I recently posted about how to apply HTV (heat transfer vinyl) with an iron.
Then I went and bought a heat press.
I did a lot of research into it before I purchased it. There is a lot to consider with a heat press! So, here is my list of what to think about when purchasing a heat press.
1) Important features
There are a few things you probably
want your heat press to have, regardless of other decisions you make. First, you want it to have an alarm to tell you when it is done. Mine is super loud and annoying and ensures I don't accidentally leave anything on the press to burn. The other is a digital display to show the temperature and time. The whole point of having a heat press is so you can be sure it's heated to the proper temperature (which you cannot with your iron), so you want to be sure you can SEE what the temperature is. The digital display for time is important, too, so you can be sure than annoying alarm is actually going off at the right time.
Also make sure you have some way to adjust the pressure. You may find that you need more or less pressure for some things, and you'll want to be able to adjust it.
2) Clamshell or swing away?
With the bigger heat presses, there are basically two kinds, clamshell (like the one I purchased) and swing away (where the top plate swings away from the bottom plate). There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The swing away requires a lot of space for the top plate to swing in to, whereas the clamshell only requires enough space for the heat press to sit in. I also found the clamshell heat presses to be generally a hair less expensive. On the other hand, the swing away is safer (less likely to get burned by the top plate), and it's also easier to arrange layers on a swing away, since you are not trying to reach into a clamshell without burning yourself.
3) Size DOES matter
The heat press I bought is 15 inches square, which I figure should be plenty big for everything I want to press. Many of the heat presses I looked at were smaller, although I didn't find anything smaller than 12 inches square. However, while my cutting mat only cuts 12 inches square, and that should mean I don't need a heat press bigger than 12 inches square, I was concerned that some of the items I press with layers would require a bigger space, and I didn't want to have to move things around to make sure everything got pressed. Getting a slightly larger pressing surface ensures I don't have to.
4) Other features
Some heat presses come with devices to press items that aren't flat, like hats. I ultimately decided I was unlikely to press anything that wasn't flat, and if I did, I would want to try it with my trusty iron first anyway.
Ultimately, I went with a fairly basic model (but one that came personally recommended), so I could balance the cost of a heat press with, you know, the FUN of having a heat press. You may find that other features are more important to you (believe me, I thought long and hard about clamshell vs. swing away), but whatever you decide, be sure to have fun with it!