What Is A Heat Press Machine & How Does A Heat Press Work?

Heat Press Basics! What is a heat press AND how does a heat press work?


I remember, years ago, when I first heard about these amazing machines. Well actually, I saw a picture of one, and thought ‘what on earth is that?’ Little did I know that they would soon become a significant part of my life!


In this short but sweet post, I’ll share with you the answers to the following questions:

  • What is a heat press?
  • How does a heat press work?
  • What is a heat press used for?


What Is A Heat Press Machine?



Since coming to love these machines and learning all about them, I have purchased 2 for myself (with bigger and better ones planned for the future!).


I currently use them mostly for making t-shirts, baby onesies, and other craft projects such as reverse canvases – though I’m always on the lookout for new projects to try out!


What Is A Heat Press?

While you might not know exactly what a heat press machine is or does, you have surely seen what they make.


You will have seen t-shirts and hoodies with designs on them, or sports jerseys with names and numbers. Many of the designs, images, or text that you see on clothing, have been applied with a heat press.


A heat press machine is used to apply heat transfers (there are different types) onto garments and other surfaces using time, temperature and pressure.


Here is a t-shirt made with my machine using heat transfer vinyl.


orange fox htv design on white shirt made with heat press


2. What Is A Heat Press Used For?


The great thing about these machines is that they can be used for all sorts of things. They are, however, primarily used for making t-shirts.


Heat Presses apply heat transfers onto:

  • Garments – t-shirts, baby onesies, sweatshirts and hoodies, tank tops, etc.
  • Glass – often photos are pressed with a sublimation transfer
  • Wood – make beautiful signs and messages on wood
  • Metal – such as dog tags or license plates


There are different types of heat transfers, including:


I recommend beginning by using heat transfer vinyl (though you will need a cutting machine as well). HTV is easy to work with and there are a huge range of projects you can make with it.


Siser EasyWeed is the best heat transfer vinyl. It is easily applied with a heat press or an iron, and looks great. It’s a very thin and flexible vinyl so it doesn’t look like it is sitting on top of your t-shirt, like some of the cheap HTV. It looks like it is really meant to be on your garment, if you know what I mean!




3. How Does A Heat Press Work?


Heat press machines have two plates, or platens, as they are more often called. The top platen heats up, and is called the heat platen. Once the machine is turned on the heat platen will heat up to the set temperature.


Most, if not all, machines have a digital display on which you can set the time and temperature. Some more expensive machines will also allow you to set the pressure digitally.




The time range for most t-shirt presses is 0 – 999 seconds. Though no one is ever going to do a press for 999 seconds (16 minutes)! Most heat transfers only need 10 – 20 seconds to complete.




Most machines have a temperature range of 0 – 500° F. This is more than enough to perfectly apply all heat transfers onto t-shirts (and other garments). A temperature higher than 500° F would likely burn or melt your transfers and t-shirts!




Pressure is set on most machines by turning a knob. This knob will be situated either on top of the control box at the back (unless it is set digitally).


Pressure is described in terms of lightness to hardness. For example, Siser EasyWeed is pressed at a medium pressure, while EasyWeed Extra is pressed at a light-medium pressure.


That’s all, folks!


So that’s heat pressing in a nut shell! After learning the basics I hope you feel ready to explore this fun tool to customize so many things in your life. What projects will you make next?!


For more information, check out these posts:



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


Comments 4

  1. Avatar for Sindy F Sindy F May 24, 2022
    • Avatar for How To Heat Press How To Heat Press May 25, 2022
  2. Avatar for Ellen Lundi Ellen Lundi May 16, 2018

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