might use heat press for things like metal tumblers from YETI or something similar if that would work better than 651. I assume the heat would be too high to use on any type of acrylic tumbler. Or is it?

    Some heat presses will say sublimation and others don’t. Is there a difference? And I have read that the clam shell type may not provide even pressure. I can’t imagine ever needing to heat press anything very thick, but would it make a difference?

    1. I know some crafters use a steam press without the steam in lieu of a heat press. Unfortunately, a steam press cannot replicate the correct pressure of a heat press. I wouldn’t recommend one unless you already have one and want to use it from personal use items only.

      1. Thank you for sharing your wealth of information. I don’t have either. I was strongly
        considering and leaning towards steam press for fusing interfacing and hoping I could just use it for both.

  3. How many use can you get out of one Teflon Sheet? And where do you buy the Pressing Pillow. The link attached to your pictures states Not Sure Where or if They will get any.

  4. Hi! I’ve been thinking of doing learning how to make shirts and other things for awhile! I’m wondering what products you would recommend to get started? I’ve been researching the differences between the Cricuit and Cameo! Also, what heat press would be best! Thank you for any info!

  5. When using a cricut/cameo, do you need a certain type of vinyl to use with a heat press or is all standard vinyl you’d use in cricut/cameo suitable to be heat pressed?

  6. I am really stuck between clamshell and swing away. I like the swing away because it looks safer in regards to less opportunity for burns, but the clamshells are super popular. In regards to functionality which would you recommend over the other?

    1. It’s a personal preference. They produce the same results. I’ve tried swing aways and they are great! Unfortunately, my workspace doesn’t have room for a swing away – so I have a clamshell. Be sure to account for the extra space that a swing away needs.

  7. Hi! I want to try making a few shirts, and I was wondering what the difference is between HTV and iron-on transfer paper? Is transfer paper an affordable alternative to HTV, or are they two completely different things? Thanks!

    1. They are two completely different things. For HTV, you cut an weed a material and apply to the shirt. For transfer paper, you print an image on a special paper and transfer the whole image to your shirt. Hope that helps!

  8. Hey Christine! I’m curious about the pressure of various heat presses. I recently bought a swing away and it has a knob to adjust the pressure, I’m just unsure how exactly you’re supposed to know what “light” pressure is versus medium or firm? Is there some sort of test that can be done? Thank you for any help!

    1. For most uses: To test pressure, put a piece of paper in your press (with it off) and close it. You should not be able to pull the paper out easily. I use this test for nearly everything. For light pressure (only used a handful of times), I simply adjust the pressure so that the platens barely touch. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Christine,
    I saw a demo of the new Cricut EasyPress™. Would you recommend this instead of a heat press? I’m very new to making things on my credit. Thanks for your help!

  10. 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!!

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

    1. 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.

  13. 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!

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