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Published Sep. 22, 2021

A heat press machine uses both heat and pressure to transfer a graphic image, lettering, or numbers onto surfaces such as fabric or other materials. For transferring graphics to T-shirts, artisans use machines with flat platens (heat plates). Additionally, these machines facilitate heat transfer to various flat surfaces, including sweatshirts, tote bags, jigsaw puzzles, mousepads, ID badges, blankets, aprons, ceramic tiles, and more.

Available in a broad range of sizes and designs, heat presses can be used at home, in school art studios, or in commercial enterprises. Crafters may use small, portable machines that are easy to stow away after use. On the other hand, larger heat presses might find permanent homes and see frequent use in artists’ studios.

Heat press users can purchase transfer kits that include image software and transfer paper. With these materials, they create or download a graphic image on the computer, mirror the image, print it onto the transfer paper, and use the heat press machine to transfer the image from the paper to a plain T-shirt or other items. Alternatively, many artisans use heat transfer vinyl and embroidered appliqués in heat press machines. Ahead, discover the best heat press machines for decorating T-shirts as well as diverse items made from a variety of fabrics and hard materials.

How We Picked These Products

Methodology

After researching heat presses, I read the product descriptions of approximately a dozen machines. Keeping in mind that various readers may be interested in diverse types of heat presses for an array of projects, I looked for machines with high-quality construction and functionality, covering a range of sizes and designs. Here’s a summary of the criteria that I considered.

  • Heat-Plate Dimensions: The length and width of the heated platen dictates the size of the graphic image that the machine can transfer. I included machines with both small and large heat plates in my list of recommendations.
  • Varied Sizes and Functions: Keeping a range of uses in mind, I included small machines that are portable and easily stored as well as larger machines that could function well in either home studios or commercial settings.
  • Safety Features: It’s possible to suffer accidental burns while operating a heat press machine. I considered safety features such as automatic shut-off mechanisms and swing-away plates that move heated surfaces away from users’ hands.
  • Temperature and Time Controls: To reap consistent and dependable results, digital heat press machines offer push-button settings with LCD read-outs. I selected models with user-friendly mechanisms for temperature and time control.

The Best Heat Press Machine for T-Shirts: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Fancierstudio Power Heat Press

Home or Commercial Use

With a large-surface, heated platen, this heat-press machine permanently transfers graphics to multiple substrates.
Fancierstudio

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Why It Made The Cut: Committed to innovation, Fancierstudio’s heat press machine for T-shirts comes with useful features for functionality and safety.

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 15 inches by 15 inches
  • Machine weight: 43 pounds
  • Maximum temperature: 699℉

Pros: 

  • Large heat plate
  • Space-saving design
  • Heats to a high temperature
  • Adjustable pressure
  • Adjustable heat and time controls

Cons:

  • May exude a smell during initial use
  • Does not include attachments for mugs, hats, and plates

Here’s an industrial-quality heat press machine for home, studio, and commercial use. The Fancierstudio digital heat press functions well for transferring images, text, and numbers to multiple fabrics and hard surfaces, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, ID badges, ceramic tiles, and more. 

A layer of tough and protective Teflon coats the 15-inch by 15-inch heat plate, and the machine includes a heat press sheet and a firmly affixed, silicon-gel base. These features along with adjustable pressure combine to ensure safety as well as successful results on heat transfer projects. 

With an upward-lifting, clamshell design, this heat press machine saves space in the work area. It requires 110 volts and 1800 watts of electricity. Users can set the electronic heat and time controls to a maximum of 699℉ and a time period ranging from zero to 999 seconds. 

Fancierstudio is a small business located in the San Francisco Bay area that’s dedicated to continuously improving its products for creative hobbyists and entrepreneurs. The current iteration of their heat press machine offers innovations and improvements over earlier models to provide users with optimal experiences in their heat transfer projects.

Best Value: Cricut EasyPress 2 Heat Press Machine

Crafter’s Lightweight Go-To

Ideal for home use and gentle on the wallet, this compact heat press is ideal for embellishing T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and more. Cricut

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Why It Made The Cut: Cricut is a well-respected brand among crafters, and this compact heat press offers versatility, portability, and easy storage for home use.

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 9 inches by 9 inches
  • Machine weight: approximately 5 pounds or less
  • Maximum temperature: 400℉

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Ceramic-coated heat plate
  • Auto shut-off feature
  • Compatible with most major brands of vinyl transfers

Cons:

  • Not for large projects
  • Transfer-design sizes limited by the small size of the heat plate
  • Does not include attachments for mugs, hats, and plates

The compact EasyPress 2 from Cricut provides optimal value for vinyl heat-transfer and sublimation projects on basic T-shirts, pillow covers, aprons, tote bags, and more. With a heat plate measuring 9 inches by 9 inches, this machine is lightweight, portable, space-saving, and easy to store. Overall, the EasyPress 2 combines the speed of a heat press with the convenience of a traditional iron.

The heat plate is coated with protective ceramic and it heats up to 400℉. Cricut performs meticulous time and temperature tests to recommend precise heat and time settings for diverse types of heat transfers. Users can consult Cricut’s online guide, then simply push the buttons conveniently located on top of the machine to set the temperature and time for any project. A highly visible, digital read-out helps users achieve successful results every time. 

Designed with safety in mind, the Cricut EasyPress 2 features an insulated Safety Base as well as an auto shut-off mechanism. Additionally, this versatile machine works with most major brands of vinyl heat transfers and with the Infusible Ink products from Cricut.

Best Versatility: Smartxchoices Pro 5 in 1 Heat Press Machine Combo

For Multiple Transfer Projects

For artisans who don’t want to limit their projects to T-shirts and flat surfaces, this machine offers versatility, making heat transfers to mugs, hats, and plates. Smartxchoices

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Why It Made The Cut: This heat press from Smartxchoices combines durable construction and safety features in a versatile machine that transfers graphic images to multiple objects and materials.

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 12 inches by 15 inches
  • Machine weight: 47.3 pounds
  • Maximum temperature: 450℉

Pros:

  • Useful for heat transfer onto multiple items (5-in-1, multi-functional)
  • Teflon-coated surfaces
  • Swing-away design rotates 360 degrees
  • Industrial-strength durability
  • Programmable with LCD read-out

Cons:

  • Not portable 

Designed for creative hobbyists and artistic entrepreneurs, the Smartxchoices Pro provides ample versatility for numerous heat press projects. The machine includes one platen press for T-shirts and other flat surfaces, one hat press, one mug press, and two plate presses for dinnerware and commemorative plates.

Measuring 12 inches by 15 inches, the Teflon-coated heater plate is large enough for most T-shirts, tote bags, aprons, jigsaw puzzles, ceramic tiles, coasters, mousepads, and more. Users can easily attach the specialized presses to embellish hats, cups and mugs, saucers, shallow bowls, and dinner plates. 

With a swing-away design and 360-degree rotation as well as a thermal coating, this heat press machine offers protection for users who might otherwise burn their hands during use. Additionally, the machine’s built-in, structural stability and the four, secure foot pads create a firm foundation to avoid tipping over. 

By rotating a knob, users can adjust both the height and multi-spring pressure of the heated plates, ensuring that they fit together for neat and precise transfer results. The programming system is easy to operate, and the LCD read-out is clearly visible. Additionally, Smartxchoices includes a removable silicone pad and a sponge pad.

Best Safety Features: SURPCOS 12” x 15” Heat Press Machine

Safe, Swing-Away Design

This heat press machine offers safety features to prevent accidental burns. SURPCOS

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Why It Made The Cut: SURPCOS utilizes non-slip, ergonomically designed handles, a multi-spring balancer, and a swing-away heat plate to fashion a stable machine that protects users from accidental burns.

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 12 inches by 15 inches
  • Machine weight: 48.9 pounds
  • Maximum temperature: 450℉

Pros:

  • 360-degree, swing-away platen
  • Pressure adjustment with multi-spring balancer
  • Includes presses for T-shirts, mugs, hats, and plates
  • Digital controls and LCD read-out
  • Suitable for home and commercial use

Cons: 

  • Not portable
  • Not easy to stow away

Artisans who use heat press machines must maintain awareness of safety procedures to prevent burns from the plates that radiate high heat. The 360-degree, swing-away design of this digital heat press from SURPCOS facilitates safe operation by moving the heated platen away from users’ hands. Sturdy, ergonomically designed handles allow users to operate the machine with minimal effort. Additionally, the non-slip surfaces of the silicone pads and handles contribute to the safe operation of this well-designed machine.

Use a push-button function to set the digital time and temperature controls on this heat press. The LCD display indicates temperatures ranging from 200 degrees to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and time periods ranging up to 999 seconds. When transference is complete, an audible beep alerts the user. A simple knob facilitates adjusting the heat plate pressure to accommodate materials of varying thicknesses, and a multi-spring balancer ensures even pressure distribution.

With a variety of projects in mind, SURPCO includes multiple tools for both hobbyists and creative entrepreneurs. These include one Teflon-coated, 12-inch by 15-inch, heated platen along with one hat press, one mug press, and two presses for ceramic plates. For both versatility and safety features, this heat press stands out as a viable choice. 

Best Large-Size Platen: TUSY Heat Press Machine 15×15 inch Digital

Generous Platen Dimensions

Use this heat press machine to transfer large-size images onto T-shirts, sweatshirts, blankets, banners, and other flat surfaces. TUSY

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Why It Made The Cut: This heat press machine from TUSY features even heat distribution throughout a platen that is larger than many other models, facilitating the transfer of large-size images to T-shirts and other flat substrates. 

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 15 inches by 15 inches
  • Machine weight: 49.9 pounds
  • Maximum temperature: 482℉

Pros: 

  • Large-dimension, heated platen
  • Anti-overheating, shut-off function
  • Audible alarm when transfer is complete
  • Digital controls with LCD display

Cons:

  • Not portable
  • Does not include attachments for mugs, hats, and plates

Create colorful, graphic designs and lettering on T-shirts, pillow covers, tote bags, aprons, banners, and mouse pads with this heat press from TUSY. Measuring an ample 15 inches by 15 inches, the flat platen accommodates full-sized heat transfers on large T-shirts and sweatshirts.  

Use the push buttons to set the temperature for up to 482℉ and the timer for up to 999 seconds. The clearly visible, LCD read-out takes the guesswork out of operating the machine. Turn a simple knob to adjust the plate pressure according to fabric thickness, facilitating a uniform fit for a smooth, even, heat transfer. 

TUSY manufactures this machine with the heating coils placed close together and spaced at regular intervals within the heated platen. This design creates consistent temperature distribution for the platen surface, resulting in uniform color intensity throughout the transferred, graphic design. 

The TUSY heat press machine uses standard, 110-volt electricity and 1400 watts of power. With a clamshell design, the heated platen lifts vertically to an angle of 45-to-50 degrees. As a safety precaution, it turns off automatically in case of overheating. 

Best Portable Mini: DODODUM Mini Heat Press Machine

Crafter’s Portable Friend

Toss this mini heat press machine into a backpack or bag for convenient portability. dododum

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Why It Made The Cut: This mini heat press from DODODUM accommodates small heat-transfer projects for crafters, and it also serves as a lightweight and portable, travel iron.

Specs: 

  • Heat plate dimensions: 3.27 inches by 1.94 inches
  • Machine weight: 1.67 pounds
  • Maximum temperature: 374℉

Pros: 

  • Small, lightweight
  • Portable
  • 3 heat settings
  • May be used like an iron to smooth wrinkles in fabrics

Cons: 

  • Not for large heat transfer projects
  • Does not feature an automatic timer 

Crafters and hobbyists may use the DODODUM mini heat press for small projects. It functions well for transferring graphics, lettering, and photos to T-shirts, sweatshirts, canvas shoes, tote bags, and more. Alternatively, it’s a small, lightweight, travel iron that’s useful for smoothing garments after they’ve been packed away in luggage or backpacks.

Set the mini heat press to one of three settings, and the ceramic-coated soleplate heats evenly to provide uniform heat distribution. Set on low temperature, the machine heats to 284℉, and the medium temperature setting increases to 320℉. For heat transfer projects that require the high temperature setting, the mini machine heats up to 374℉. 

Rest assured that the power cord for this mini heat press meets safety standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and that the machine shuts off automatically after 10 minutes of inactivity. Use it safely with standard 110-to-120-volt electrical current. As an added safety precaution, DODODUM provides an insulated safety base to prevent accidental burns. 

DODODUM includes a small spray bottle to moisten fabric before smoothing it, using the heat press as an iron. Additionally, the included storage bag protects the heat press and safety base when users toss this machine into luggage or backpack for travel.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Heat Press Machine for T-Shirts

A heat press machine opens avenues of creativity for imaginative crafters, artists, and entrepreneurs. Purchasing one is not a casual, off-hand investment. Before buying a heat press, shoppers may consider the following criteria.

Sizes of Projects

The dimensions of the heat plates in heat press machines directly impact the possibilities for projects. For users who plan to print large images and text on T-shirts, sweatshirts, banners, and blankets, it’s important to select a machine with a large-size platen. Alternatively, smaller heat plates accommodate smaller projects. For example, many crafters produce multiple and varied heat-transfer projects using small presses that measure around 9 inches by 9 inches.

Types of Projects

For transferring images onto T-shirts, garments, and other flat items made of fabric or hard materials, a heat press machine with one, simple, flat platen is sufficient. However, for those artisans who wish to expand into image transference onto cups and mugs, hats, and ceramic plates, the optimal choice is a heat press that includes specialized heat-plate attachments for objects of varying shapes.

Temperature, Time, and Pressure Controls

To ensure reliable results, look for a heat press machine that offers easy-to-operate controls to set the heat, timing, and pressure for each project. Push-button controls and LCD displays that are clearly visible and prominently located on the machine offer convenience and facilitate consistently correct use.

Machine Size, Storage, and Portability

In studios or craft rooms where space is limited, users may need to stow away the heat press machines after each session. In that case, a small, portable heat press fills the bill. However, users who can sacrifice the space to leave the machines in place at all times may indulge in larger heat presses. A heat press with a clamshell design takes up less space, as the top plate lifts vertically. On the other hand, the swing-away design takes up more space, as the heat plate moves horizontally.

Safety

Safety is a top priority, as heat press machines heat up to high temperatures. Shoppers may look for safety features such as non-slip surfaces and sturdy bases that make the machines as stable as possible. The swing-away design offers peace of mind for safety as the heated plates move horizontally away from users’ hands. Alternatively, the vertically lifting, clamshell design is less safe because users must place their hands between the heated plates during operation.

FAQs

Q:

What is the best size heat press for T-shirts?

Heat presses measuring 12 to 16 inches in width and 15 to 20-inches in length work well for applying large heat transfers to T-shirts.

Q:

Are heat press shirts good quality?

When compared with screen-printed shirts, the heat-press graphics on shirts look better when they’re new. However, the graphics on screen-printed shirts tend to hold up better over time.

Q:

What temperature should you use for heat transfer on T-shirts?

Consult a heat and time chart for the heat press machine that you’re using. Appropriate settings differ for various fabrics, colors, and types of transfers.

Q:

Can you use an iron instead of a heat press machine?

You can use a traditional iron, but a heat press machine yields faster and more reliable results. A heat press machine delivers sufficient pressure and temperature for the correct period of time, and these functions are difficult to replicate when using an iron for heat transfers.

Final Thoughts

Constructed for home use as well as school art studios and commercial enterprises, heat press machines facilitate the permanent application of unique designs on garments, fabric items, mugs, hats, and ceramic plates. Their functionality suits many artisans, ranging from those who engage in occasional hobby and craft projects to the serious, cottage-industry artists. While the machines described here are not intended for high-volume, commercial use, they do represent a range of designs, sizes, and functional features.

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