Clamshell Heat Press Mastery: Your Ultimate Guide

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clamshell heat press ultimate guide

Are you in search of a reliable clamshell heat press for your business? Still undecided between a clamshell and swing-away heat press? Uncertain about the right size or model? If these questions have left you feeling frustrated, this post aims to address all your concerns and guide you toward an informed decision. Throughout this post, we will discuss the definition of the clamshell heat press, outline its differences from the swing-away heat press, assist you in determining the better fit for your business, provide guidance on choosing the right size, and highlight essential features to consider. By the post’s conclusion, armed with this information, you’ll be well-equipped to select the best clamshell heat press to propel your business forward.

What Is A Clamshell Heat Press?

A clamshell heat press is a type of heat transfer machine used for applying heat and pressure to various materials, such as fabrics or substrates, to transfer a printed design onto them. It consists of two hinged plates that open and close like a clamshell, hence the name. The material with the printed design and the substrate to be printed is placed between the heated plates, and pressure is applied to facilitate the transfer of the design. Clamshell heat presses are commonly used in the production of custom apparel, promotional items, and other heat transfer applications.

GS 105HS Clamshell Heat Press
GS-105HS Clamshell Heat Press

Key Features to Consider When Choosing a Clamshell Heat Press

When selecting the appropriate clamshell heat press for your business, several features and functions can significantly streamline your operations and spare you from unnecessary challenges.

Slide-out Drawer Design

This is one of the most critical features to consider when comparing product options, given that safety is a major concern for clamshell heat presses. This feature enables users to slide out the lower platen, ensuring ample space for design alignment and placement without the risk of accidental burns.

Slide-out Drawer Clamshell Heat Press
Slide-out Drawer Clamshell Heat Press

Dressable Lower Platen

If your primary business revolves around garment decoration, a dressable lower platen could be indispensable. This feature facilitates the swift fitting of apparel onto the lower platen, akin to dressing any garment. Furthermore, users can seamlessly switch the printing side from front to back within seconds by rolling the apparel around the lower platen.

Galaxy 16x20 heat press 105HS 3
Dressable Lower Platen

Replaceable Platen

In the customization business, daily tasks often encompass projects of varying printing sizes. Opting for a clamshell heat press with a replaceable platen of different sizes can result in substantial cost savings, eliminating the need for additional machines to handle orders of various printing sizes. While the ability to change between different platen sizes may entail additional costs, there is no doubt that it constitutes a wise investment. Suppliers may employ different approaches to address this aspect (e.g., GS-105HS utilizes a patented RamLock quick-change system), but it’s crucial to ensure that your chosen heat press incorporates this valuable feature.

Galaxy 16x20 heat press 105HS 2
RamLock Quick Change System

In addition to the option of changing between different platen sizes, it is equally crucial to ensure that the available sizes align with the requirements of your business. The following provides an example of platen sizes and the corresponding projects they can accommodate, offering a reference point for verification with suppliers.

PlatenSizeItem No.Applicable Heat PressApplicable Blanks
00064″*4″J.02.07.0006Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for logo
0005Dia 4″J.02.07.0005Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for sequin coin bag
00046″*6″J.02.07.0004Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for lunch bag
00076″*10″J.02.07.0007Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for easter bag
00086″*20″J.02.07.0008applicable heat press 303lower platen for trousers
00098″*10″J.02.07.0009Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for m bag
001111″*15″J.02.07.0011Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for l bag
Perfect fit with
A3 DTF printer
J.02.07.0066Galaxy RAMLOCK Platenslower platen for 1515
001215″*15″J.02.07.0012applicable heat press 303lower platen for pillow case
001316″*20″J.02.07.0013applicable heat press 303lower platen for tshirt

Pressure Readouts

Another often overlooked feature is the pressure readout. While temperature, time, and pressure are the three key settings for a heat press, many machines lack proper pressure readouts, leaving users with limited control over the applied pressure during operations. Suppliers employ various methods to display pressure, including detailed numerical figures, descriptive terms like “Light,” “Mid,” and “Heavy,” or a numerical rating scale from 1 to 10. Regardless of the method used, it’s essential to ensure that the chosen heat press offers comprehensive control over the settings.

Clamshell Heat Press V.S. Swing Away Heat Press: Which Is Better?

A perpetual discussion within the heat press community revolves around the comparison of “Clamshell heat press vs. swing away heat press: which is better?” These two structures, clamshell and swing away, stand as the most prevalent choices for heat press machines. However, determining the superior fit for a business is a complex matter with no straightforward answer.

Difference Between Clamshell Heat Press V.S. Swing Away Heat Press


The primary distinction between these two heat press types lies in their footprint. A swing-away heat press typically demands twice the space clearance for the swing-out motion when compared to clamshell heat presses, a result of the operational mechanics inherent to each type.

GS 303 Swing Away Heat Press
GS-303 Swing-away Heat Press


When considering the drawbacks of a clamshell heat press, safety emerges as a primary concern. The limited space for design placement and alignment, when the upper platen is open, raises the risk of accidental burns for users. In contrast, the swing-away heat press eliminates this concern as its heating element is consistently hidden, minimizing direct contact with the human body.

While this safety concern traditionally holds for many clamshell heat presses, it’s noteworthy that several suppliers have introduced a slide-out structure, often referred to as pull-out or slide-out drawer presses. This innovation allows the lower platen to be slid out, facilitating more comfortable and precise design alignment and placement. Consequently, with prudent selection, a clamshell heat press need not pose a significant safety hazard.

Pressure Distribution

The variation in structures between clamshell and swing-away heat presses also impacts their performance, particularly in terms of pressure distribution.

The swing-away heat press typically employs a straight-down pressure system with a handle, enabling it to generate consistent pressure across the substrate. This feature makes it particularly effective for working with thicker items like plaques and tiles. On the other hand, the clamshell heat press closes at an angle, resulting in a pinching effect at the neck or furthest edge of the press. This effect can cause thicker substrates to feel the pressure on that far side initially, potentially leading to uneven outcomes.

While, in theory, swing-away heat presses offer superior pressure distribution compared to clamshell heat presses, the practical difference in printing results remains uncertain. For example, prints from a GS-105HS clamshell heat press and a GS-303 swing-away heat press on photo slate or tiles yield equally impressive results. Thus, when selecting a machine for your business, it might be necessary to conduct a few tests to ensure the desired outcome.


A heat press machine is primarily designed to apply heat and pressure to perform a heat transfer process, however, an extra function of swing away heat press is the hover function.

The swing-away structure enables DTG or DTF users to use its hover function to do pre-treatment to remove all moisture and post-treatment to dry up and generate better prints.

Which One Is Better For Your Business?

Selecting between a clamshell and a swing-away heat press for your business often comes down to personal preference, and the choice may vary among different business owners.

For users looking for a straightforward and user-friendly heat press, the clamshell heat press is an excellent choice. Its simple design, resembling a clamshell with a hinge between the upper and lower platens, makes it easy to use and perfect for beginners. The clamshell takes up minimal space, making it highly portable, and its uncomplicated operation makes it ideal for high-volume tasks like printing t-shirts. With the least number of steps to operate, it streamlines the printing process and is a practical solution for those prioritizing simplicity and efficiency.

On the other hand, the swing-away heat press is tailored for users seeking enhanced precision and versatility. Designed to move the upper platen away from the lower platen between presses, the swing-away press provides a heat-free workspace and facilitates an easier garment layout with a full view of the working area. This feature promotes precise layout and application, making the swing-away heat press an ideal choice for those who prioritize accuracy, convenience, and energy efficiency in their heat-pressing workflow.

Most Popular Size for Clamshell Heat Press

Though there are many platen sizes available in the market, the two most popular sizes for clamshell or any other heat press machines are 15″ x 15″ and 16″ x 20″ heat press machines.

15″ x 15″ heat presses: 15″ x 15″ heat presses are often regarded as the “standard” size for t-shirt heat presses, offering ample workspace for most decorators. They boast greater wattage for efficient completion of repetitive prints and are typically more budget-friendly compared to larger models.

16″ x 20″ heat presses: On the other hand, 16″ x 20″ heat presses are considered large and are suitable for various applications. While few apparel decorators require anything larger, this size effortlessly handles 11” x 17” transfers and standard t-shirt designs such as full front and full back prints. Additionally, they can accommodate customization like names and numbers for sports teams, making them versatile options for diverse printing needs.

Best Clamshell Heat Press for All Business Sizes from Galaxy Press

If you’ve reached this point, you’re likely grappling with the decision of which clamshell heat press model is the best investment for your business. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer as it hinges on your business requirements. Navigating through the multitude of product options can be overwhelming. In Galaxy Press’s recommendation, if there’s only one clamshell heat press we would suggest for your business, it would be the GS-105HS.

Prisma Auto GS 105HS Clamshell Heat Press
GS-105HS Clamshell Heat Press

GS-105HS is an intuitive and powerful press, perfect for most printing workflows. It features optional 15″x15″ and 16″x20″ platen sizes, the most popular sizes for most printers, an auto-open mechanism, slide-out dressable lower platen, and RAMLOCK interchageable platens GS-105HS is the press you need for all your printing jobs.

In addition to the features mentioned above, another patented feature of the GS-105HS is the RAMSPIN system. This innovative system enables users to seamlessly switch between manual open and auto-open modes by simply flipping the Electromagnet switch.

Galaxy 16x20 heat press 105HS 1

To facilitate quicker after-sale service for our dealers and simplify maintenance, we have designed the control box to be interchangeable. This ensures that customers need not be concerned about extended downtimes, risking order and customer loss due to prolonged maintenance wait times.

Galaxy Press 16x20 heat press GS 105HS
Interchangeable Control Box

Moreover, to grant users complete control over pressure settings, the GS-105HS is equipped with a pressure readout system, enabling measurement across 1 to 9 levels. Users can effortlessly adjust the pressure using the pressure screw set based on their specific requirements. You might check how these features work in the following video.

How to Use A Clamshell Heat Press?

While the settings for various printing techniques can differ, the fundamental process of using a heat press generally follows steps such as preparing the design, configuring the settings, placing the design, pressing, and peeling. To guide you through this process comprehensively, the following tutorial video offers detailed instructions and valuable tips to optimize your prints.


How heat press works?

A heat press operates by applying heat and pressure to transfer a printed design onto a substrate, such as fabric or ceramic. After preparing and printing the design on heat transfer paper, the substrate is positioned on the press. Closing the press activates the ink, transferring the design to the substrate. The heat and pressure combination ensures a durable transfer. Subsequently, the substrate is allowed to cool, setting the design. This process is widely used for customizing items like T-shirts, mugs, and hats, with the type of heat press—whether clamshell or swing away—affecting ease of operation and transfer quality.

When to use a heat press?

A heat press is a versatile tool used in various heat transfer techniques such as sublimation printing, where vibrant colors are transferred onto materials like polyester fabrics, ceramics, and metal. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in DTF (direct-to-film) printing, allowing intricate designs to be transferred onto films that are later applied to textiles. This tool is also instrumental in Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) applications, where vinyl material is pressed onto fabrics, creating durable and personalized designs on clothing items. Beyond apparel, a heat press is employed in promotional product customization, applying logos or graphics to items like mugs and mousepads. It finds applications in textile art, aiding in fabric art, quilting, and various textile-based projects. Understanding the specific heat transfer method and material is essential for effectively utilizing a heat press in these diverse applications.

Are heat press attachments universal?

Heat press attachments, such as platens and accessories, are not universally compatible across all heat press models. The design, size, and specifications of heat press machines can vary among manufacturers and models. As a result, attachments are often specifically designed to fit certain heat press machines. When purchasing attachments, it’s crucial to ensure compatibility with your specific heat press model. Manufacturers typically provide information about compatible accessories for their machines, and it’s recommended to refer to the user manual or contact the manufacturer for guidance on suitable attachments for your heat press.

Does the heat press t-shirt last? Will heat press marks wash out?

The longevity of heat-pressed t-shirts depends on various factors, including the quality of the materials used, the heat press process, and care during washing. When done correctly, heat press marks should not wash out easily. Proper application of heat press transfers and following recommended heat press settings contribute to durable and long-lasting prints. It’s essential to use high-quality transfer materials and ensure that the heat press is calibrated correctly to avoid issues like fading or cracking. Additionally, following care instructions, such as washing the garments inside out and using mild detergents, can help preserve the integrity of heat-pressed designs.

What heat press should I buy?

Selecting the right heat press depends on your specific needs and the type of projects you plan to undertake. If you’re a beginner or focused on printing t-shirts in volume, a clamshell heat press is an excellent choice. It’s easy to use, takes up minimal space, and is portable, making it ideal for those starting out. On the other hand, if you prioritize precise garment layout, and application, and desire a heat-free workspace, a swing-away heat press might be more suitable. The swing-away design provides a full view of the layout area, allowing for meticulous work. Consider factors like the types of materials you’ll be working with, the size of your projects, and your workspace when making this decision. Ultimately, the best heat press for you will align with your specific business requirements and preferences.

What heat press settings for sublimations?

Heat press settings vary significantly across different heat transfer printing techniques such as dye-sublimation, DTF, HTV, and more. To ensure optimal results, refer to our heat press settings guide for recommended configurations tailored to specific printing methods.

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