Sublimation printing is a wonderful way to put intricate designs into shirts, mugs, tumblers, and many other wearable items. However, printing is only half the job, and for the best results you should invest in the often-overlooked best heat press machines for beginners. Depending on what you intend to print, there’s a number of different types of heat presses to cater to different needs. If you are a beginner in the world of sublimation printing, it can be quite daunting not knowing where to begin.
That’s where I thought I’d step in: I’ve put together a handy buyer’s guide of some of the best heat presses on the market for different skill levels. When paired with the right sublimation printer, you’ll be creating top-notch custom designs in no time.
Best heat press for beginners
Cricut EasyPress 2
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Best multi-use heat pressF2C Pro 5 in 1 Combo
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Budget pickRoyalPress 15" x 15"
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What is a Heat Press Machine?
I thought I’d clear this question right away: a heat press machine is effectively a hot plate that you use to impress your designs onto the chosen surface. Due to the chemicals in sublimation ink, this process results in the design being bonded to the substrate permanently. Heat press machines need to run very hot, but for relatively short periods of time.
Due to the high heat of these machines, make sure to take care when operating them. Mistakes can lead to severe burns or other injuries.
Types of Heat Press Machine
There are a few different types of heat press machines. Clamshell or “Flat-Top” Heat Presses are the more typical design, where the super-heated plate is raised and lowered on a hinge. These are the best heat press machines for clothing such as t-shirts. I generally recommend these as a starting option, as they tend to be more affordable with low storage needs.
Swing-Away Heat Presses are the safer option, as the hot plate literally swings away from your hands to avoid injury. They also provide equal amounts of pressure between the two metal plates, which makes for a consistent result ideal for bulk orders. That said, they are generally more expensive than clamshell models.
For more specialist requirements, there are some other models such as the Tumbler Heat Press, which has a cylindrical design specifically tailored to mugs or glasses. For a truly multi-purpose device, many sublimation artists use a Convection Oven, which is closer to a kiln than a press and provides even heat – and you can even cook with them!
For another household item that can serve as a heat press in a pinch, you can use an iron to impress your designs – though results are much less predictable than with a dedicated machine.
Best Heat Press for Beginners: Cricut Easy Press 2
- A NO-STRESS HEAT PRESS — Get pro-level heat-transfer results with Cricut EasyPress 2, the speed of a heat press and the convenience of an iron
- ADJUSTABLE TIME AND TEMPERATURE— Control temperature up to 400 ºF (205 ºC) and set the timer to take on just about any heat transfer project that comes your way
- QUICK, EASY RESULTS — Featuring an advanced heat plate design with a ceramic-coated surface, the press heats up in under 2 minutes and can take on even the most intricate prints in no time
- IGHTWEIGHT & EASY TO STORE — Cricut EasyPress 2 is equipped with an insulated safety base & auto-off feature to help make every heat transfer project a safe, worry-free experience
- AFETY CERTIFICATIONS — Cricut products conform with applicable product standards like UL, CSA, FCC, or IEC standards. Cricut products are also listed or certified Nationally Recognized Testing Labs (NRTLs) such as TUV & Intertek
- Affordable heat press option
- Easy to use, suitable for beginners
- Compact and easy to store
- Ideal for sublimation or Infusible Ink transfers
- The largest size available is 12 x 10 inches
The Cricut Easy Press 2 is a popular choice among home artists, often regarded as a bridge between a traditional iron and a heat press. It’s an excellent tool for individuals exploring more complex designs and heat transfers. This machine is particularly well-suited for entry-level crafters engaged in creative projects.
Cricut is a respected brand known for producing high-quality, durable products. The Easy Press 2 is available in four sizes, including a mini version. It comes in various colors to suit your artistic style. Its digital time and temperature control display make adjusting settings very easy and accessible, and it heats up quickly for efficient crafting sessions. Moreover, Cricut provides excellent customer support and offers a wealth of online resources and a supportive community.
While the Cricut Easy Press 2 is affordable and easy to use, it isn’t ideal for large-scale or commercial production due to its smaller size and the need for manual pressure application. However, it does offer a wide temperature range of up to 400°F, making it suitable for sublimation heat press applications.
Best Heat Press for T-Shirts: TUSY Heat Press Machine
- 【Auto Press & Effort-Saving】TUSY automatic heat press machine is so easy to use that takes away the struggles of a regular heat press. All you have to do is gently push the ironing board inside and press one button to start, and the machine can automatically press down, adding even and sufficient pressure to the object for heat transfer work. Even men with less strength can easily complete hundreds of heat transfer products with a TUSY auto heat press machine.
- 【Safer & Free You Time】The auto heat press can also automatically lift after the set time is over, so the user does not need to be at the machine all the time, which can save a lot of time for individuals or studios to prepare transfer materials or design patterns. Combined with the setting of 30 min automatic shutdown without operation, even if you forget the work in progress, there is no need to worry about long-term heating damage to the work or cause safety accidents.
- 【Fast & Evenly】Our 15×15 heat press could reach the temperature from 0 – 240°C(0 – 464°F), and set time from 0 – 499 seconds. 1100W high power and single tube heating, this machine can distribute heat faster and more evenly.
- 【Unique Appearance】Compared with industrial heat press, TUSY automatic heat press has a smaller body under the same heat transfer size. The appearance adopts a home-style design. We added crystals pearlescent powder into the surface painting, which can present a iridescent light under the light; It is an excellent machine for heat press work and a good decoration when idle.
- 【Comprehensive Technical Support】24/7 attentive support will be offered with great patience! Any problems with this heat press, for example, product functions, or logistics timeliness, just contact us.
- Handheld design enhances accuracy during operation
- It is user-friendly and easy to use, making it suitable for beginners
- It is highly adjustable, allowing you to print on various fabrics.
- Inconsistent heat plate results on higher temperatures
The TUSY Heat Press Machine is a user-friendly option designed for beginners looking to start their heat transfer projects. This heat press machine includes essential accessories, making it easy to begin printing on various materials and items.
The TUSY Heat Press Machine boasts several noteworthy features that make it a reliable choice for beginners. Its heating plate, measuring 15×15 inches, provides ample printing space, easily accommodating even oversized t-shirts or hoodies. The machine’s handheld design enhances precision and control during operation, ensuring accurate transfers. Safety is a priority with this heat press, thanks to its overheat protection feature. If the temperature exceeds safe limits, the machine automatically shuts off, preventing accidents. It excels at transferring images and characters onto fabrics like cotton and flax. An LCD control panel enhances usability, displaying temperature and time settings while allowing for precise adjustments.
That said, depending on the material used, the TUSY Heat Press Machine can struggle to consistently correct heat. Issues are rare, but they can occur – so we recommend always testing before committing to any important designs. Aside from that, we recommend the TUSY Heat Press Machine as a top choice for t-shirts!
Best Budget Heat Press Machine for Beginners: RoyalPress Industrial Heat Press
- Brand New Industrial-Quality Press-casting aluminum heating plate with teflon coating,don’t need coated sheet anymore;Printing Area:15″ x 15″ (38 x 38cm);
- Temperature range:0-480F Fahrenheit degree(0-250 Centigrade),Time Range:0-999 second, Counter Range:0-999pcs; Voltage:110v, Power:1400W; With US-standard grounded plug;
- Color LED Intelligent Memory Digital temperature,time and counter triple function controller, Provides extra function of calculating production;
- Special Thickened Aluminum Heating Plate make the even and stable temperature over the heating plate; Professional in heat transfer printing on t-shirt, bags, puzzles, mouse pads etc;
- Warm note:1.Real product color: Blue; 2.T-shirts are NOT included in the package.Thanks.
- Resistant and durable
- Simple temperature and time setting for ease of use
- Equipped with an electrical control system for easy maintenance
- Aluminum plates may take slightly more time to heat up compared to other materials
The RoyalPress Industrial Machine stands out as an excellent choice for beginners and experienced users searching for a safe and efficient heat press. One of its standout features is the pull-away design, where the larger-sized lower plate can be pulled out of the heat press. This design ensures you can work on your projects without getting too close to the hot plates, enhancing safety. Moreover, the draw-style press takes up minimal space, making it a practical choice for those with limited workspaces.
Notable features of the RoyalPress include a magnetic lock to secure the plate and prevent slippage during printing. This heat press emits a beep and automatically unlocks and opens the plates once the timer reaches completion. The aluminum heating plates have a Teflon coating, which protects your workpiece from burns and simplifies cleaning. The LED digital temperature display and intelligent memory function controller make it user-friendly, especially for beginners. The silicone pads can withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, enhancing its versatility.
If you’re a beginner seeking a top-notch heat press, the RoyalPress is a compelling choice. Its pull-away design ensures safety during use, and the durable aluminum plates with a Teflon coating offer reliability. The magnetic lock prevents plate slippage, and the user-friendly features, including the temperature display and function controller, make it an excellent option for various projects, such as printing on T-shirts, bags, mousepads, and more.
Best Multi-Purpose Heat Press for Beginners: F2C Pro 5-in-1 Combo
- Full 360-degree rotation and professional swing-away design.Note: If the heating plate is not flat, pls check first if the machine is placed on a flat workstation and make sure to add enough pressure by adjusting the pressure knob to secure the plate from shaking
- Digital LED controller, Non-stick surface W/ Detached upgraded aluminium alloy cradle for use of the mugs, hats & pads elements
- Large 12″ x 15″ Heat Press, provides a big surface to create your own custom T-shirt etc
- This 5 in 1 multifunction heat press machine comes with hat, mug, plate attachments for make your custom mugs, pads or hats besides just T-shirts
- This 5-in-1 Set can widely be used to transfer colorful pictures and characters of sublimating and dissolved printing ink onto ceramics, glasses and textiles such as cotton, flax, chemical fiber, nylon, etc.
- Resistant Provides accurate and even imprinting of designs on various surfaces
- The 12 x 15 inches heating surface accommodates many design projects
- Not restricted to one type of sublimation
- No specific cons
Not everyone possesses a natural talent for sublimation, especially when handling hot plates that can reach a few hundred degrees. That’s why it’s essential to have beginner-friendly equipment that’s both safe and powerful, catering to beginners and professionals alike. The F2C Pro Heat Press Machine perfectly fits this description, making it a standout choice for those new to heat pressing.
What sets the F2C Pro apart is its user-friendliness, offering beginners an easy-to-operate heat press without compromising print quality. The machine arrives partially assembled in the box, making setup hassle-free. You won’t need to spend hours deciphering schematics; you can start working on your projects moments after unboxing.
While the machine’s heating surface measures 12 x 15 inches, slightly smaller than some competitors, it ensures even heating for consistent results. Customer support for this heat press is exceptional, offering assistance for any issues you might encounter. While there might be a slight odor during the initial uses, it dissipates with time and does not transfer to your materials.
Best Durable Heat Press for Beginners: PowerPress Industrial-Quality Digital Sublimation Heat Press
- Teflon coated Heating Plate: 15×15 inch. Voltage: 110V. Power: 1400 W. Digital Control Board (Temperature Range: 32-455 F & Time Range: 0-999 s)
- Removable Silicon Mat: The silicon mat is not glued on the bottom board. Advantages: Washable (Easy to clean after work) & Replaceable (Easy to replace with new mat). Please feel free to move or attach as you like.
- Bottom handle: When the heating plate is closed with high temperature, the shape of the machine might change slightly. A bottom handle can then help you open the plate easily and safely.
- Patented Design Control Chip: Makes the machine more powerful, more accurate and safer to control the temperature.
- Replaceable Fuse: Protect machine from overheating and electric short.
- Easy to use
- Solid construction, durable build
- It is not as smooth to operate as higher-end machines
The Power Press Heat Press is another fantastic choice for beginners. This digital heat press offers affordability and essential features, making it a reliable option for various projects. It has a digital LCD for precise time and temperature control, offering a wide temperature range from 0 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can easily adjust the pressure using the knob, and the silicon base plate ensures even heating. With a robust aluminum heat platen, a heavy-duty steel frame, and a replaceable fuse for maintenance, it combines durability with functionality.
While its clamshell design saves space, it may not provide the same smooth operation as higher-end models. Despite some minor drawbacks, it’s a solid choice for home uses and small-scale t-shirt businesses.
Best Heat Press Machine for Beginners: Things to Consider
Whether planning to start a custom T-shirt or mug business or simply exploring a new crafting hobby, finding a suitable heat press machine is essential. Here are some key elements to consider before buying:
Depending on the scope or scale of your planned venture, the best heat press machine for you may not necessarily need to be the fastest – which can be the most expensive. Think about the overall usage for your heat-press, and find a median between the overall heat press quality and speed.
The reason I’ve suggested a number of relatively compact heat press machines today is that beginners don’t need the best and bulkiest models. These should all serve you well in a variety of usage purposes with smooth workflows without taking up too much of the working area.
Ease of Use
I always look for user-friendly features, especially if you’re new to heat press machines. Some newer Cricut models can even connect to a Cricut Heat App for enhanced automation.
Depending on what you plan to sublimate onto, consider the choice of heat press machine. Aside from specially-designed machines such as a tumbler heat press, the maximum temperature of the heat press will affect what material you can use. I made this simple table that shows the general benchmarks for common sublimation substrates:
Make sure that if you intend to sublimate using a specific material – such as polyester or vinyl – that you have a heat press able to accommodate the temperature.
Aim for a heat press machine with a dozen or so degrees of headroom – you don’t want to be maxing-out your heat press constantly, especially if it’s in heavy use.
Manual vs Automatic
Heat press machines come in manual and automatic models. Manual presses require physical force to open and close, while automatic models use timers for operation. Semi-automatic models, a hybrid of the two, are also available. Automatic and semi-automatic models are suitable for high-production environments but more expensive than manual ones.
How to Use A Heat Press Machine
Using a heat press machine, especially for beginners, can be challenging, especially if you lack proper documentation. Many of the heat press machines on our list may not come with comprehensive instructions, making the process seem confusing. However, don’t worry; we’ll guide you through the basics.
Prepare Your Design
Before starting, you need a design. Print it using your sublimation printer and using suitable ink and sublimation paper.
Prepare Your Garment
Ensure your garment, whether a T-shirt or another item, is wrinkle-free. In case it isn’t, ironing out the shirt beforehand is essential to ensure an even design imprint.
Your t-shirt or garment should also be dry before sublimating, otherwise your design can come out looking faded or dark.
Preheat the Heat Press
Start your heat press machine and wait until it reaches the optimal heat transfer temperature. This is crucial to ensure your design adheres correctly to the fabric.
Position the Design
Carefully place your design on the garment where you want it imprinted. Be precise with the placement and ensure any additional layers – such as a base layer for sublimating on dark shades – are all aligned.
Make Contact and Set a Timer
Close the heated heat press plate onto your garment, ensuring the design area is sandwiched between the plate and the fabric. If your machine has a built-in timer, set it according to the instructions for your material. If your device lacks a timer, you’ll need to manually time the process based on the instructions that came with your machine.
Be precise with your timings: too long and you can burn or brown the design, and ruin your print.
In sublimation printing, a substrate is simply the catch-all term for whatever material you are impressing your design into. This covers everything from polyester t-shirts to ceramic mugs.
No: Whilst having a craft background is helpful, you don’t have to be an artist for sublimation printing. There’s plenty of design software that can help you create your envisioned design without needing to hand-draw it yourself.
As with many elements of a craft project like this, there’s no one-size-fits-all “best heat press for beginners”. My choices today tried to reflect a number of needs and budgets, to ensure that everyone has an option. Sublimation printing is such a worthwhile hobby, and I hope you find the right tool to help you get started!
If you’re looking for some inspiration, why not check out some free sublimation designs to get you started with printing?