Heat Press Machine 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Started

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Heat press machines are essential tools for customization businesses, especially those utilizing thermal transfer techniques such as dye-sublimation printing, DTF (Direct-to-Film) printing, and HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl). Choosing the ideal heat press machine for your business requires basic knowledge to make an informed decision. In this post, we will share crucial information, including the different types of heat presses, how to choose the right printing sizes, and what features to look for in a heat press machine. Additionally, we will provide a comprehensive guide on heat press settings and an accessories list to enhance your printing experience and results. Keep reading, and if you find it helpful, please share it on your social media to help more users make the right choice.

Different Types of Heat Press Machines

Heat press machines can be classified in various ways, and one of the most popular methods is by their structures. Regarding building structures, there are three types of heat press machines: swing-away, clamshell, and drawer design.

Swing-Away Heat Press Machine

This type of machine allows users to swing the heating platen aside for easier garment positioning, but it does require double the space for operation. Despite this, the swing-away heat press is favored by business owners with limited space.

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

Clamshell Heat Press Machine

This machine consists of two hinged plates that open and close like a clamshell. It saves a lot of space for business owners, but most models provide limited space for garment placement at the back, increasing the risk of burns.

Drawer Heat Press Machine

A drawer heat press features a clamshell structure with a slide-out design, enabling easy garment positioning while optimizing space usage. This design is becoming increasingly popular.

GS 105HS Clamshell Heat Press
GS-105HS Drawer Heat Press with Slide-out Drawer Design

Choosing The Right Printing Sizes for Your Heat Press Machine

Before determining the ideal printing size for your business, it’s crucial to understand the standard sizes available in the market. These sizes generally fall into five categories: extra small, small, standard, large, and extra large. For detailed information on these size options, you can refer to the following image and content. Alternatively, if you’re interested in heat press machines for your T-shirt printing business, you can explore our comprehensive heat press sizes guide.

T-shirt Press Machine Size Guide
T-shirt Press Machine Size Guide

Extra Small Size

These sizes are also referred as the logo and label press category including 4”x 6”, 5″x5″, 6” x 6”, and 6” x 8”. If you require printing on small areas of larger items, these sizes would be the most suitable heat press options to consider.

Small Size

This size range include 9” x 12”, 11” x 15”, 12” x 15”, and 14”x 16”. The widely favored A4 size is also part of this category, often sought after by hobbyists. If you’re seeking a device for garment decoration but have limited working space, this compact size could be an ideal option for your business needs.

Standard Size

This size range is considered standard for the industry, covering dimensions such as 16” x 16” and 15” x 15”. These sizes are typically large enough to accommodate the needs of most decorators. If you’re considering starting a print shop or expanding your custom apparel business, and you need to transfer designs onto various items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, totes, mousepads, and more, this size range may be suitable for your needs.

Large Size

The standard large size, typically 16” x 20”, is one of the two most popular heat press sizes, alongside the 15” x 15” option. It is ideal for standard sizes of t-shirt designs, such as full fronts and full backs. Additionally, it’s suitable for tasks like applying names and numbers for sports teams, offering ample space for various design applications.

Extra Large Size

The extra-large size range encompasses heat press sizes ranging from 18” x 20” to a colossal 40” x 64”. These presses boast expansive dimensions beyond the typical requirements of most users and come with a hefty price tag. Considering their substantial size and cost, they may not be the most practical choice for standard t-shirt printing applications.

Features & Functions to Look For

When choosing the right heat press for your business, features and functions are crucial considerations alongside costs. Before making your decision, it’s vital to assess your business needs and explore the available features offered by various heat press machines. To simplify your decision-making process, here are some of the top features to look for:

Auto Open Feature

The auto open feature operates by automatically opening the upper heating platen when the pre-set pressing time is reached, preventing over-heating. This feature enables users to optimize their time, allowing them to print transfers, pre-heat garments, or tend to other business tasks. While this feature may not be necessary for print-on-demand businesses with fewer orders, it can significantly increase efficiency for those with higher printing volumes.

However, despite its productivity benefits, the auto open feature may not be suitable for projects requiring extra pressure, such as laser transfers or sublimation onto photo slates or glass blanks. During the auto opening process, it can inadvertently apply additional force, potentially causing the transfer to shift and result in ghosting designs. Therefore, many users prefer to utilize manual open models in such scenarios. This preference led Galaxy Press to maintain a manual model and incorporate a Patented flip-switch (Ramspin) to toggle between manual and auto open modes when designing our GS-105HS and GS-804 models.

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Patented Ramspin

Pressure Readout

Another important feature to consider is the pressure readout. Although pressure is one of the three critical factors in heat pressing, not all heat press machines include a pressure readout feature. Most machines allow users to adjust the pressure, but it often requires guesswork and multiple adjustments to achieve the perfect pressure and printing results. To offer more precise control, the GS-105H provides nine different pressure levels, ranging from zero to nine, displayed on the screen.

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Automatic Floatation Feature

The automatic floatation design enables the upper heating platen to adjust its angle, ensuring a perfect fit and even pressure on the substrate surface. This feature is especially important for pressing uneven or thicker items, and all heat press machines from Galaxy Press include this design.

Multiple Saved Settings Feature

This feature is more common in industrial-level machines, allowing users to memorize and recall preset time, temperature, and pressure settings. Except for our mug press, all heat press machines from Galaxy Press include this feature. It enables users to preset, for example, five settings for frequently used substrates, allowing for quick and efficient production. In most cases, five presets are sufficient even for experienced users to meet their daily needs.

Threadable Lower Platen Feature

This dressable design is extremely helpful for garment decoration business owners. It provides enough space beneath the lower heating platen, allowing users to dress the lower platen with the garment. This ensures that only one side of the garment is on the printing surface, preventing color penetration to the other side. Additionally, for garments that need printing on both sides, users can quickly switch to the other side by rotating the garment around the lower platen.

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Dressable Lower Platen Design

Slide-out Drawer Design

The slide-out lower platen is commonly found in clamshell heat press machines, allowing users to slide it out for easy and precise garment positioning. In addition to this benefit, it also reduces the chances of getting burnt during garment positioning.

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Slide-out Drawer Design

Interchangeable & Detachable Control Box Feature

These features are often overlooked by many suppliers because they don’t provide any direct functional benefits to end users. However, they are crucial features for heat press machine dealers and wholesalers. They enable them to offer prompt after-sales support and maintenance to end users, avoiding long downtimes and enhancing customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

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Detachable & Interchangeable Control Box

For instance, GALAXY PRESS utilizes the same interchangeable control box for multiple models such as GS-303, GS-804, GS-805, and GS-604. This means dealers or wholesalers only need to stock the same unit to perform control box replacements for all these models. Furthermore, all control boxes of these heat press machines are designed to be detachable, allowing technicians to replace them within a few minutes without disassembling the entire unit. These two features greatly streamline technical support, making it super easy and efficient.

Interchangeable Platen Feature

It’s quite common for business owners to handle substrates of different sizes, necessitating different platens. Fortunately, many heat press machines offer an easy way to change the lower platen. At Galaxy Press, we use our patented RamLock system, which allows users to change platens effortlessly in seconds.

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RamLock for Platen Quick Change

Gas Shock Feature

The gas shock feature ensures significantly smoother and more predictable opening and closing actions compared to some spring-loaded machines. It typically involves the use of gas springs for the lifting or pressing process and is utilized in all heat press machines from Galaxy Press.

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Dual Gas Spring for Smooth Lifting & Pressing

Sleep Mode

As its name suggests, this feature allows the machine to automatically enter sleep mode after being idle for a preset duration. Users can easily reactivate the machine with a few clicks, as per the manufacturer’s design. This feature enables business owners to minimize power consumption and reduce the risk of fire hazards.

Fahrenheit and Celsius Switch-Ability

This is a fundamental feature for heat press machines that allows users to change the temperature display either to Fahrenheit or Celsius based on their preference. There are many other similar basic features, such as the ability to change language settings.

The Ultimate Settings Guide On Temperature & Time & Pressure

The three most crucial settings when using a heat press machine are temperature, time, and pressure. Due to variations in substrate materials and printing techniques used by different businesses, these settings can vary significantly. Consequently, there isn’t a universal solution, and it’s advisable to conduct printing tests to determine the optimal settings for each scenario.

However, to expedite this process, you can initially refer to the recommended values provided by suppliers. If you’re unsure about where to begin your testing, we’ve compiled an ultimate guide with recommended settings for different substrate materials and heat transfer techniques.

Accessories & Parts To Enhance Your Heat Pressing Experience

Apart from the features and functions you are looking for in heat press machines, the accessories and parts you are choosing would also enhance your printing experience significantly. Thus we listed some of the most helpful accessories that we believe are essential for users to get optimal experience and results.

Teflon Sheet

The Teflon sheet stands out as an excellent investment due to its low cost and significant value. It efficiently ensures even heat distribution, prevents garments from scorching or melting, protects transfer materials from adhering to the heat platen, and simplifies cleaning after each use. For businesses utilizing heat presses, Teflon sheets are essential accessories. Discover how integrating Teflon sheets can enhance your printing results and benefit your business.

Teflon sheet for heat pess
Teflon sheet for heat pess

Platens

Another crucial accessory for a heat press machine is platens. Different platens enable the heat press to accommodate various substrate surfaces and sizes. While many heat press machines may not come with extra platens initially, they often have the capability to interchange different platen sizes. For businesses dealing with diverse substrates and garment sizes, investing in a wide range of platens can be a highly cost-effective solution compared to purchasing additional equipment. However, it’s essential to verify with the supplier whether the heat press offers the option to change platen sizes and what sizes are available. For instance, the following table displays all the available platen sizes for our different heat press machines which you should also get from other supplier.

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
006612″*16.5″
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

In addition to standard flat heat press machines, there are also models capable of switching between a hat press and a flat heat press. For instance, the GS-604 heat press can interchange both the upper heating platen and the lower platen. This versatility allows business owners to make a single investment and acquire two machines in one, catering to various projects involving substrates with curved and flat surfaces alike.

Logo & Hat Heat Press Machine 2-in-1
Logo & Hat Heat Press Machine 2-in-1

Pen Press

Another valuable accessory is the pen press machine. Pens are widely regarded as popular options for promotional merchandise, and certain heat press models (for example GS-205B Pro mug press) are designed with a socket to connect to a separate pen press tool box. This feature allows business owners to diversify their product offerings and provide customized pens. If expanding into customized pens aligns with your current business strategy, selecting a heat press machine with this connecting option could prove to be a worthwhile investment.

Sublimation Pen Press Machine
Sublimation Pen Press Machine

Proctive Gloves

The final accessory on the list is protective gloves. These don’t necessarily have to be specially designed for use during thermal transfers; even home oven gloves can provide sufficient protection. The key point is that many users may be accustomed to performing pressing tasks without wearing any protective gear, and it’s recommended to always use proper protection during this process.

Conclusion

As we wrap up our journey through the basics of heat press machines, remember that the key to success lies in understanding your machine inside out. From selecting the right size for your prints to fine-tuning settings and exploring accessories, every detail matters. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, there’s always something new to discover in the world of heat press machines.

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