Heat Press 101

Heat Press 101

Posted by Heat Transfer Warehouse on Oct 23rd 2019

See our  Updated 2023 Heat Press Buying Guide on our Heat Press page.

The heat press is arguably the most important piece of equipment you will invest in. There are a few different things that go into choosing the right heat press for your business (and budget), so lets take a look at some considerations!


There are various sizes of heat press available to choose from, so take a moment to evaluate the amount of work space you have available (you’ll need a solid, flat surface) and what you’ll be pressing. We would recommend a 15"x15" heat press to start, because it allows versatility that a smaller press wouldn’t (i.e. pressing oversized shirts). It will also allow you some wiggle room if you choose to move on to larger designs and is easier to take on the road, should you decide you want to do shows or other events.


There are two main types of heat press: clam shell and swinger.

  • Clam shell heat presses are popular and relatively inexpensive, but be wary of knuckle burns! They have a hinge between the upper and lower platens and open/close like – you guessed it – a clam shell; the top opens at an angle and the machine itself will require less space than a swinger. Because of the way pressure is applied, clam shell presses aren’t recommended for thicker garments like sweatshirts or mouse pads, so be aware of that when making your purchase. This one from GeoKnight is portable, has extreme high pressure capability and fully digital temperature control. Likewise, the HIX Clam Shell Press has fully adjustable pressure control, an elevated arm for tighter pressure and a large underside clearance space for easy shirt loading. The WALAPress Drawer Clam has a lower platen that can be pull out have more room to work on your garment for placing or peeling transfers. The drawer can then be pushed back into position for pressing. 

  • Swing Away Heat Presses work by swinging the upper platen away from the lower, allowing access to the lower platen without risking the safety of your knuckles. This type of press will work with a wider variety of materials than the clam shell, but will take up more space. If you decide on a swing away, we'd recommend one with full digital temperature control and a timer. In addition, it these often have user-selectable end-of-cycle alarms and accommodates materials up to 2” thick. For a less expensive alternative, try the Hix Heat Press Swing Away, which accommodates materials up to 1.5” thick, has an easily adjustable pressure control and comes with a digital timer.

    Speciality Heat Presses for Mugs, Tumblers, Mats & more

    If you’re working with shirts and other garments, one of the aforementioned traditional heat presses will work perfectly for you. However, if you’re working with specialty products that don't ave flat surfaces, you might want to consider a different kind of press.

    For example, if you are mainly planning to press hats, the DK7 Cap Press has 70 programmable presets, solid steel framework and a cap hold-down device. Another specialty press to consider are the WALAPress Mug Heat Presses, which is perfect for creating personalized coffee mugs for your business or organization. These feature a soft heater liner for accommodating inconsistent mugs and programmable presets.