Heat Press Blog

How to Choose the Best Heat Press

Are you are planning on starting a personalization business or looking to take your hobby to the next level? Many people are finding this to be an enjoyable and lucrative path to becoming successful entrepreneurs. The journey to owning a successful sign, shirt, or decoration business begins with two things: a can-do attitude and a good heat press. So, let’s talk a little about why a good heat press is so important to your business and how you can decide which one is best for you.

Why Do You Need a Heat Press?

A heat press is a machine that applies both heat and pressure to permanently transfer your design to your garment or blank. Whether you are creating items using heat transfer vinyl, sublimation printing, heat transfer paper, or white toner transfers, a good quality heat press will be a crucial piece of equipment in order to create custom items.

You may be thinking, “Can’t I just use my home iron?” The answer is, “Sort of.” For someone looking to actually sell their products and build a business, an iron is really not the best option, and it won’t work for everything. While you can technically apply heat transfer vinyl to many items using an iron, it is difficult to get consistent pressure and the item likely won’t hold up the way it would if it was created using a heat press. Other decoration methods, such a white toner transfers and sublimation, simply cannot be done using a home iron, so you are greatly limiting yourself with this method.

Which Heat Press is the Best?

You are probably asking yourself, “Which heat press is the best?”. Well, the answer to this question will vary from one person or business to another depending on their needs and preferences. With so many different options on the market, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are several important factors to consider when deciding which heat press is going to be best for you. There are a variety of heat presses available for different applications including hat presses, tumbler & mug presses, label presses, and much more. Here, we will focus on choosing the right heat press for t-shirts and most flat items, since these are most used across the industry and tend to be the most versatile. Let’s look at some of the major things you should think about when choosing your first (or next) heat press!


You can’t begin shopping for the best heat press until you have a good idea of what you’re able to spend. Whether you plan to pay in full up front, or take advantage of one of the many financing offers out there, you must have a handle on what your budget will be so that you can focus your search on heat presses you can actually afford. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands or more. For those who are more of a hobbyist, or just starting out, you can find plenty of options for quality heat presses under $1000.



Hotronix 9x12 Geo Knight 12x14 Maxx 11x15 Hix HT400


The good news is that you don’t need to have a ton of money set aside to get started with a new heat press. If you are serious about building or growing your business, it is important to look at buying a heat press as an investment. It can be easy to cover the cost of your heat press with the profit from the products you make with it. For example, at the time of this article, one of our most popular heat presses, the Hotronix Fusion IQ Heat Press Machine – 16” x 20”,  can be financed for as low as $75.96/month. Using our profit calculator below, you will see that you would only need to sell around 6-7 custom t-shirts a month (at $20 each) in order to cover this cost. Your new heat press could easily pay for itself!


Additionally, if you are a registered business, you can effectively reduce the cost of your new heat press by taking advantage of a Section 179 deduction on your taxes. Use our handy Section 179 savings calculator, found here, to see just how much you could save!

Quality of the Heat Press

You can probably browse Amazon, or other online retailers and find a lot of inexpensive heat presses, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Now, this doesn’t mean that a cheaper press always means cheap quality, but you must be careful. If you are going to be selling your items, you want to be confident that they will last. A poor-quality heat press may seem to work, but like a home iron, they often lack consistent pressure and even heat distribution. This may cause issues when you print and provide less-than-ideal results.

For the hobbyist who is only looking to make things for themselves or a few family members, a low-end budget heat press may be fine. However, if you plan to run a business, many of these presses are not worth the hassle and trouble that you will ultimately have. You may pay less upfront, but you will probably spend more in the time and labor you spend troubleshooting problems when you press your items.

It is typically best to stick with a high-quality heat press from a reputable brand, such as Geo Knight, Stahls’ Hotronix, Insta, and HIX. These brands make presses that are built to last, and will stick by your side for many years to come.

Volume of Business

The volume of business you plan to do plays a huge part in deciding which heat press is right for you. Do you want something that can easily print 100 t-shirts in an hour, or do you only expect to make items on a more casual basis? Take the time to realistically estimate the volume of business you expect to do not only right away, but over the next several years. A heat press is an investment, and you will probably want it to serve your business needs for a long period of time. While the more durable, professional level machines will be able to produce a higher output, they will also come at a higher price, so it is important to decide what makes the most sense for your current situation and for your future business goals.

Size of Your Heat Press, Printer or Cutter, and Area of Use

When we talk about size of a heat press, we are referring to the size of the platen itself. This is the part that heats and presses the item, and it will determine the maximum size design that you can press. When choosing what size heat press to purchase, you will need to have an idea of the type of items you plan to create. Appropriately sized designs will vary greatly from youth apparel to larger adult apparel, so think carefully about what you will be putting your designs onto, or you may find yourself outgrowing your heat press rather quickly.

If you are planning to create items larger than a typical t-shirt such as blankets, towels, large photo panels, all over print t-shirts, and other larger sized items, then you will need a large format press that can handle these.

Don’t forget to take into consideration any size limitations of your printers or vinyl cutters. For example, if your printer will create designs as large as 13” x 19” and you want to take advantage of that, then you will need a heat press that is at least that size or larger.

Of course, you can’t consider the size of your press without also considering the size of the area you plan to put your press. Large format presses take up a huge amount of space and power, so you need to make sure it will fit your area. However, this really applies to any press you use, so make sure that whatever size heat press you choose to buy will fit in the area you plan to put it. While this sounds obvious, it is something that is easily overlooked.

Style of Heat Press and Print Method

Heat presses will typically come in two primary styles – clamshell and swing-away. A clamshell heat press lifts and opens like a clam (like the name suggests). This offers a simple and efficient option for those who might be short on space. Clamshell heat presses tend to be the more economical option and can work well for a variety of decoration methods.

If you plan to use sublimation or white toner transfers, such as those made with the Crio 8432WDT, then you are going to want to use a swing-away press, since these offer more consistent pressure and heat. A swing-away press features an upper platen that rotates, which allows you to place and remove items with more ease and less risk of burning yourself (anyone who owns a heat press knows what that feels like. Ouch!). Even if you aren’t currently working with sublimation or white toner transfers, consider if you plan to add these decoration methods to your lineup soon when deciding on the right heat press. 


Heat Press Comparison


Service and Support

Because your heat press is going to be one of the most crucial pieces of equipment to your business, you want to be confident that there will be someone there to help in the event something goes wrong. Afterall, your business likely cannot run without a heat press, and time is money. Consider where you are purchasing your heat press and take the time to look into what kind training and support is offered to you, including what warranties might be available.

Let’s Find the Best Heat Press for You!

Choosing the best heat press can feel like a lot, but you don’t have to do it alone! Save yourself precious time scouring the internet for hours looking for the best option and let Coastal Business Supplies help guide you towards the best solution. Feel free to give us a call at 800-562-7760 or email us at [email protected] and one of our decoration experts would be happy to discuss your production goals and make recommendations on the best heat press for your situation.

If you are ready to dive in, take a look at our large selection of heat press machines. We are committed to providing the best education and equipment in the industry, which guarantees that we only carry the best on the market. Whether you are a hobbyist, a small business owner, or a decorator with a large volume of orders, you are sure to find a suitable option within our selection of equipment. Plus, all our products come with free lifetime technical support, so if you need any help getting things up and running, we’ve got your back.

Time to make your dreams come true!