The Best Heat Press Machines of 2022

Customize accessories at home with a handy heat-press machine.

By Debbie Wolfe | Updated Apr 14, 2022 1:49 PM

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The Best Heat Press Machines

Photo: amazon.com

Heat-press machines allow users to transfer custom designs to accessories, including hats, shirts, mugs, throw pillows, and more. Although many hobbyists use an ordinary household iron for small projects, an iron can’t always deliver the best results. Heat-press machines, on the other hand, generate an even high-temperature surface over the entire workpiece. They also have built-in timers and adjustable heat settings, so you can use them on a wide range of heat transfers to achieve more professional results.

Not long ago, heat-press machines were used only in commercial settings. However, with the increase in home die-cutting machines, these machines are now available for home and small- business use. When choosing a heat-press machine, consider these variables: the available printing area, the type of application and materials, temperature range, and manual versus automatic.

Keep reading to learn more about how to choose the best heat-press machine for your crafty endeavors.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fancierstudio Digital Heat Press 15 x 15
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cricut EasyPress 2
  3. BEST FOR SMALL PROJECTS: Cricut EasyPress Mini
  4. BEST FOR T-SHIRTS: PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Heat Press
  5. BEST FOR HATS: VEVOR Heat Hat Press
  6. BEST FOR MUGS: Cricut Mug Press
  7. BEST MULTIPURPOSE: F2C 5 in 1 Pro Heat Press Machine
  8. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: PowerPress HPM-0000-PK Heat Press Machine
The Best Heat Press Machines

Photo: walmart.com

Types of Heat-Press Machines

Heat-press machines look somewhat similar; however, they have unique features that allow them to complete a specific task. Before purchasing a machine, consider the different types of heat-press machines available. The basic types of heat-press machines based on their features and specialty follow.

Clamshell

A clamshell heat-transfer machine has a hinge between its upper and lower plates that open and close like a clam. Because it’s easy to operate and takes up only a small footprint, this design style is popular among both beginners and professionals. It’s ideal for printing designs on thin, flat surfaces like T-shirts, tote bags, and sweatshirts. However, the clamshell style is not suitable for transferring designs on thick materials because it can’t distribute the pressure evenly over the plate’s surface.

Swing Away

These machines, also known as “swingers,” allow the top of the machine to swing away from the bottom platen to allow for better positioning of the item. Unlike the clamshell press, the swing-away press works on thicker materials, such as ceramic tiles, hats, and mugs. However, this style takes up more space.

Draw

On draw or drawer heat-press machines, a lower platen pulls out toward the user like a drawer to allow for laying out the garment and viewing the entire space. These machines not only enable the user to quickly fix or reposition garments and graphics before the transfer process, it also provides more room to lay out the garment. However, the machine consumes more floor space and is more expensive than clamshell- and swing-style heat transferring.

Sublimation

Sublimation heat-press machines transfer high-quality digital designs onto the material. The sublimation process infuses ink into the material, rather than simply onto the material’s surface. Designs applied by sublimation are less likely to fade or peel. However, sublimation heat-press machines are expensive, and the user must purchase a specialty sublimation ink and printer.

Portable 

Portable heat-press machines are ideal for crafters interested in experimenting and personalizing garments without making a significant investment. These lightweight machines are designed for small-scale heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and dye-sublimation transfer onto T-shirts, tote bags, etc. It’s more difficult to apply even pressure with a portable machine, but it’s an affordable, quick way to start in heat press transfers.

Speciality and Multipurpose 

Specialty and multipurpose heat-press machines allow the user to add custom designs to hats, cups, and other nonflat surfaces. Machines for mugs and caps are designed for one single purpose, such as a custom mug or hat business. However, multipurpose machines typically have attachments that can be swapped out to handle nonflat items.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Heat-Press Machine

A heat-press machine is a commercial-grade iron that applies heat and pressure to a garment to affix a design. Choosing the best heat-press machine depends on the material. Also consider budget, portability, and efficiency. Whether looking to start a custom T-shirt or mug business or just a new craft, the right heat-press machine is available.

Sublimation vs. Two-Step Transfer

The two types of transfer processes are:

  • Two-step transfers first print on heat transfer paper or vinyl. Then, the heat-press machine transfers the design onto the chosen material.
  • Sublimation transfer involves printing the design either with sublimation ink or onto sublimation paper. When the ink is heated with a heat press, it turns into a gas that embeds itself into the substrate.

Application and Materials Pressed 

Although a heat-press machine can be used with various transfer applications, a specialty machine designed for specific purposes delivers more consistent results. Clamshell, swing-away, and draw machines are best suited for printing on flat surfaces, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, etc. Multifunctional/multipurpose machines, on the other hand, have attachments that allow transfers to nonflat items. If the machine’s primary use is to make custom mugs, for example, a specialty heat-press machine designed for that purpose is the best option.

Also consider the type of material. A sublimation machine is a good investment to apply intricate designs on items. Thicker materials with textured surfaces need a swing-away or draw machine because this type can apply even pressure across the material’s surface. Clamshell machines work well for T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Size

A heat-press machine’s platen size determines the size of the design. A larger platen provides greater flexibility. Standard platen size for flat items is between 15 by 15 inches to 16 by 20 inches.

Custom platens are available in different shapes and sizes to transfer designs on shoes, bags, cap bills, and more. These platens are used for specialty or multipurpose machines and range in size and shape, depending on the machine.

Temperature

Accurate temperature is key to a durable heat transfer application. When considering a heat-press machine, note the type of temperature gauge it has and its maximum temperature. Some applications require heat of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

A quality heat press has heating elements evenly spaced no more than 2 inches apart to ensure even heating. Thinner platens are less expensive but lose heat much more quickly than thicker platens. Look for machines with, at minimum, ¾-inch-thick platens. Although thicker platens take longer to heat, they hold temperature better.

Manual vs. Automatic

Heat presses come in both manual and automatic models. Manual versions require physical force to open and close the press, while an automatic press uses a timer function to open and close. Semi-automatic models, a hybrid of the two, also are available.

Automatic and semi-automatic models are better suited for high-production environments because they require less physical force, thus causing less fatigue. However, they are more expensive than manual units.

Our Top Picks

With so many options on the market, choosing the best heat press can be a challenge. To help with the selection process, the following list features some of the best recommendations for heat presses in an array of types and sizes at various price points.

Best Overall

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: Fancierstudio Digital Heat Press 15 x 15
Photo: amazon.com

The Fancierstudio Digital Heat Press is a clamshell-style machine that’s perfect for making custom prints on shirts, totes, or any flat surface substrate. It features a 15-by-15-inch working area with a nonstick silicone pad. This heat press’s temperature ranges from 0 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for sublimation applications.

Although clamshell heat presses are not the best style for thick materials, the Fancierstudio digital heat press has an adjustable pressure system to handle the pressure needed for materials of various thicknesses. With a heavy-duty steel frame and dedicated timer and heat controllers, this heat-press machine works well for hobbyists and small businesses.

Product Specs

  • Type: Clamshell
  • Platen size: 15 inches by 15 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Adjustable pressure
  • Nonstick silicone pad surface
  • Electronic temperature controls and timer

Cons

  • Small digital display

Get the Fancierstudio digital heat press on Amazon.

Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: Cricut EasyPress 2
Photo: michaels.com

Cricut is an industry leader in affordable die-cut and heat-press machines for hobbyists. The Cricut EasyPress 2 combines the best features of an iron with an industrial-grade heat press at an economical price. It features an insulated base, a built-in timer, and automatic shutoff. The press’s ceramic plate heats up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, suitable for sublimation transfers.

The handheld design of this portable, lightweight machine is easy to use thanks to its well-distributed weight and flat wide surface, allowing the user to apply even pressure onto the transfer. Ideal for those who’d like to try heat transfer projects without making a significant investment, the Cricut EasyPress 2 is available in three sizes, each at an affordable price.

Product Specs

  • Type: Portable
  • Platen size: 9 inches by 9 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Light and easy to lift
  • Digital control and display
  • Available in multiple colors and sizes
  • Best heat press for Cricut machines

Cons

  • Suitable for small projects only

Get the Cricut EasyPress 2 at Walmart or Michaels.

Best For Small Projects

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: Cricut EasyPress Mini
Photo: amazon.com

A full-size heat press is just too big for customizing smaller items like shoes, hats, or pockets. The Cricut EasyPress Mini is designed to transfer heat transfer vinyl onto small surfaces. The press features a ceramic plate that distributes even heat with three settings that can heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Safety features include an insulated base and automatic shutoff.

A mini heat press is perfect for those who work mostly with small items. Although it can reach the temperature required for sublimation transfer, the heat press is designed to be used only with Cricut Infusible Ink products.

Product Specs

  • Type: Portable
  • Platen size: 3.4 inches by 2.1 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Compact and easy to store
  • Adjustable precision heating that heats evenly
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Suitable for small projects only

Get the Cricut EasyPress Mini on Amazon, at Target, or at Michaels.

Best For T-Shirts

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Heat Press
Photo: amazon.com

The PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Heat Press’s heavy-duty construction makes it suitable for both home and business use. With a 15-by-15-inch Teflon-coated heating plate and silicone mat, this clamshell-style heat press is particularly useful for designing T-shirts and other flat materials in bulk. Capable of reaching temperatures up to 455 degrees Fahrenheit, it also can complete sublimation transfers.

In addition to a user-friendly LCD screen that allows digitally setting the temperature and timer, this heat press has an adjustment knob that allows users to fine-tune the pressure on the panel, ensuring the right amount of pressure is applied on various materials with little effort.

Product Specs

  • Type: Clamshell
  • Platen size: 15 inches by 15 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 455 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Teflon-coated heating plate
  • Removable, washable silicone mat
  • Adjustable pressure knob

Cons

  • Heavy

Get the PowerPress digital heat press on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best For Hats

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: VEVOR Heat Hat Press
Photo: amazon.com

The curved heating element on this Vevor heat-press machine holds hats and caps, allowing for transfers to non-flat surfaces. It also features an ergonomic foam parallel arm handle that minimizes obstruction of the handle, giving the user total visibility of the LCD control panel.

The Vevor press transfers various materials, including heat transfer vinyl and inks. Although compact, the heat press has a heavy-duty steel frame, making it an excellent commercial-grade machine despite its size.

Product Specs

  • Type: Clamshell
  • Platen size: 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 399 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Parallel arm handle
  • LCD display and touch-pad control
  • Ergonomic foam grip

Cons

  • Suitable for small hats and caps only

Get the Vevor heat press on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best For Mugs

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: Cricut Mug Press
Photo: amazon.com

This Cricut mug press uses the company’s proprietary Infusible Ink technology to transfer designs on polyurethane-coated ceramic mugs. Unlike traditional mug presses, the Cricut mug press features innovative technology: The machine can detect the ambient temperature in its surroundings and automatically adjust for the optimum heat and pressure settings to create a perfect transfer.

Although it comes with a hefty price tag, the mug press makes it easy to create a dishwasher- and microwave-safe mug with a smooth, glossy finish. A Cricut cutting machine and Cricut’s Infusible Ink are required to use this machine, making this mug press best suited for those who already own Cricut products.

Product Specs

  • Type: Portable
  • Platen size: 6.2 inches by 6.5 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 392 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • No pressure and heat settings to manage
  • Automatic mug and ambient temperature detection to optimize heat and pressure settings
  • Auto shutdown

Cons

  • Requires Cricut cutting machine and Cricut’s Infusible Ink

Get the Cricut mug press on Amazon, at Walmart, or at Michaels.

Best Multipurpose

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: F2C 5 in 1 Pro Heat Press Machine
Photo: amazon.com

The F2C 5 in 1 Pro multifunction heat-press machine comes with various attachments, allowing the ability to customize mugs, pads, hats, and T-shirts. This multifunctional machine includes a shirt press bed, cap press equipment, a cylindrical heating bed for mugs, and circular heating disks for plates. It can be used with heat transfer vinyl and sublimation transfers.

A 360-degree swing-away design with a digital LED controller, nonstick surface, and detachable aluminum alloy cradle allow users to quickly swap heat platens. Genuinely an all-in-one machine, the F2C 5 in 1 Pro heat press is a quality choice for both DIY enthusiasts and professionals.

Product Specs

  • Type: Swing away
  • Platen size: 12 inches by 15 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Teflon coating helps prevent blistering
  • Multiple attachments
  • Generous printing area
  • Full-range pressure-adjustment knob for even distribution

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Get the F2C 5 in 1 Pro heat press on Amazon.

Best For Beginners

The Best Heat Press Machines Option: PowerPress HPM-0000-PK Heat Press Machine
Photo: amazon.com

Large commercial heat presses aren’t always suitable for small projects. However, the PowerPress HPM-000-PK Heat Press comes with 10-by-12-inch heating plates and multiple safety features. It’s easy to set up and use. It also features a touch screen on the top heat plate, allowing for easy control of time and temperature. Because it can reach only 355 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not ideal for sublimation transfers.

The pressure is one of the hardest things to control on a portable press. The PowerPress features a pressure-regulating system with springs that work with the heat-resistant mat to help the user apply uniform pressure to the substrate. With simple, user-friendly controls, fast heating, and safety features, the PowerPress HPM-000-PK is a good choice for beginners.

Product Specs

  • Type: Portable
  • Platen size: 10 inches by 12 inches
  • Temperature range: Up to 355 degrees Fahrenheit

Pros

  • Automatic shutoff prevents overheating
  • Touch-screen control panel
  • Pressure-regulating system
  • Light

Cons

  • Can’t reach temperature required for sublimation transfers

Get the PowerPress heat press on Amazon or at Walmart.

Our Verdict

The Fancierstudio Digital Heat Press is excellent for both hobbyists and small home businesses. It’s our top choice based on price, versatility, and ease of use. Perfect for those new to heat-press transferring, the Cricut EasyPress 2 is available in three sizes at an affordable price point.

How We Chose the Best Heat-Press Machines

After exploring dozens of heat-press machine options, we considered several criteria before choosing our picks. The top models are made well and designed to apply HTV or sublimation ink effectively and efficiently. We based our choices on brand reputation as well as each machine’s durability, performance, and price.

How to Create a Quality Print With Your Heat Press

Picking the right heat press depends on the type of items it’s intended to customize, the size of the surface area, and the frequency with which it will be used. The best-quality heat-press machine has the ability to heat evenly and apply consistent pressure across the transfer, as well as built-in safety features. On any heat-press machine, making a quality print requires the same steps.

  1. Choose the right heat transfer paper to match the heat setting on the press.
  2. Use quality ink, and remember that sublimation transfer requires sublimation ink.
  3. Set the heat press controls.
  4. Lay out the item to be pressed, eliminating creases and wrinkles.
  5. Position the transfer on the item.
  6. Close the heat press.
  7. Use the correct amount of time.
  8. Open, and remove the transfer paper.

FAQs

Choosing the best heat-press machines for home or small-business use is complicated, so some questions may remain. Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about heat-press machines below.

Q. What does heat transfer mean?

Heat transfer printing is also known as digital transfer. The process involves printing a custom logo or design onto transfer paper and thermally transferring it to a substrate using heat and pressure.

Q. What can I make with a heat-press machine?

A heat-press machine allows the user to customize T-shirts, mugs, hats, tote bags, mouse pads, or any material that fits the heat machine’s plates.

Q. Is a heat press a good investment?

A heat press is a good investment for those who plan to customize many objects. For hobbyists, it may be wise to invest in a smaller heat press, such as the Cricut EasyPress 2 or Cricut EasyPress Mini, before moving on to a commercial-grade press.

Q. How do I set up a heat-press machine?

Most heat presses are plug in and go. Many have user-friendly digital displays that make it easy to get started.

Q. Do I need a computer for a heat-press machine?

Although a computer is not necessary for a heat press, using one makes it easier to create custom designs and print them on heat-transfer paper.

Q. What shouldn’t I do with my heat-press machine?

Do not use your heat-press machine for anything other than heat-transfer applications.

Q. How do I maintain my heat-press machine?

Maintenance for heat-press machines varies depending on the machine. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and care.