Heat Press Machine Guide: The Top 3 Machines

June 18, 2018

At just 22 years old, Melvin Chee from Melbourne, Australia built a 6-figure t-shirt business in just 3 months. He knew that as a startup business, he would need to find a niche to tailor his products to.

Heat Press Machine

If you’re considering launching a t-shirt biz, you’re probably thinking about what would be the best, most effective, and/or most affordable heat press machine you should get.

A heat press machine is a modern, no-fuss way of printing artwork onto t-shirts. It is a great alternative to traditional screen printing. Heat press printing is both easy and affordable.

Customers can’t tell from looking at a t-shirt if it has been heat-pressed or screen printed.

The heat press style that’s right for you depends on what you’ll be printing on with your heat press.

When shopping for a heat press one of the first considerations is what style of press is right for your business. There are differences in each heat press type that will impact both productivity and usability. The following is some information on how to choose the best heat press machine for all of your t-shirt printing needs.

Check out this beginner’s guide to heat printing.

1. Clamshell Heat Press Machine

The clamshell heat press is the most common type of heat press machine. It has a hinge between the upper and lower plates and opens like a clamshell (hence the name).

The clam press is your best heat press choice if you are looking for a portable option. If you’ll be printing t-shirts at trade shows, fairs or events, the clamshell heat press is the way to go.

You can whip up a big batch of shirts in way less time with a clam-style press, as it requires minimal layout and can press at a faster rate.

You can also make minor adjustments without heat being too close to your body, which is ideal.

Tight on space? The draw function allows you to print in small spaces when needed.

This heat press machine is perfect for newbies because it’s easy to use, and requires minimal steps to operate.

2. Manual Swing Away Heat Press Machine

Swing away heat press machines are designed to move the upper plate away from the lower plates between presses.

The lower plate swings towards you, allowing you to do the layout away from the heat.

While it does require more space to use, it also gives you a full view of the layout area, unlike the clam. If you are going to need precise layouts, this may be the way to go.

One of the cons is that you will need to do more steps to complete one t-shirt. It is a less-efficient heat press machine compared to the clam.

Note that this type of t-shirt press requires an air compressor to use. It also takes up more space due to the swinging movement. You won’t be lugging this model to fairs like you can with the clamshell heat press machine.

3. Draw Heat Press Machine

This press is similar to the swing away model, except the lower plate slides towards you.

This means that the work surface is movable and that there are more chances things can go wrong. You’ll need to be careful not to accidentally shift your design before the transfer is pressed on.

One of the best things about this model is that you can layout your t-shirt without reaching under the hot upper plate.

This is actually the most expensive of the three types discussed here and does take a bit more space too.


Now that you understand the pros and cons of heat press machines, you’ll be able to choose the best heat press machine for your t-shirt business needs. If you’re planning to sell your products online, do some research into the right e-commerce platform for you.

Check out our 5 design tips for custom heat transfers here.

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