Three Things to Look for in a Heat Press Machine for Custom T Shirts

Press it good. Press this shirt just like you should.

heat press machine to make a custom t-shirt
The perfect t-shirt design—because you made it!Amazon

Heat press machines use heat and pressure to transfer images to textiles (and sometimes to other surfaces like mugs). This is an easier, faster, less expensive alternative to traditional screen printing—making it possible to DIY heat press projects right at home.

Cricut EasyPress 2 - Heat Press Machine For T Shirts and HTV Vinyl Projects, Mint, 6" x 7"
This option provides all the heat and pressure needed, with a super small footprint.Cricut

The first thing to consider when comparing heat presses is size. The area of the press plate determines the size of the transfers you can apply, so a smaller, easy-to-store heat press is perfect for applying transfers to hats, accessories and children’s clothing.

Fancierstudio Power Heat Press Digital Heat Press 15 x 15 Sublimation Heat Press Rhinestone Heat Press T-Shirt Heat Press FS15x15 BB
This clamshell design processes larger transfers, yet fits into smaller crafting areas.Fancierstudio

You’ll also need to consider the type of heat press that meets your needs. The most common heat press recommended for beginners is a clamshell, which has a top plate that lifts up at a 45-degree angle and then lowers to apply the heat and pressure to make the transfer. This design is easy to use and requires less floor space since the plates operate in an up-and-down, open-and-close manner. It’s ideal for working with thinner fabrics like t-shirts.

F2C Pro 5 in 1 Combo Heat Press Machine T-Shirt Hat Cap Mug Plate Digital Transfer Sublimation Machine New Black (5 in 1 Swing Away)
This equipment can rotate 360° and works with non-flat surfaces to provide maximum precision and efficiency.F2C Pro

The more robust option is a swing-away heat press. With this design, the top plate swings out to the side of the press to open it. This means the press can accommodate much thicker textiles and even non-flat surfaces like mugs. The major benefit is a more precise application of the transfer and greater energy efficiency (since the plates lose less heat between transfers)—but swinging open means you’ll need more floor space. Also look for convenience features like a non-stick plate surface and attachments (like mug cradles) that expand the heat press’ options.