Are you considering starting your own t-shirt business? Or planning to decorate your personal clothing using heat transfer vinyl? Then you’re going to need a heat press machine that can meet your unique crafting needs.
Heat presses come with a variety of different features, pressing styles, sizes, and price points. A high-quality machine can last decades, but when you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to find one that meets all of your present and future needs without breaking the bank.
You’re probably wondering: how much is a heat press? And how do I decide which one to buy? In this article, we’ll go over the different types of machines and help you establish a suitable budget before shopping for your own.
Which Heat Press is Right For You?
The cost of a heat press machine can vary dramatically from $250 to $3500 dollars, with some miniature devices costing substantially less. In order to avoid overspending for a machine that far exceeds your production needs, or choosing a budget option with not enough performance capacity, it’s important to first identify which level of the machine is appropriate for your needs.
The three main heat press tiers are:
These machines are suitable for amateur crafters and anyone seeking to start a small scale garment printing business. Starter presses are great for t-shirts as well as personal print work and are the most affordable, compact, and easy to use option.
The major downside is that starter presses cannot handle mass production and will break down quickly if overloaded or used too frequently. Additionally, they are often made with analog controls, have slow warm-up times, and are missing extended features like built-in timers in order to bring down overall costs.
On average, a starter machine will cost you anywhere between $200 to $500.
Intermediate machines offer a good balance between functionality and affordability. These presses typically offer the same quality and reliability of professional-level machines, but their streamlined designs and more minimalistic features make them significantly cheaper.
On average, an intermediate machine will cost you anywhere between $500 to $1000.
Professional heat presses are precise, reliable, and even intelligent. They often feature extended programmable presets that make it extremely easy to quickly change heat, temperature, and pressure settings with incredible accuracy.
If you’re hoping to ultimately establish a large and busy heat pressing business, then this is the machine for you.
Because professional machines are so precise, they often require a higher level of skill and experience to operate. If the time or heat settings are even slightly off, then you risk damaging your fabric.
Furthermore, they can be quite expensive. These machines can be purchased for between $1000 to $3500 dollars.
Which Size Do I Need?
Heat Presses come in all different sizes. The smallest ones are as tiny as 3” x 5” while larger models can run as big as 40” x 48”. Although starter presses tend to run on the smaller side, most manufacturers sell small, medium, and large presses across all three heat press tiers.
Before buying your first heat-press, ask yourself what type of projects you will be working on. If you are exclusively creating heat transfer knickknacks and accessories, then you likely only need the smallest model available.
However, if you are planning on working on a combination of projects ranging from ceramic mugs to apparel, or if you think there’s a possibility you’ll want to work on large-scale projects in the future, then consider investing your money in a larger model.
Which Style Should I Buy?
There are three main styles of heat presses on the market, each with their own advantages, disadvantages, and price points:
The presses feature a hinge between the lower and upper platens, which enable them to open like a clamshell. In general, these models are the most affordable and easiest for beginners to use.
Unfortunately, they cannot accommodate thicker materials and new users may accidentally burn their fingers when positioning materials around the back of the press.
Swing-away or swinger machines function via a lever that swipes the upper platen away from the lower platen, making it possible to access the plates without bringing your hands near the heating element. They are generally much larger than clamshell models and weigh over 100 pounds.
Swinger presses are overall a step above clamshell presses. They can accommodate much thicker fabrics, are designed to apply heat evenly against the flat substrate, and are safer for the user. However, prices usually begin at over $1000 dollars.
Draw presses operate via a lower platen that pulls outward, requiring less space than swinger machines but still offering the benefits of even heat application, higher volume production, increased safety, and greater durability. Most professionals use draw presses.
The drawback of this particular model is that it is typically more expensive. The average price for this style is about $1200. Draw presses also feature a movable work surface, meaning that you need to take more care when operating it to prevent your designs from shifting out of place.
Buying Your Heat Press
After you’ve taken into account the type of heat press, size, and style that makes sense for you, you’re ready to buy your machine. If you’re still not sure what direction to go in, check out this helpful review guide comparing various starter models. Or if you have questions, leave a comment on this article!
The final factor to consider before you purchase your machine is the price of all other costs associated with making heat transfers. Between heat transfer vinyl, cutting machines, and vector software, the cost of starting your own heat transfer business can really add up. Make sure you factor in these additional costs before settling on a particular model.
Whether you have a few hundred dollars or a few thousand, you’ll be able to find a machine that works for you and makes your heat-press projects look fantastic.