Swing Away vs Clam Heat Press: Is One Better?
swing away vs clam heat press

Swing Away vs Clam Heat Press: Is One Better?

When choosing a heat press, there are two main styles to choose from: clamshell or swing away.

On the face of it, there’s not a lot of difference. Both heat press types come with easy to use controls to allow you to set the correct time and temperature. In fact, when it comes to functionality, there’s not a lot to choose from.

The difference comes in the design, and there’s no right or wrong option, just the best choice for your own circumstances and how you want to use your heat press.

Clamshell heat press

A clamshell heat press gets its name from its shape. It opens and closes just like a clam or oyster shell. There is a hinge on one side, so the top lifts up but it stays attached to the bottom. The item to be pressed is then laid on the lower platen and the top is lowered and closed, so that it presses the transfer on to your item.

This heat press works well for most items, but as it is fixed on one side, it can cause problems if you are working with items which aren’t exactly flat. The side with the hinge cannot always go all the way flat, so you may not get even pressure all over your item.

These are very easy heat presses for beginners to use, as they take little setting up and they are very easy to use. They are also slightly cheaper for anyone new to the hobby and are perfect for setting up at home. All you need is a space to work, with room to walk around, a socket and a workbench to lay out your designs.

They offer good functionality, but they do have their disadvantages.


  • This type of heat press is perfect for beginners. They are very easy to operate and easy to set up as they have less moving parts. Just place where you want it and plug it in.
  • Clamshell heat presses are smaller machines, so they don’t take up a lot of room. They can be set up in any hobby room or spare bedroom. As the top lifts open, they don’t require a lot of room to operate them.
  • Their smaller size makes them more portable. If you want to print off-site at a craft or trade show, you can often take these with you and set them up on-site.


  • As the top doesn’t move completely out of the way, access to the lower platen is a little restricted when you go to lay out your fabrics. If you’re not careful this can result in a nasty burn.

Can be used for

A clamshell heat press is best used with items which are flat.

  • T-shirts, sports shirts and sweatshirts
  • Children’s clothing
  • Tea towels, sheets, cushion covers
  • Tote bags

Swing away heat press

The swing away heat press has one platen which swings completely away from the other. This means you need more room to use it and it is less portable than a clamshell. The lower platen swings away from the upper one, and this provides you with more room to lay out your garment without the risk of being burnt.

The two plates press together perfectly flat, providing you with more choice of items to print on. As there is more to operate, these are not quite as suitable for beginners, and you will need to allow a lot more room.

Not only will you need room to work around the heat press, but you need to allow room for the platen to swing all the way around. You can use these at home, but you will need a dedicated space for it as it is not so easy to move.


  • As one platen swings right away from the other, it is easier to lay out your items with less risk of being burnt.
  • The plates press together with even heat and pressure all over.
  • There is more control over the pressure, so they can handle thicker materials up to 3cm.


  • These heat presses take up a lot more room, so you will need a dedicated workspace.
  • Swing away heat presses are not as suitable for beginners as there are more steps before you can press.
  • These are not as portable and are not suitable for those who want to work at shows. You will need a lot of room to operate it when you get there.

Can be used for

As the plates provide more even pressure, you can use this to create slightly more items than with a clamshell.

  • T-shirts, sports shirts and sweatshirts
  • Children’s clothing
  • Tea towels, sheets, cushion covers
  • Tote bags, hand bags, make up bags
  • Mouse mats
  • Plaques and signs
  • Caps

When choosing your heat press it’s important to consider what you will be using it for. Both clamshell and swing away heat presses are easy to use and the can help you create original designs, but there is a big difference in the amount of space you need to operate them.

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