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Old December 28th, 2006 -   #1 (permalink)
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Thumbs up 5 Tips: How to select which heat press to buy?

A few months ago, I really knew nothing about heat press brands and what things you would want to look for when buying a heat press.

Here are some of the things I've learned and how I learned them

1. Size does matter.

When selecting a heat press, go for the largest press size that your budget will allow. A minimum of 15x15" is often recommended.

Some benefits of a larger press:
  • Pressing oversized t-shirt designs
  • Pressing names and numbers on jerseys
  • Easier alignment of larger t-shirt sizes
  • When pressing mousepads, you can press multiple items at once
You'll also want to consider whether your press will be mostly stationary or whether you'll want to take it on the road. The 16x20 size presses are great if your press will always be stationary (they are very heavy), but a 15x15 press will be easier to take on the road to shows, events, and fairs.

Reference threads:
Whats the purpose of a 16 x 20 heat press??
Does size matter? Is bigger really better? Why?
Good professional heat press?
Need one more tip: which heat press?

2. Clamshell vs swing away

The two most popular types of heat press are the clamshell and the swinger.

The clamshell has a stationary bottom; the top opens up at an angle. The swinger has a stationary bottom also, however the top opens slightly up and swings to the left or right of the work area.

Choosing between a clamshell design or a swing away design seems to be a decision you would make based on space constraints and preference.

The swing away press will need roughly twice the space as the clamshell; the clamshell will cost less. The swing away press won't heat up your arms as you're trying to align your next transfer, the clamshell is just a one or two step operation.

The swing away type seems to be better for printing a wider variety of items like mousepads, tiles, etc.

Reference threads:
Heat Press space issues? Potential dimensions
Clamshell vs Swing Away
Deciphering: Which style of heat press
Heat Press Comparison Chart

3. Which brand to buy? What's in a name.

The most important thing I've learned about selecting which heat press brand to buy is that you should always go with a major brand name. Going with a trusted brand name heat press will give ensure that your press will last for years and that it will be backed by a solid warranty.

Top brands of heat presses include:

  • Geo-Knight
  • Hix
  • (Stahls) Hotronix
  • (Stahls) Mighty Press
  • Phoenix Phire (manufactured by Stahls Hotronix)
  • Power Pro
The overall quality differences between the major brands seem to be slight. Each offers a few different features and options. A brand name heat press should last you for several years, and should the need arise, it should also offer you a stronger resale value.

For professional results, it's best to forget the idea of pressing transfers with an iron. A home iron generally will not give you enough pressure, consistency, or a hot enough temperature to provide quality results that a retail or wholesale customer would demand. For hobby usage and personal projects, a home iron might suffice with some transfers.

Reference threads:
Need a vote or everyone's opinion: which heat press should I buy?
Stahls, Mighty Press, Hix, Geo Knight...which to choose?
Heat Transfer FAQ - What is the purpose of a heat press

4. More questions to ask before purchasing

Other things you may want to look for in a heat press include:

  • A timer (digital? manual? auto-opening? what type of sound?)
  • A temperature gauge (digital? analog? how accurate?)
  • A pressure adjustment (digital? how even?)
  • A solid warranty (does it cover parts and labor? electronics?)
  • Voltage (110v? 220v? does it plug into a regular household outlet?)
  • How much the press weigh (can you take it on the road?)
If you're a newbie like me and you have the chance, it can be beneficial to visit an industry tradeshow to see exactly how the different types of heat presses operate and how much space they take up. You can also get a chance to see the quality of the final printed product.

The Questions
Heat Press Comparison Chart
Good Professional Press - DAGuide post of tradeshows and places to view products
Printwear Tradeshow
ISS Sportswear Tradeshow

5. Where do you buy a heat press?

A common question is where to buy a heat press from. While we all want the best deal possible, an important factor to consider is the before and after sale support provided by the vendor.

Quality vendors (some with special offers) that our members have had positive dealings with are included on this page of our site. Here's a quick list of the places I considered:When considering a vendor, be sure to check out the package deals that may be available to see if they include equipment that you may be purchasing down the line anyway.

Things like a vinyl cutter, a quality printer, teflon sheets and other accessories can sometimes be included in a heat press vendors starter kit or business package.

You'll also want to compare shipping rates (heat presses are heavy! try to get free shipping if possible), taxes, in stock availability, and the "out the door" final cost of your supplies.

As a member of T-ShirtForums.com, you also qualify for the special members only discounts from many of the top heat transfer equipment vendors listed above. So special I can't even mention many of them here...you have to be logged in to view the special discount pages
(contact a n exclusive forum member only 5% discount coupon for Coast Business can be found here)

Keeping it Real

Realistically speaking, not everyone has the budget for a brand new press and equipment.

There are entry level presses from the major manufacturers and vendors listed above that run from $300-$500. Another way to get an affordable press would be to check eBay listings, craigslist postings, our T-Shirt Classifieds or the classifeds at screenprinters.net. You can even call around to local screen printers in your area to see if they have any used presses for sales. Several great deals on used heat presses have been reported to be found using the above methods.

Reference threads:
I Need a 16 x 20

Which heat press did I go with?

After all my research, I decided to go with the 16 x 20 PhoenixPhire Heat Press from Imprintables Warehouse.

Since I knew I would also be getting into vinyl transfers as part of my journey into the heat transfer world, I opted for the Imprintables Ultimate Heat Printing Package (with an upgrade to the larger press).

When I get involved with something, I like to do it "right" from the start. That way I will know I'm working with the best possible starting point which usually translates to increased chances for a successful outcome.

Footnote: My buying decision was also helped that Josh from Imprintables gave me a really nice price for the equipment. He's offered to extend the same pricing on the package I got (with the upgraded 16x20 press) for "T-Shirt Crossover" readers. Contact Josh for the special pricing ($3750 for the bundle...almost a $1000 savings )

Read this related article about choosing a heat press: https://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt...es/t27945.html

Next step, "why a vinyl cutter" and getting the equipment delivered!

Rodney Blackwell
PrinterListings.com: Find a company to print your t-shirts - list your own t-shirt printing company.

Last edited by Rodney; August 20th, 2009 at 03:33 PM.. Reason: fixed typos :)
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