The 9 Best T-Shirt Heat Presses
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in May of 2016. For years, you and your buddies have been saying you could make a fortune with all the hilarious quotes you come up with – if only you could get them printed on T-shirts. Our rankings for this category are full of easy-to-use and affordable heat presses, so now you don't have an excuse for not giving it a shot. Just don't blame us if a controversial design lands you in hot water. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
December 08, 2020:
Firstly, as the name suggests, heat presses get hot. Always be aware of which part of your unit heats up and where you are placing your hands. It's recommended that you don't wear loose clothes that could get caught in the machine, tie back any long hair, and keep the device out of the reach of children.
During this round of updates, we introduced a couple of new swing-away options in the form of the Fancierstudio Swing Away and the Tusy 5-in-1. Some users prefer this design as it enables them to move the heating plate out of the way, giving the user plenty of room to position fabrics carefully. Furthermore, as the heating element is pushed aside, the chance of catching your arm on it is also reduced.
The O Bosstop HP230B and the Tusy Industrial Quality both retained their places, but we removed the Zeny Pro 6-in-1 due to availability concerns. In its place, the Tusy 5-in-1 and the F2C-D1 Pro were added for those who want to press more than just T-shirts. With these selections you can brighten up caps, mugs, plates, jigsaw puzzles, mouse pads, and more, using the attachments provided. Unfortunately, there aren't any clear instructions for either of these units, so it may take a bit of trial and error to get them set up exactly how you need them.
We swapped out the Fancierstudio DG15 for the Fancierstudio Power Heat. This one has a Teflon-coated plate, a silicone-gel baseboard, and a digital timer and temperature gauge. It's capable of reaching temperatures of up to 699 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's much hotter than its predecessor, though most users won't require this amount of heat. We kept the Cricut 2005432, as we liked its portability and ease of use, and we also added the Cricut Easy Press Mini from the same company. This new addition is ideal for putting logos or company names on shirts and is far cheaper than most traditional presses, though its small size limits its applications.
November 21, 2019:
This time around, we removed the Promo Heat Sublimation and PowerPress Industrial Quality, due to availability issues, as well as the Mophorn Digital – which we didn’t feel was dissimilar enough to other rankings to merit mention. We also added the Tusy Industrial Quality and the O Bosstop hp230b, as well as the Cricut 2005432 – which might not be a press in the traditional sense of the word, but still looked like an option worth considering for those looking to break into the hobby.
Some things to look out for in the category:
Closing Style: Your two basic choices are clamshell – which involves one lever to lift or drop the plate straight up or down, or swing-away – in which the top plate is secured to a bar, and able to swivel away freely when not under pressure. Your preference will likely be circumstantial, as clamshell options are best for tight spaces and cluttered work areas, but swing-away models can be nicer to work with since they let you get your top plate completely out of your way while you line up your next t-shirt.
Plate Size: The compact size of smaller units like the O Bosstop hp230b can be nice, but a unit’s plate size speaks directly to its limitations, so make sure that yours is large enough to do all that you intend it to. A seemingly standard size for larger options in this category seems to be 15 inches by 15 inches.
Other Applications: There’s no end to the amount of fun you can have printing t-shirts, but why limit yourself to that? Consider an option like the Zeny Pro 6-In-1, that can also apply transfers to mugs, hats and more, and watch your possibilities multiply.
HPN Black Series If you're looking for a commercial-grade machine, the HPN Black Series is a sturdy piece of kit that should stand up to years of use. Its solid steel construction incorporates a second lever, making opening and closing the device less strenuous than when performing the same tasks on other models. The company has set it up so that the alarm sounds 3 seconds prior to reaching zero, giving you a bit more time to get to the machine and open it before your material starts to overheat. heatpressnation.com
Understanding How To Use A T-Shirt Heat Press
Once the press reaches that temperature, it is ready to use.
T-shirt heat presses may be the best way for the average user to add artwork or graphics onto shirts. They have become a favored alternative to classic screen printing over the years. Each method has its pros and cons, but heat pressing offers many start-up businesses the simplest way to spread their message. Heat pressing has the advantages of being much easier to use and reducing the production price of small batches when compared to shirts made in a screen printer. They are best used for shirts with full-color images, or designs with multiple colors. Heat presses also reduce ink waste, which is an important part of reducing the pollution caused by printing.
Using a T-shirt heat press is pretty straightforward, though each brand may have slightly different methods of operation. Heat presses vary in size and the amount of control the user has over the specific functions. The most basic models are perfect for home use or for delivering shirts to a few friends. Professional models are created more with bulk orders in mind. They may have additional settings for varying the temperature, time, and pressure to the needs of the specific shirt.
The basic operations are the same with most models. Heat press machines must be warmed up before use to properly transfer the image to the fabric. After turning the machine on, you should adjust the thermostat knob to the desired temperature. Once the press reaches that temperature, it is ready to use. Lifting the handle to open the press reveals the heated work area, called the platen. The shirt should lay centered on the platen, with the transfer paper lined up directly on top of it. You can now close the press and start the timer. The actual press time will vary based on the type of transfer paper. You should always follow the Instructions for the specific paper you use. Once the time is up, remove the shirt from the press and allow up to 24 hours for the image to lock in. After 24 hours have passed, the shirt is safe to wash and wear.
The History Of The Graphic T-Shirt
The modern T-shirt was actually first designed as an undergarment. The U.S. Navy issued them to troops somewhere around 1898. They were meant for sailors to wear underneath their uniforms. Farmers, miners, and workers in all fields soon wore T-shirts, as well, as the lightweight fabric was much better for use in hot weather than other option. The inexpensive material and uncomplicated design made them a household staple for many during work, household chores, or play.
Today, printed shirts in every style and shade are found throughout the world.
The printed T-shirt came in the 1930s and was soon depicted in cultural staples, such as the film The Wizard of OZ. The major boom in popularity was due in large part to the persona created by Marlon Brando for his role in the movie A Streetcar Named Desire. His magnetic portrayal of Stanley Kowalski was a large step in putting a T-shirt in every home in the country. T-shirts were instantly cool. The 1960s brought a new revolution to the T-shirt, as hippies took the simplicity of the plain white tee from the beatniks and dyed it with a rainbow of colors, creating the iconic tie-dye tee. The 1960s also brought an expansion in the use of graphic tees. Basic silk screen printers were used to create shirts featuring pop culture references, cultural icons, and even political cartoons. This tradition continued on into the 1970s. The graphic tee as we know it today had planted itself firmly in the American culture.
Thanks in part to the creation of MTV in 1981, musicians and artists came into focus in a big way. People wanted to identify with these cultural icons through their clothing. Graphic T-shirts featuring bands were everywhere, marking the wearer with a certain sign of allegiance. The 90s brought the laid back skateboard and surf culture of the west coast into the limelight, and shirts began to reflect this image. The shirts of the new millennium leading into the modern generation are a mix of everything that came before. Today, printed shirts in every style and shade are found throughout the world.
Tips To Make The Best Heat Pressed Tees
Every shirt made in a heat press is not of the same quality. To create the best possible T-shirts using a heat press, there are some very important tips to follow that even some experienced shirt makers do not know.
Every shirt made in a heat press is not of the same quality.
The first thing to consider is the type of fabric being used in the heat press. There are also some fabrics that cannot be used with a heat press at all. Synthetic materials and fabrics like silk may burn, and should not be used with a heat press. High-quality cotton is the fabric of choice for many, though fabrics like polyester, Lycra, and spandex can also withstand the high heat of the press.
It is important to do a few sample presses using a spare shirt to test for heat settings, proper transfer, and image quality. Taking measurements before pressing each shirt helps create a more uniform image with every press. For instance, measuring how far the center of the image is from the collar and edges of the shirt can help deliver a consistent end product.
Shirts should be washed before they are pressed. This keeps the design from looking wrinkled after it is applied. Stretching the shirts out just before pressing keeps the image from cracking or distorting. The right transfer paper can also make a difference in the end product, so be sure to choose a high quality option. Heat pressed shirts will also last much longer if they are washed inside out and hung to dry.