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, so that you can decide which one is right for you.



Click to skip to a heading in the contents below or continue to read our article.


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 when using it?
  • How much am I willing to pay?
  • What style looks the coolest?
  • How clumsy am I?


Other questions you might be asking are:

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



This is a press which opens and closes up and down. It really defines itself, doesn’t it?

First the pros, then some cons.



  • There are many cheap heat presses in this style, such as the Power Press 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, less potential for problems.
  • 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.




  • 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


This type of press has a top platen which swings away to the side – often 360°.




  • As the top hot platen swings away, this allows you to work more freely.
  • Less chance of burning yourself (this is why I said you needed to ask yourself earlier how clumsy you were).
  • More work room when laying out your garment and transfer.




  • 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.
  • Takes up a bit more space. You need to be extra careful not to have anything nearby that it 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:



Also known as the ‘pull out’ style because this is what you do to access the pressing area. This allows it many of the same advantages as the swing away style, though it  is basically a clamshell press with a pull out bottom.




  • 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.




  • 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.
  • 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 Power Press 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.


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