Creating your own custom t-shirts or canvas bags at home is easier than some people might think. All you need is a heat-transfer vinyl decal, the item you want to transfer it onto, and either a heat press or an iron!
Though you can use either a heat press or an iron, many people have often wondered if one is better than the other.
So, heat press vs iron, which one should you use? A heat press is better because it’s going to provide you with a more even, long-lasting transfer thanks to its multiple settings and larger heat space, even though it can be expensive. An iron is cheaper to get and typically already on hand, but it takes multiple presses and you won’t have total control over the heat or pressure.
If you have a special occasion and only need to make one or two projects, an iron will work great to use for heat transfer vinyl. However, for best results and versatility in projects, it’s better to use a heat press.
A heat press is a device that has two large metal plates. These plates are heated by a temperature-controlled setting.
Once you set the temperature, you can lay down your parchment paper and your item to be heat pressed. Drop the top plate onto the bottom plate and set the timer.
Heat presses typically always have a temperature setting and a time setting. This helps you maintain control over the way your vinyl transfer is completed.
These are mostly used by people who run home businesses to create custom t-shirts, onesies, hoodies, bags, and more.
Advantages & Disadvantages To Using A Heat Press
One of the reasons to use a heat press instead of an iron is that it’s so easy to use. With the heat press, you simply set the temperature and timer to what your project requires, lay your item on the press, and let it work its magic.
A heat press really takes the guessing out of making a heat transfer vinyl or sublimation item. You never have to wonder if it’s at the right pressure or countdown to make sure it’s getting exactly the right amount of time.
Plus, even though there’s no pressure setting, you know you’re getting a nice, even amount of pressure with the way the hot plates are designed.
Another advantage is that you get a bigger space. Heat presses are often much larger than the size of the average household iron. With a heat press, you can transfer a larger design without having to do multiple presses to cover all the areas.
It will certainly work well to transfer smaller designs as well, but the real advantage is getting to create and transfer large designs that an iron wouldn’t be able to do in one press.
There are two disadvantages to consider when using a heat press. The first is that they’re expensive. A good heat press can cost you anywhere from $100-300, depending on the one you choose.
This can be a hefty investment for someone who’s only looking to make a few small projects. Another downside is that they take up a lot of space. Not only are the hot plates larger on a heat press than an iron, but the whole piece of equipment is quite large.
This is so the machine can operate smoothly and house all the electrical and computer components that it needs. However, this can be quite the eye sore for someone who doesn’t have a dedicated craft or project space.
Best Projects To Make With A Heat Press
Most cloth items will be safe to use with a heat press, but it’s always a good idea to check the fabric details and the heat press instructions.
Some fabrics can’t be exposed to high heat or they’ll burn and melt. You wouldn’t want a piece of fabric melting and smoking in your expensive heat press.
An iron is a small household product that people use to smooth out wrinkles from their clothing. Irons are typically steam-irons, meaning they have a compartment for water on the back and steam holes on the hot plate.
You can use them for heat transfers by laying them on top of your heat transfer vinyl, with a layer of parchment paper between the iron and your item.
These are usually used for eliminating wrinkles from home garments, as well as small, singular custom t-shirt projects.
Advantages & Disadvantages To Using An Iron
An iron is the ideal choice for a beginner crafter working with heat transfer vinyl who wants to get an idea of if they love the craft or not.
They’re cheap, so you won’t be sinking a heavy investment into a hobby you may not enjoy or have time for. Irons are also a common household item. They’re typically readily available in most homes, since they’re used for smoothing out wrinkles from clothing garments.
Even if you don’t already have one, you can buy one for under $20. Another advantage is that irons are easy to store. It won’t take up much space, as you can just wrap up the cord and tuck it away in your linen closet or laundry room after it’s cooled down.
On the other hand, an iron doesn’t have any temperature or time settings. Irons are pre-set to reach a certain temperature range, and they only stay on clothes for as long as you leave them there.
This is a much more manual operation that doesn’t necessarily ensure that your heat transfer vinyl is being applied at the proper temperature.
Another disadvantage is that you won’t get full coverage or pressure because of the steam holes on the metal plate. Anywhere a steam hole is over your transfer, it’s missing out on that pressure that would be there with a smooth metal plate.
Finally, irons can be difficult to use for heat transfers that are any larger than the small size of the iron. Vinyl transfer designs for t-shirts, hoodies, and bags are typically bigger than the size of an iron, so you’d have to do multiple presses to cover the entire design.
Best Projects To Make With An Iron
As we mentioned above, an iron is best for a beginner who’s looking to try out making their own custom t-shirts. You can use an iron to make soft, cloth items with a vinyl heat transfer design.
Some common items made with an iron for the heat transfer are t-shirts, hoodies, and cloth tote bags or reusable shopping bags.
Remember that not all fabrics are suitable for heat transfer. Check the recommendations on the heat transfer vinyl, as well as the fabric details on the tag.
Some fabrics may specify to not use an iron or put in the dryer (exposing it to high heat). If this is the case, avoid using it for heat transfer designs.
Heat Press Vs Iron: Summary
In the competition between heat press vs iron, which one is better? It depends!
A heat press is ideal for a home business owner. It’s the best way to ensure your customers will receive products that have solid, long-lasting heat transfers.
It’s also great if you’re just making batches of gifts for your friends or yourself and want to create professional-looking projects.
An iron is great for just doing a quick, small batch of projects, or for a beginner looking to test out the craft.
If you just want to make a single onesie to announce a pregnancy, or a small group of t-shirts for a bachelorette party, then an iron will do the job just fine.
For those who are still unsure which would be best for their next project, check out the quick summary guide below:
|How To Use||Two hot plates that are heated to the temperature setting, then pressed together on top of a garment or cloth item for a heat transfer design such as vinyl or sublimation||One small hot plate that reaches a pre-set temperature on the device, then manually pressed on top of a garment or cloth item for a heat transfer vinyl design (no sublimation)|
|Advantages||Time and temperature settings, even pressure, bigger space||Cheap, readily available on hand, easy to store|
|Disadvantages||Expensive, large machine that takes up a lot of space||Difficult to achieve a solid, even heat application, no temperature or time settings, hard to use on large designs|
|Projects||Vinyl or sublimation on soft, cloth items such as shirts, sweatpants, bags, beanies, and more||Vinyl heat transfers on soft, cloth items, best for smaller designs|
|Recommendation||Best for home businesses or frequent crafters who will get a lot of use for their money||Best for smaller batches, singular projects for a special occasion, or beginners|