Heat Press Styles: Clamshell, Swing-Away or Draw?

So you’re considering investing in a heat press, but which style should you buy?

In this article we discuss the pros and cons of all three styles of heat press; clamshell, swing-away and draw, so that you can decide which one is right for you.

 

 

 

Which One Should You Choose?

 

 

Like all things, each style has its pros and cons. You will need to consider your personal circumstances to know which suits you best.

 

These are some questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • How much space will I have to access and use my machine?
  • How much money am I willing to pay?
  • Which style looks the best?
  • How clumsy am I?

 

Other questions you might be asking are:

  • Is there a difference in the quality of end product from one style press to another?
  • Is one style more physically difficult to use than another?
  • Is one style more difficult to understand than another?
  • Will one style of press last longer than another?
  • Is one style more prone to mechanical problems?

 

Clamshell Style Heat Presses

Clamshell style heat presses open and close up and down, just like a clamshell. It really defines itself, doesn’t it?

First the pros, then some cons.

 

Pros Of The Clamshell Style

 

  • There are many cheap heat presses available in this style, one example being the PowerPress heat press, Amazon’s most popular and well loved heat press!
  • Clamshell heat presses take up less space than other styles. For example, you do not need to consider space for the top platen to swing around. However, you should always have plenty of space around your press either way.
  • There is less involved mechanically with a clamshell. Therefore, there’s less potential for problems and they’re easier to learn how to use.
  • No need to line up the top platen with the bottom. It only goes down in one place!
  • My personal opinion is that the clamshell style looks the best.

 

Cons Of The Clamshell Style

 

  • Unless you get a model which opens particularly wide, – for example this amazing machine – it can be difficult to lay out your garment and transfer on the bottom plate. That whole area is slightly less accessible.
  • Along the same lines, unless your press opens wide, there’s always the risk of burning your knuckles on the top platen. It just means you’ve got to be careful.

 

This video gives a good demonstration of how to use a basic manual clamshell heat press:

 

 

Swing-Away Style Heat Presses

 


This type of heat press has a top platen which swings away to the side – often 360°. The heat press linked to in the image above is the ePhotoInc 9 x 12 swing-away heat press, which is an Amazon #1 best seller. 

 

Pros Of The Swing-Away Style

 

  • There are many cheap swing-away style presses available on Amazon, if you’ve got a small budget.
  • As the top heat platen swings away, this allows you to work more freely. There is more work room when laying out your garment and transfer.
  • There is less chance of burning yourself (this is why I said you needed to ask yourself earlier how clumsy you were).
  • The basic, cheap swing-away machines are also easy to learn how to use.

 

Cons Of The Swing-Away Style

 

  • If you wanted to be picky, you might consider the extra step involved in swinging the top away as a negative. This is really only a con if that extra half a second is precious to you.
  • This style requires a bit more space. You need to be extra careful not to have anything nearby that the top heat platen could swing into.
  • Because of all the swinging, every now and again you might need to tighten the odd screw. They can loosen with use over time.

 

This video gives you a look at how a swing-away heat press works:

 

 

Draw Style Heat Presses 

 


This style is also known as the ‘pull out’ style because you can pull out the lower platen in order to arrange your garment. This allows many of the same advantages as the swing-away style, such as the ability to work more freely, though it is basically a clamshell press with a pull out bottom.

 

There are cheap draw heat presses, such as the OrangeA 15 x 15 draw heat press (image above) and more expensive machines such as the Hotronix Fusion 16 x 20 combination swing-away and draw, which we have written a thorough review on.

 

Pros Of The Draw Style

 

  • The work area pulls out from under the top platen giving plenty of room to lay out your garment.
  • Your hands are kept safe from the heat of the top platen.
  • Often these machines allow you to slip your t-shirt over the draw. This allows you to have only the side of the t-shirt which you are applying your transfer to under the heat platen. This is especially helpful if you’re doing transfers on both sides.

 

Cons Of The Draw Style

 

  • If you’re looking for a cheap heat press, there are not many in this style. The cheapest machines are mainly clamshell and swing-away.
  • There is more potential for something to wrong with the moving parts. This is not guaranteed to happen, of course.
  • As with the swing-away press, you may need a bit more space in order to pull out the bottom level.

 

This video demonstrates how a draw heat press is used:

 

 

 Further Considerations

 

The features of these different styles become more prominent the more expensive they are. If you get a cheap heat press machine, the style does not play that important a role in determining output or ease of use. It really does come down to which you prefer.  

 

Expensive machines have more bells and whistles, and coupled with each of the different styles, this creates more meaningful differences. Whereas cheaper machines are all doing the same basic thing, but with slightly different mechanics.

 

It is not so much the style of press which determines the quality of the end product produced. Nor is it the style which will determine the longevity of the machine. These factors are determined more by the amount of money you have to spend. You can find machines under $300 in all styles, and machines into the thousands of dollars in each as well.

 

So where does this leave you if you’re new to the game?

 

The clamshell style press is a great starter style. They are very easy to use and are best sellers on Amazon. The PowerPress heat press, which we have reviewed, is their number one best seller.

 

But now that you’ve read all the way to the bottom, let me say what I could have begun with: the style of press is not all that important. This is not something to fuss over if you are just setting out on this adventure.

 

The differences between the style of machines at the lower end are not so great so as to give you a clear choice.

 

I recommend going with the type you think you would be most comfortable using; the type you like the look of the best; the type which best suits your price range; and finally, the type that you aren’t going to burn yourself on.

 

Good luck!

 

Thanks for checking out our article on heat press styles. We hope you found this helpful! Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

(Please note: This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy here.)

 

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