How to choose the right heat press


It's More Than Just Heat & Pressure

Don’t under-estimate the importance of choosing a good quality, well made press.     They all get hot and apply pressure but there really is much more to it than that.


Here's what you should be looking for :

  • How quickly does the press heat up after you turn it on ?
  • Is the temperature setting accurate?    In other words is the actual temperature on the bed of the press the same as the temperature shown on the display?   Many are not.   Don't wait until your customers start complaining about prints that wash out or vinyl that falls off.   It's too late then - you've already bought the press.
  • Is the temperature the same across the width and depth of the bed?   Once again I have seen a variation of 15 to 20 degrees from one part to another.  Wonder why your vinyl sticks in some places and peels off in others?   Are your dye sub prints vibrant in some areas and dull or even burnt in others?
  • How about the pressure . . . . . is it the same across the bed?    Some processes rely more on heat than pressure but vinyl, laser transfers and plastisol transfers all require both heat and even pressure.


Some more basics to think about :

  • Do you need a manually operated press, a manual close with auto-open or a fully automatic press?
  • Are your products thin and flat like a garment,  thick and flat like a piece of MDF or curved like a cap or a coffee mug?
  • How much pressure do your products need.  Dye sublimation prints don't need a lot of pressure whereas other processes like laser prints do need more pressure.



Presses for thin, flat products

Clamshell style presses are good for thin, flat items like garments.   This is because of the way the press is designed and operates.  You see the top (heated bed) is hinged at the back of the press and it opens and closes . . . . .(No surprise here) . . . like a clamshell.

The top and bottom plates become parallel just as the press closes.   If you were to try and press a thick item with this press then the back part of the press would make contact with the item before the front of the press had closed . . .  . and that's not good because it means more pressure will be applied at the back of the press than at the front.


Main points:

  • Lower price
  • Reduced weight
  • Less space required
  • Available with optional automatic opening
  • Hover function is available on some makes / models.
Click here to see clamshell heat presses in our store


Presses for both thin, flat products and thicker products like MDF plaques

We recommend a swing-away press because with this type of press the top and bottom beds always remain parallel to one another - so the pressure is even across the bed.

The standard swing-away press is closed and opened manually, then the top bed has to be swung to one side so that the bottom bed is in clear view to change the product and/or position the logo for pressing.


  • Apply even pressure across the depth of the bed
  • Better for pressing thicker items
  • Higher maximum pressure so are preferred for some transfer print operations.
  • More expensive due to extra weight and strength
  • Heavier than a clamshell
  • More space required for the bed to swing to one side
  • Automatic close and open is available only with compressed air operated models



Presses for curved items like caps, shirt sleeves & shorts legs

Curved items like baseball style caps require a special press that has a curved top and bottom bed.   The standard size bed is good for most caps but a different size lower bed might be required for low profile caps or children's sizes.

Cap presses are mostly clamshell design and some are available with auto open function.




Presses for cylindrical items like coffee mugs, sports drink bottles, stubby coolers and more

Cylindrical items require a different style of press.   The heated bed is flexible and wraps around the object leaving a gap (usually for the handle) which cannot be printed.

Mug presses usually have 4 different heater attachments.   Two with parallel sides (like a coffee mug) and another two with tapered sides for latte style mugs.


Presses for extra large, flat items like full garment body panels and large Chromalux panels

 When you see a sports shirt that is for example blue, with coloured panels or stripes and perhaps even with different coloured lettering or logos . . . .the chances are that shirt is printed with dye sublimation.

It isn't a blue shirt that has been printed with different colours - the whole shirt panel was most likely printed as one large image onto a piece of white polyester fabric.    The printed garment panel is then cut out and together with the other printed garment panels it is sewn together to make a finished garment.

Of course you need a wide format dye sublimation printer to print that type of image and you also need a very large heat press like the one shown below.


 Send a request for info or call on 1800 137 670