What Is A Heat Press Machine?

Are you trying to print vinyl onto t-shirts, blankets, puzzles, mousepads, mugs, etc? Are you wondering how unique, creative t-shirts are made?

The answer is simple – they’re all made with a heat press machine!

What is a heat press machine?

A heat press machine, also known as a best 5 in 1 heat transfer machine or a t-shirt press machine, is a piece of equipment that is used to transfer the application of a unique, printed design (such as a logo or writing) onto another surface (such as a t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc). The transfer is facilitated by the use of very-high heat in a short-period of time. Heat press machines can go up to 750ºF, although most applications only need 300º – 400ºF.

What are the different types of heat press machines?

There are 3 main types of heat press machines available for purchase. Each of them is designed to be able to print on the more common items, such as t-shirts, but there are specific instances where you may want to have one over another.

1. Clamshell Heat Press

The clamshell heat press machine is the a-typical heat transfer machine. This is what most people think of when they’re searching for a new heat press machine. As a matter of fact, it’s also the easiest, most beginner friendly heat press machine for sale.


  • Very, very easy to use
  • Very beginner friendly
  • Takes virtually no effort to operate
  • Minimalist design allows easy storage
  • Lightweight, which enables easy transportation to and from events
  • Great for printing t-shirts in mass-volumes
  • Automatic versions are available that can great increase t-shirt making efficiency


  • Not great with thicker surfaces such as sweatshirts
  • Not as safe as some of the other types
  • Tends to be less accurate than other types
  • There isn’t a great viewing area to see what you’re actually doing
  • Pressure isn’t always applied evenly
  • You need to really push down on the lever in order to get it to print evenly.

2. Swinger (Swing-Away) Heat Press

The swinger machine is becoming more and more popular amongst heat transfer enthusiasts and small business owners due to it’s easy of use, precision, and safety measures.


  • Very precise heat transfer capabilities
  • Extremely easy to setup new garments to print on
  • Pressure is applied evenly across the surface
  • You can view exactly what you’re printing
  • Safer due to not having to lift the top surface
  • Excellent for people looking for an intermediate heat press machine


  • Not as efficient as a clamshell model because it requires more time to setup each garment
  • More cumbersome than a clamshell
  • Not as easy to use as a clamshell
  • Isn’t exactly the most time-efficient heat press machine – this can impact precision if you don’t know what you’re doing

3. Draw Heat Press

The draw heat press is becoming incredibly valuable to more and more business owners who are looking to produce high-quality, high-volume orders. It’s also the safest heat press on the market


  • You have 100% view of the surface you’re printing on, which reduces mistakes!
  • Precision is second to none with the draw heat press
  • Extremely safe to operate
  • Lightweight so it’s easily transportable to and from events
  • The bottom surface is heat-free so it won’t damage your tables and counters


  • Will take up more space than its clamshell counterpart
  • Not the greatest for thick garments as the space is limited in the drawer
  • Tends to cost more than the other two designs

Which Heat Press Machine Should You Choose?

The heat press machine that you’re going to buy is going to be based on your needs:

Looking to print low amounts of t-shirts for every now-and-then events? You should go with an auto clamshell heat press. It’s super easy to use and will produce great work, while staying within your budget.

Wanting to heat transfer bulky items such as gems, thick numbers, and thick letters? You should go with a swinger or draw heat press machine. Remember, these are thicker items, which is what the swinger and draw heat presses excel at.

Have some sublimation printing to do? Go with the draw heat press. You’re not going to get better precision from anything other than a draw heat press.

Doing some direct to garment printing? Go with the auto-clamshell heat press machine. There is no t-shirt press machine than a clamshell design when it comes to printing in volume.

Need to stay within a budget? Go for the reliable manual clamshell heat press machine. It’s inexpensive, yet provides a quality end product!

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