A question that often comes up in forums and groups about sublimation is what kind of heat press is necessary. Do you need specialized presses for mugs? How big should the press be? Is a cheap press made in China that you found on eBay going to work? What brand of press do experienced sublimation experts recommend? A heat press is a larger purchase, so it’s easy to understand why there would be a lot of questions. Since we’ve been sublimating and dealing with sublimation supplies (and heat presses) for a lot of years, I thought I’d try to answer some of the questions I see most frequently.
Q1: Do you need a specialized press for any good that isn’t flat? For the most part, yes. Hats, mugs, plates, anything that isn’t flat will most likely require a specialized press in order to take a sublimated print. In some cases, where a lot of different items will be sublimated, a combo heat press might be the best option. This type of press is usually a flat swingaway press that comes with attachments that will allow you to do mugs and other goods that aren’t flat. A standalone cap press will have a curved platen that allows you to sublimate caps faster and more easily. Mug presses are generally adjustable and are designed to handle different sizes and shapes of mugs. If you’re planning to sublimate a lot of one particular item, investing in a specialty press can be a wise move.
Q2: How big should the press be? What’s the biggest thing you’ll ever be likely to sublimate? The answer to that question will help determine how big your press should be. Keep in mind that smaller presses may have smaller price tags, but they aren’t always suitable for a production environment. When deciding on the size of your press, you should also take into account how often it will be used, and for how long each time. Optional extras like air operated opening should also be considered. They may add to the cost of the press, but they’ll save a ton of wear and tear on the operator.
Q3: Is a cheap press worth the money? There are a lot of off brand heat presses from China available on eBay, with prices that can be very attractive when you’re on a budget. Two things to consider before purchasing a press like this are 1) who will service it should it break down and 2)is cheap necessarily going to translate into reliable and accurate? A press from an eBay seller that may have been made in a foreign country is not likely to have maintenance or tech support attached, and that matters. Service for a malfunctioning machine can help extend its life and get you back to work faster. Tech support can help you solve problems and teach you how to use your heat press more efficiently and profitably. A cheap press may also come with a set of reliability and accuracy issues. Temperature gauges may not accurately reflect temperatures. The platens may not heat to the required levels. There are good bargains to be had, and there are people who have purchased off brand presses and had them work fine, but it’s a calculated risk.
Q4: What brand of press do experienced sublimation experts recommend? To answer this question, all I can do is tell you what we know, from years of experience. We sell George Knight heat presses, and the reason we sell them is because we’ve used them. Our parent company has six plants across the United States, and all of them have heat presses. George Knight presses have been in our shops, working day in and day out for years. The presses are reliable, easy to use, and George Knight has top notch technical support. So, when asked, George Knight is what we recommend, and not just because we sell them. We’ve used them, so we know how well made and reliable they are. Yes, they may cost a bit more, but they’re worth every penny.
If you have a question about sublimation, please feel free to leave a comment here or to contact us and ask. We’ve been working with heat presses and sublimation for quite some time, and we’re always happy to help.