Everybody has a hobby that you could turn into a lucrative side business with the right tools. A t-shirt or cloth printing business is one such hobby and also a profitable investment for designers who would love to showcase their talents and turn it into paying jobs. Local demand fuels a heat press printing business. Your clientele varies widely from individuals to large corporations, events, and charities, etc. Printed items are usually also gifted as commemorative items on special occasions such as birthdays.
As a budding entrepreneur, you need to assess the market and be aware of all the opportunities and possible problems that might collapse your business. This guide aims to help you in your heat pressing journey while keeping a healthy mind to keep you going. The first thing you will need to do to move towards building a successful printing business is to determine as an entrepreneur what is the best heat press for you. Before you embark, you will need to ask yourself the following fundamental questions to at least understand the basics of heat pressing.
Heat Press 101
A heat press machine applies pressure and heat transfers into a garment treated with substrates so that over the recommended time, the garment fabric and the substrate will mold into one item. A heat press machine will have a design, text, graphics image to transfer from the transfer paper into the surface of the garment.
There are four types of heat transfers:
- Heat Transfer Vinyl
- Sublimation transfers
- Plastisol transfers
- Rhinestone Heat Transfers.
In case you do not want to venture into garment printing, other surfaces could benefit from heat transfers including wood, metal and also glass.
Aspects that Determine a Successful Heat Transfer
Most machines have a knob that allows you to choose from preset pressure parameters, but some high-end heat pressing machines have the specifications that would enable you to set a custom pressure. Although, such mechanisms are generally not recommended for average beginners.
Although a typical heat transfer should take less than 20 seconds, heat timers come with settings of up to about 16 minutes which you should never need to use.
Analog machines also have a preset but adjustable temperature range. The ranges fall anywhere between 0 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures will most likely burn light materials and char wood and could even shatter glass surfaces.
Heat Press Size Guide
Heat pressing machines sizes fall between widths of 16*24 inches 4*6 inches. Each size serves a purpose, and if you finally specialize in a particular material printing niche, you need to find the right size of the machine.
- 4*6 machines are best for customized brand tagging and labeling to give a professional look to products. They are more expensive than larger devices because not many of them are for sale to individuals.
- 9*9 hot plates are perfect for the small size of family and friends kind of heat pressing. They are the best option if you’re looking to do heat pressing as a hobby or a small business.
- 9*12 are the best size for a learning beginner. They take up a small space and are relatively inexpensive.
- 12*15: from this machine size going forward is when you need to have a budget or have saved money because they are more of commercial machines suited for serious entrepreneurs. These hot plates are multifunction heat presses. They often are accompanied by attachments that allow you to press other materials including ceramics and heavier garment materials.
- 15*15 this size is the most popular among heat pressing businesses. They are capable of doing almost all jobs, so you don’t have to worry about needing another machine soon after you start.
- 15*24 these are frequently used and multi-use commercial machines. They are heavy and substantially large and require a dedicated space in the place of business.
Types of Heat Pressing Styles
There are three main machine styles you can choose from. Clamshell: just like a clam, these types of heat pressers open up and close down. They may take up less space than other heat pressing styles, the width to which they open varies and is dependent on the size and brand. However, this doesn’t have to be a disadvantage, because if you purchase one that opens more extensive, it is easier to layout the garment on the bottom plate. They also only go up and down in one place, so you don’t have to adjust the plated to align them.
Swing-away style heat press
They have fewer instances where you might accidentally burn yourself. They work by swinging the top away from the bottom plate to allow you to lay the material easily by giving you all the more available working area.T hey do require more space because you have to ensure there is nothing that can be damaged when the hot top plate swings to the side. It may burn or hit something that could give you more expenses to your business. Also, you will need to tighten or replace the screws and work out by a lot of swinging.
Draw style heat press
Also known as the pull-out style because such a machine will allow you to pull out the bottom plate to layout your garment. Such machines are safer because they eliminate the chance that you could ever come into contact with the top plate which is always hot because it allows for the heat transfer. This type is also preferred because they allow you to do a heat transfer on one side seamlessly without compromising the integrity of the other side of the garment should anything go wrong. Some downsides to pull-out heat transfer machines are that the moving parts are bulkier, and their maintenance can be a hard and tricky business. Also, they are quite expensive compared to the other two styles and the space required to operate such types is doubled to sufficiently pull out the drawer.
How to Determine the Best Heat Press Brand
Digital media presence
An established and verified seller should have a website, contact information, location, social media accounts that make them easier to reach or ask questions. Having an available site would mean that you can expect quality customer support from them which makes them more trustworthy.
It is easy to find customer reviews on the internet these days. While some of them may have been manufactured to give off a positive image for the brand, there are often others that come from real customers. Make sure you pay attention to customers who don’t just praise the company. Reviews that are complaints or those that offer ways to change or improve their services are the most honest.
Manufacturing companies will often have specific heat press machines for different niches. This means that their products have been verified to surpass any drawbacks you may experience while doing business that that particular machine is manufactured to handle. Hence, they are less likely to let you down.
Make sure you pay attention to the terms of warranty and the length of the warranty period. Some companies will bury details in the fine print so that they can deny you services if the machine breaks down. Similarly, companies that don’t offer warranties may be selling low-quality machines that are guaranteed to have a break down in parts, after a certain degree of use.
Some companies while they are not delivering better machines will drive up the price of their products because they are an established or household name in the business. An expensive device does not necessarily mean it will deliver better work than the next best available but slightly cheaper machine.
Although sometimes the costs involved in offering you these bonus products are included in the final price of the machine, it may be cheaper to go for machines that come with the bonus items. First of all, the additional tools are guaranteed to be compatible with your machine. And secondly, it may be cheaper than purchasing the extra items alone. Some bonus items could be Teflon sheets, vinyl or even t-shirts.
Features to Consider
All business have limited space resources. Which is why you need to consider the size of the machine before you buy it. Bigger machines will allow you to press a wider variety of materials and significantly larger items should the need ever arise. It will also let you create more designs at the same time on the same garment or product. If you have sizeable space, it is recommended you go for the largest size of machine your budget allows you. There could be no possible downside. If anything it will enable you to expand and build your business much faster. However, if your use is limited to family and friends and heat pressing is more of a hobby, consider buying a smaller machine. A smaller machine is also advisable to custom jobs.
The initial costs of starting a business can take a toll on your pockets, which is why you need to set aside a budget section specifically for the machine. The quality of a machine affects the quality of your output so don’t buy a cheap machine if you want a successful business. More expensive heat presses also come with more features that allow you to customize your work product.
As we have already discussed what you need to look for in a brand, remember well-known brands will sufficiently build machines to ensure they conform to your work requirements.
Size of the business
Your machine should be able to handle multiple projects and have a long lifespan to prevent you from having to replace the heat press machine every year. If you have an already established business, commercial models which tend to be bigger are the best choice for you.
Auto or Manual heat pressers
Automatic models are more expensive than manual ones. However, they offer you a viewable and adjustable pressure gauge that makes your custom work easier. Mechanical models are much safer to use in a business setting for when you might be busy or tired and forget to adjust the pressure gauge accordingly. Manual models, on the other hand, are better for experienced printers. They allow you to feel the difference between the preset pressures and adjust accordingly.
Power consumption is an important consideration. Machines that take in 220V of power tend to be more expensive. They will, however, save you vast amounts of power bills in the long run. You also need to make the proper adjustments to the output plugs in your place of business. Ensure the circuit can take it and the caps and fuses are high quality to avoid shorts.
The intended user
This is especially important if you are running a business and have employed somebody to help with the operations. Companies should opt for automatic models because they are easier to run even for beginners. Manual models require more work and will need someone who is strong enough to withstand the strenuous work that comes along with them.
Remember that along with a heat press, you will also need other equipment, whether or not the heat press is for home use or commercial purposes, to produce quality work including:
- A computer to run the designs.
- A vinyl cutter.
- Heat tape.
- Transfer paper.
- A printer and ink.
For a business, you will also need to purchase insurance in case of losses, damages or suits of any kind. Having a sit down with an attorney that informs you of the risks you may be facing is also extremely important. Some issue may pertain copyrights to designs. You will also need to acquire a business license and in some cases permits that allow you to operate your machine in specific areas.
And finally, remember that if you take your hobby to the next level, it would also help if you focused on a niche. It will help your clientele have a positive and professional view of your hustle and also they will be more willing to pay for premium services from someone who knows or at least portrays to understand or have experience in what they are doing. A jack of all trades attitude might lose you some big clients.
Overall, many things could go wrong with heat pressing, but the fact remains your designs are only as good as the Heat Press machine you possess.