Heat Press Guide: How to Choose the Right One


If you already have an established signage or printing business, and thinking of modernizing your unit, then you’ll need some advanced tools if you don’t already have them. Of all the sophisticated tools you’ll indispensably require for your printing setup, a high-quality heat press is one of these. Talking about heat press machines, not only are these available in different types but also in a variety of sizes.

For instance, you can choose from four distinct types of heat presses: swing-style, clamshell, sublimation, and draw out press machines. These heat presses are available in a range of sizes and at different price levels and can be operated automatically or manually. Before you start shopping for an appropriate heat press for your business, it is crucial to know the working mechanism of each type.

Keep in mind that a clamshell or a swing-away style heat press has its own distinctive features. So it follows that a specific heat press type will enable you to carry out a specified set of tasks. Therefore, you should be absolutely certain about the heat press style you need for your business.

Choosing the inappropriate heat press implies that you won’t be able to use it effectively for completing your printing projects. On the other hand, purchasing the wrong machine means your investments go down the drain. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the main categories of heat presses and also offer recommendations on selecting the right machine.

Heat presses are grouped or classified into four broad categories depending on the working requirements and experience level of the user.  A printer or designer can opt for an entry-level, intermediate, professional or a specialized heat press machine. Once you understand the type that best suits your requirements, you’ll find it easy to choose the right product.

A starter or entry-level heat press

An entry-level heat press, as the name clearly indicates, is ideal for those who have just started a garment printing business on a small scale. A heat press designed for novices and first timers tends to be compact and portable, equipped with basic features, and pocket-friendly. You can use an entry-level heat press machine chiefly for working on small-scale projects with low printing volumes.

You can check out the heat presses we have under the entry-level category namely Geo Knight JetPress JP14, EnduraPRESS SA12, and CS15.

You have two different sizes of Geo Knight JetPress to choose from: 12” x 14” (JP14) and 9” x 12” (JP12). Both these heat presses from Geo Knight are remarkably affordable as well as very easy to operate and control. The specific size actually indicates the dimensions of the heat press’s heat platen; the JP14 has a heat platen measuring 12” x 14”.

Both JP12 and JP14 are swing-away style machines i.e. you can swivel away the upper part (the heat platen) from the lower plate in a 180° arc. That you can swing the heat platen away from yourself ensures safe and secure operation. These two heat press models deliver uniform pressure throughout the heat platen, facilitating the perfect embossments of designs and imprints.

The JP14 and JP12 feature frames constructed out of industrial grade steel, have digital timers, and analog dials. Both the heat press models come with a limited one year warranty. The JP14 comes in perfectly handy for transferring laser-based imprints using white toner as the unit deploys sufficient pressure.

However, you’ll need to use a contact thermometer for guaranteeing even platen temperature for perfect sublimation and laser transfers.

The EnduraPRESS CS15 is a clamshell-style heat press with a 15” x 15” heat platen and featuring state-of-the-art electronic control panel. This clamshell heat press comes to your aid when you need to perform heat transfers on medium-sized to small t-shirts. Also, the platen pressure is ideal for transfers through HTVs (heat transfer vinyls), print-n-cut transfers, ChromaBlast cotton embellishments, and shirt sublimation.

However we do not recommend the use of CS15 for laser transfers because the platen is unable to create adequate pressure for such applications. You can go for the EnduraPRESS SA12 for achieving excellent results with laser transfer projects. The EnduraPRESS SA12 features a 9” x 12” swing-away platen, digital temperature and time controls, and a LCD control panel. The vertical closure style of this swing-style heat press makes it ideal for passing on images and illustrations on ceramic tiles and mouse pads.

Intermediate or transitional heat presses

An intermediate or transitional heat press works for those who’re looking to upgrade from an entry-level press but cannot afford a high-end machine. A transitional heat press allows you to work on moderately large-scale projects that you may not be able to complete with entry-level presses. Intermediate-level heat presses tend to be simpler than the specialized machines used by seasoned professionals in terms of design and operation but nevertheless reliable.

We recommend two quality and performance-driven heat press machines for intermediate-level users: EnduraPRESS SD20 and the Stahls Maxx Clamshell line. Of all the new machines released by EnduraPRESS of recent, the EnduraPRESS SD20 is easily the best amongst the lot, and for good reasons. This intermediate heat press incorporates features that you’d normally find in a professional machine.

Its 16” x 20” heat platen is large and broad enough for carrying out transfer jobs on ceramic plates, mugs, caps, fabrics, and numerous other materials. You can also carry out heat transfers of designs you’ve created using a laser printer. The robustly constructed large platform facilitates the application of uniform pressure throughout the lower platen.

Opening this press even under high pressure settings is not an issue, thanks to the spring-activated lever. If you’re looking for a good quality affordable machine with versatile features that’ll let you perform heat transfers in bulk, then the SD20 is your best bet. Alternatively you can consider the Stahls Maxx Clamshell product line which comprises of three different models.

The distinction is basically in terms of size as the features are nearly identical in all the three heat presses. You can pick and choose from the machines having a heat platen size of 16” x 20”, 15” x 15”, and 11” x 15”. Some of the features that you’ll be able to make the most of include interchangeable bottom platen, sturdy laser-cut framework, digital temperature and time settings.

You get a limited one year warranty on the casting and frame with the heating element having a lifetime warranty. However, bear in mind that you’ll have to perform most of the operations manually which means you’ll constantly have to be on your guard.

Heat presses for seasoned printers and professionals

Two of the best heat press machines for professionals are the Geo Knight’s Digital Knight Series and Stahl’s Hotronix Fusion. The Digital Knight line includes an array of performance-driven heat presses including the auto-open swing-away DK20SP and the clamshell DK16. Every Digital Knight Heat Press including the above two models, features an intuitive control platform incorporating up to 70 programmable presets. 

The versatility of the Digital Knight presses enables you to comfortably alter the pressure, temperature, and time settings in accordance with the heat transfer material. Additionally, the DK Series comes with an auto-release mechanism which lifts up the platen automatically once the heat transfer cycle ends. The benefit of this built-in feature is that you don’t need to keep a constant watch on the press to ensure the job is done with perfection.

Nevertheless, it is the DC Combo that is the most versatile and resourceful amongst all Digital Knight Heat Press models. The DC Combo tends to be a special swivel-style model featuring transposable heating elements and platen. This heat press model comes with a standardized heat transfer setting for tiles and t-shirts.

You’ve the option of buying separate attachments for working on cubes, plates, caps, and mugs, each attachment costing approximately $300. The DC Combo costs under $1,700 which is quite affordable considering that you can use the press for transferring imprints on various surfaces and materials.

Which heat press brand or model would be suitable for you?

So how should you go about picking and choosing a heat press that would be suitable for your printing business? Do not simply go for the one that is affordable but rather choose a product that can help accomplish your specific projects. For instance, if you handle large-scale projects more often, then the Stahl’s Air Fusion or DK20-AR are perfect.

On the other hand, the DC Combo from Geo Knight and Stahl’s Hotronix Fusion are excellent choices if you get orders for personalizing caps, t-shirts, mugs, and plates.