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Swing Away Heat Press for Sublimation: Better Than Clamshell?

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Most people who never heard of a heat press assume they are all the same, but that is not entirely true. Two different styles exist: the clamshell and swing-away heat press.

Beginners often settle with the clamshell, but experts know swing-away heat presses are worth the investment. 

What is a swing-away heat press? A swing-away heat press is a machine commonly used to imprint graphics onto garments and other surfaces. Using heat and pressure, the plates flatten the item for a set time as it undergoes heat transfer. The upper plate moves vertically rather than at an angle and swings out to allow more space. 

In this article, we will explore all questions one may have about a swing-away heat press and how its quality compares to that of a clamshell.

About Swing Away Presses

The following sections will help answer any questions you may have about swing-away heat presses, including their primary uses, functions, and comparisons with a clamshell heat press.

How Swing Away Heat Presses Work

A swing-away heat press imprints graphic designs or logos through a heat transfer. Two heavy plates are heated to the desired temperature before they clamp together for a set time.

During this, ink from the transfer paper is embedded onto the chosen fabric or garment, forming the design deep in the layers of the material.  

Swing Away Heat Press vs. Clamshell Heat Press

These two types of heat presses deliver the same results but differ in both design and expertise.

Clamshell Heat Press Pros:

  • Recommended for beginners
  • Fixed upper plate with hinge on back side 
  • Works well with thin, flat material 
  • Portable size makes it easy to move and relocate
  • Simple setup

Clamshell Heat Press Cons:

  • Limited workspace
  • Higher risk of burns
  • Thicker items may result in uneven heat and pressure

Swing Away Heat Press Pros:

  • Rotatable upper plate 
  • Upper plate remains horizontal while being raised or lowered
  • Handles both thin and thick items
  • Even levels of heat and pressure
  • Lower risk of burns

Swing Away Heat Press Cons:

  • Recommended for experts
  • Large sizes, non-portable, and requires a lot of space
  • Complex setup

Is a Swing Away Heat Press Good for Sublimation Printing?

Swing away heat presses are known for high-quality sublimation printing.

Unlike a heat transfer, which simply prints the image onto the fabric, sublimation printing weaves the ink directly into the fabric.

There’s no additional layer, and the completed design is durable and long lasting.

This process is only limited to polyester garments (or those treated with a polyester coating) and can imprint on items with hard surfaces and poly-coating, such as mugs, coasters, mousepads, and even jigsaw puzzles.

Sublimation printing is also known to produce better color quality. As the ink seeps into the fabric, so will the colors, leaving the design with high-quality vibrancy and polish.

A standard heat transfer would require much more research to pick out specific paper and ink, and even then, there is no guarantee that the colors would replicate, often leaving the design with a dim and dull quality.

Is a Swing Away Heat Press Better?

A swing-away heat press can perform the same tasks as a clamshell heat press and more.

It can handle more oddly-shaped items aside from fabric and holds additional power and features for professional-quality items.

Swing Away Heat Press Benefits

  • The top plate is 360° rotatable and allows for more workspace and easy visibility of the item.
  • Even heating and pressure applied to all aspects of the item
  • Works well with thin fabrics and thicker items (plaques, pads, coasters, etc.)
  • Adjustable for the more complex and tricky items

Swing Away Heat Press Drawbacks

  • Additional steps for those more experienced with heat presses.
  • Require space to operate.
  • Most are heavy machines and are not so portable.

How To Use a Swing Away Heat Press Machine

When using a swing-away heat press machine, there are some key factors to keep in mind, and you should understand how to proceed with each one.  


The packaged transfer paper will always have the recommended heat level, ranging around 350-375℉.

Each press is equipped with either a knob or arrow-shaped buttons that determine the heat of the plates.

A heating light will switch on as the machine warms up and will shut off once the plates reach the desired temperature.  


There is a separate knob that controls the pressure applied.

The recommended standard is usually set to medium or high as low-pressure settings make it difficult for the handle to lock, but experimentation on the crafter’s part is encouraged to see what produces the best results.


In the case of most garments and clothing, it is key to straighten and stretch out the material because any folds or wrinkles are prone to a bad print job.

If needed, the press can also preheat the garment beforehand to remove unwanted creases. 


Before clamping the plates together, double-check the garment, and check that the design prints on the right side.

Once everything looks good, bring the handle down, and the machine will automatically lock itself.

Transfer time is reasonably quick (between 10 seconds to a minute), but refer to the packaged transfer paper for specific times.

After the set time, pull up the handle, and carefully remove the shirt and transfer paper. The design has successfully transferred. Repeat the process for any additional items.

If there are any designs for the back, flip over the garment and slip a piece of cardboard in between. Less pressure is required to avoid reheating the first design.

Best Swing Away Heat Presses

The following items listed are considered some of the best swing-away heat press machines:

VIVOHOME Swing Away Heat Press 12×15

[amazon box=”B082DW7MQ7″ link_id=”37493″]

This 5-in-1 multifunctional heat press comes packaged with insulated heat gloves and adjustable workstations suited for curved items such as mugs and hats.

It is ideal for those who want more control and safety with the temperature levels.

The double heating tubes allow for a fast heat transfer process, and the plates are layered with thermal insulation pads that reduce the temperature in case of accidental touching.

MYSUB 5-in-1 Swing Away Heat Press 12×15

[amazon box=”B094Z95DQ4″ link_id=”37494″]

This heat press focuses on durability that can allow your machine to stay in top quality.

It uses aluminum alloy material to prevent any signs of rusting with an overall casing that’s similar to those of automobile baking varnish, which prevents its sleek quality from chipping away over the years.

CO-Z 5-in-1 Swivel Heat Press 12×10

[amazon box=”B08BQZRXCY” link_id=”37495″]

This heat press understands the importance of good functionality, with its upper plate containing spring bolts and a rock-solid pillar to maintain stability when swung or pressed.

The overall casing is heatproof to reduce any sense of overheating while handling the item, and the lever has a nonslip rubber coating to keep a firm grip and eliminate any heat from transferring.

Fancierstudio Swing Away Heat Press 9×12

[amazon box=”B01K3EXZF4″ link_id=”37496″]

One of the main selling points about this product is that it is affordable.

Typically, swing-away heat presses are frowned upon because of their sizes, but this one can match those of the portable kind while still maintaining the incredible functions of a swing-away heat press.

It’s very accommodating and perfect for small family DIY projects.

What Should I Look for in a Heat Press?

Some of the main qualities to consider if you are thinking about getting a heat press include:

  • Heat Distribution – A swing-away heat press provides even heating levels across the whole plate.
  • Temperature Readings – A machine that can give an accurate temperature read produces the best results. 
  • Pressure Distribution – Pressure plates are leveled and don’t show signs of crookedness.
  • Garment Placement – Swing-away heat presses allow safer garment placement because of their swivel feature.
  • Size – The type of heat press is dependent on the workspace. 

What Materials Are Needed for a Swing Away Heat Press?

  • Blowout Paper – Covers designs as plates are pressed and prevent any melting or the design getting stuck to the plates
  • Heat-Resistant Tape – Indispensable when sublimating
  • Transfer Paper – Special paper designed to hold and transfer images when sublimating.

What Else Can You Use a Swing Away Heat Press For?

Aside from t-shirts, a heat press can apply to many types of projects, including:

  • Throw pillows/cushions
  • Reverse canvases
  • Coasters
  • Wooden signs/plaques
  • Tote bags
  • Banners

What Kind of Heat Press Is Best for Sublimation?

The best kinds of heat presses are the ones that can meet the specific requirements necessary for the sublimation process.

Sublimation temperatures range around 350-400℉, slightly higher than your average heat transfer. Press time also lasts longer, depending on the garment type.

Materials also vary when using the sublimations process, including ink, transfer paper, polyester-type fabric, and other items.

Really, either a clamshell or swing-away press will work; it just depends on the style you prefer.


The swing-away heat presses offer many opportunities to experiment with different ideas in a large work environment.

Over the years, they have become more optimized to satisfy consumer needs and now place a higher emphasis on safety and durability.

If you’re serious about the art of heat pressing, investing in a swing away is the right way to go!

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