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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
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.

Reference:
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: http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-articles/t27945.html

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


 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Rodney I see you did not metion the INSTA brand presses, did you consider any of there products?
Hi Bob, I didn't see the INSTA brand press at any of the vendors above. I don't think I remember hearing/reading about it either.

Is that the brand press you use? Is it a brand you'd recommend?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This feels like a literary version of a TV series, reading to the last post and thinking, "Awww, gotta wait till the next update!"
My goal is to make them at least weekly, although I have a feeling they will be more often as I start testing all the different materials. Now that the holidays are over, they'll definitely be more updates :)

Have you any thoughts on the Geo Knight DK20S swing press? From what I've read, it's a promising piece of machinery as well. I'm divided between that and the Phoenix Phire you purchased.
I never got to see a swing press in action. I know that some people here love them and swear by them, but when I went to the trade show last year, I only saw clam shell presses (except for this one neat automatic press from IDEK)

But the Geo Knight is a good brand, and some people definitely prefer the swinger. If you can, I would try to see them both in action.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
P.S. What do you think about - Mighty Press® 11" x 15" Lite Clam Press? Can I consider it? Thanks again
I think it's worth considering if it's in your budget and you think it will do what you need (which is to make samples).

Even Lou started off with a small press and only upgraded to a larger press when he needed it (or when he could).

Starting out with a small press isn't *that* bad :) I think for your specific needs, it seems like a smart choice. Plus, if you go with a new, name brand press, it will have a better resale value should you decide to upgrade later.

That's just my two bits though :) I tend to think things out way too much, but after a while, there comes a time where you just have to do it and jump in.

Oh, and a "Hello" and apology for this late post in here, I just found out Rodney had gotten into heat press so I'm catching up on posts.
Hey Eileen, welcome to the T-Shirt Forums!

Be sure to post a member introduction so others can know what kind of knowledge you have to share :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Hi! Newbie here, so be gentle.

I'm reading a lot, and I have to ask - why is a press larger than 9 x 12 necessary when shirts aren't any larger, and the image size is even smaller on the shirt?

Thank you. :)
These reference threads give good general reasons why you'd want a larger press:

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?

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule (like a 16 x 20 press might be too heavy for some), but those threads help to explain why folks say bigger is generally better :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #65 ·
Phoenix™ Phire Auto Open Heat Presses anybody own one of these? how would you rate this. think its $795.00
Yes, several members own that press. I have the 16x20 version (although mine doesn't have the digital pressure reader like that one...I wish it did :)) It's a very nice press.

To get feedback about any vendor or press, you can put the name in our search engine at the top of the page to bring up threads that talk about that specific topic. If you put in phoenix phire into the search engine, you'll find several posts about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #87 ·
Someone mentioned not strong enough nor making shirts regularly enough for a big press.

Is there any way at all to use a hand iron or some other heating devise if not printing lage quantities of pieces?

Thanks,
Joanne
Not if you want to acheive high quality results that are good enough for retails sales.

As a hobby, I think might be fine to use a hand iron for some transfers, but if you are selling the printed items to someone else, you need the pressure and heat that an actual heat press can provide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #102 ·
looking at companies like bustedtees, tshirt hell e.t.c, do their tshirts look like heat transfer or do they look like they were screen printed?
Those t-shirt companies use screen printed, but many of the designs could be done with plastisol heat transfers (but not any transfers you could print on your own computer)

So for a newbie with an heatpress machine, what equipments and accessories are needed to print good tshirts and whats the process of using the heatpress from step 1?
This shows me making my first t-shirt with a heat press step by step: http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-crossover-diary-heat-press-newbie/t10363.html

You can also find videos on youtube that show the process from start to finish. Here's one:

 

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Discussion Starter · #112 ·
What a coincidence! Your site is the place I was planning on buying from. What a shame.

About the shipping, I have previously contacted proworld and they advised that shipping to my postcode would be $300.

I haven't heard anything of the Maxx Presses and while I am sure they are good I would rather get a well known brand like the ones that have been mentioned previously. My concern with buying the Maxx Press is that you are a representative of a company that sells them and may be giving a biased opinion to make a sale (I don't mean to offend you, I just really want to make the right choice for the money).

Any information or advice would be appreciated,

Thanks!
Hi Lisa, just so you know, the Maxx press is from a well known brand name :) Stahls'

I think what Ed was trying to say was that the Mighty Press from Stahls has been replaced by the newer named Maxx Press from Stahls

Same great company name, just a newer line of updated presses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #115 ·
Funnily enough, after research, this is the heat press that I have decided to purchase. Pardon my naivety from my last post - when I wrote it I had only just started looking and each forum that I read stressed 'not to buy a no-name press', so I assumed this meant anything that wasn't the Mighty Press, Hotronix, GeoKnight or HIX. I suppose that's what this forum is for, to learn!
No problem at all :) We're here to help.

There's a lot of information here to take in, but it sounds like you're covering all the bases!
 

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Discussion Starter · #122 ·
Hi Rodney,

I'd really like to get my brother some sort of heat press as an early Christmas present, but I'm not really sure what it is I need to get. I was hoping you might be able to shine some light on the subject for me.

My brother screen prints t-shirts as a hobby and is now starting to get orders from friends of friends & family members who have seen folks wearing his t-shirt designs. The number of t-shirt orders is getting out of control, especially with Christmas coming up.

After he puts the design on the t-shirts using dye & his silk screens, I usually help him iron the t-shirts (4 minutes each) so the dye sets in the fabric and becomes permanent. This takes a long time and would be much easier if he had some sort of heat press with a timer & temp control.

I've been looking around trying to figure out what exactly he needs, but it seems all of the heat presses seem to be for transfers (iron-ons?) or vinyl.

I'm really not in-the-know when it comes to all of this stuff, and I'm reluctant to ask my brother since it'll surely tip him off that I'm trying to buy a heat press for him.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as I'm really at a loss here!

Thanks in advance.
It sounds like your brother might need a small dryer for curing screen printing ink instead of a heat press?

If he's not doing any heat transfers or vinyl, you may want to look into getting him a small conveyor dryer

You might want to post your question in the screen printing section of the forum to see if someone there can suggest a dryer for curing screen printing inks.
 
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