Everyone loves a good-looking printed t-shirt.
Hey, the chances are you have at least a dozen of them in your closet.
Nothing wrong there, ever since screen t-shirt printing became a thing back in the 60s (finally retiring embroidery and die painting as the ways of customization), these garments became the ultimate form of self-expression and a staple of casual street fashion.
Still, no matter how hard the free market tries to offer something for everyone, a bought t-shirt is only a bought t-shirt – serially manufactured item with a little personality.
So, with the things as they are, why wouldn't you simply print your own designs and get the clothes that truly suit your personality?
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Enter compact heat presses.
Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist, professional designer or you need a constant supply of branded products they are still, by far, the most straightforward and user-friendly tools for applying different designs to your clothes.
And yet, as simple as the concept of heat pressing might be on the paper, constructing a portable press that will be compatible with different design materials is much harder than it looks at first glance. This is probably the reason why the entry-level heat-press market is filled with underwhelming products.
Fortunately, I am not here today to talk about these units.
On the contrary, my Cricut EasyPress 2 review will showcase that it is a competent piece of hardware that seriously threatens to push the home-based press printing into the mainstream.
Read on to find out why!
Heat Pressing 101 - Why it’s Important?
But, before we delve deeper into all the details regarding Cricut EasyPress 2, I first need to cover a couple of things regarding this type of units. Because, as streamlined and simple as they are, heat presses are machines that also pack more than a few limitations you need to understand to assess their quality.
- You can print several colors without additional expenses
- You can press the photographic material
- There are no registration marks
- The colors can’t overlap (otherwise they would make the material bulky)
- Each image needs to be cut very precisely
So, if you are into some more complex projects with a lot of color spill, you will probably have much more luck with some of the professional screen printers.
Contemporary press printers come in a variety of different types with clamshells and swinger presses being the two most popular varieties.
With a body that closely resembles a cross between a regular iron and a dedicated heat press, Cricut EasyPress 2 takes a third way, obviously trying to make the whole affair as simple and affordable as possible.
According to the manufacturer, you should get the best of both worlds – the power of a professional press and compactness and ease of use of an iron. Your designs are to be transferred in no more than 60 seconds.
And to be quite honest, this simplistic approach to pressing creates a lot of potential aspiring designers with shallow pockets can exploit.
It also begs the question – wouldn’t you be just as happy with a regular and admittedly much cheaper iron that has traditionally been used for these types of projects?
Let’s see whether people from Cricut have managed to pack their stab at an entry-level market with enough juice to justify the advertised heat press status.
Cricut EasyPress 2 Grades Table
If you don’t want to read a lot about this machine, this handy table will explain everything about this machine.
|Cricut EasyPress 2 Review|
To learn the reasons behind these grades and my opinions on each segment, please read on!
What’s in The Box?
- Cricut EasyPress 2 press
- The safety base
- Time and temperature reference for working with different transfer (in case you misplace it, the reference can be found here)
- A welcome booklet
- A couple of practice materials
Specs and Highlight Features
- Dimensions: 6" x 7" (15 cm x 17.5 cm), 9" x 9" (22. 5 cm x 22. 5 cm) or 12" x 10" size (30 cm x 25 cm)
- Weight: up to 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms)
- Professional heat transfer results: According to Cricut, EasyPress is capable of delivering professional performance in the vein of much larger clamshell presses
- The temperatures up to 400°F (205°C) – The unit is powerful enough to take care of the most iron-on applications
- Three distinct press sizes: EasyPress comes in three different sizes that are suited for different projects ranging from smaller t-shirts to blankets
- Advanced heat plate design – The ceramic-coated surface allows both seamless performance and excellent heat transfer
- Ease of use – Just preheat the press, apply it to the base material, and you're done
- Safety features – The press has a built-in shut off system that kicks into action after a short period of inactivity.
- An ideal DIY tool – Easy to store, easy to use, and easy to carry around.
How Does Cricut EasyPress 2 Work?
In order to better grasp how Cricut EasyPress 2 performs in real life, let’s go through a short step-by-step guide on how to use this neat piece of hardware.
- Turn on the press
- Check the material you are going to use in the reference chart
- Adjust the temperature on the press according to the chart
- Let the press warm up to the selected temperature
- Lift the press from the Safety Base and briefly press it onto the shirt to warm it up
- Put the press back into the Safety Base
- Position the vinyl on the fabric
- Take the press from the Safety Base and apply it on the vinyl with a gentle pressure
- When the time indicator beeps, remove the press and put it back into the base.
As you can see, although somewhat limiting, this whole process is very simple, and once the press is heated, you won’t have to spend too much time taking care of a couple of shirts in a row. So, EasyPress 2 definitely earns some points in the ease-of-use department.
The Materials You Can Work With
This is the area where EasyPress makes a first significant step up from the ordinary iron. The list of base materials is pretty extensive, and it covers the likes of 100% cotton, polyester, nylon, silk, faux leather, and cardstock.
The list of printable materials is equally as impressive, and aside from vinyl I have already previously mentioned, it adds some interesting inclusions like foil and glitter to the mix.
Overall, I am pretty pleased with the level of versatility you can squeeze out from this little fella. Sure, it requires a lot of work and preheating, but at least it isn't a one-hit-wonder.
Cricut EasyPress 2: A Step by Step Review
And now that we’ve got an overall impression of what this unit is, how is it operated and what are the materials you can work with, let’s take a deep dive into the hardware and function and finally see how pleased we are how these two things perform when put together.
It doesn’t take more than a passing look at EasyPress 2 to see that the people from Cricut weren’t exactly concerned with winning any awards when putting together this small appliance.
As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to call the overall impression pretty dated. Cricut has always been known for its simplicity, but compared to the rest of the manufacturer's portfolio, EasyPress 2 definitely makes an evolutionary step back.
Still, if you are in favor of that clunky 80s-appliance look, this unit will be right up your alley.
Feature-wise, there are not too many things going on here, but that is to be expected from a tool built with such a specific purpose. On the top of the unit, you can find a handle that is used for moving the press, and that's pretty much it.
At least the very handle is spacious and ergonomic enough for comfortable use regardless of your hand size.
Also, it is worth noting that EasyPress 2 comes in two color options (red and green) so you get to choose the color that will be easier on your eyes. However, the green hue looks so washed out that the red unit, in my honest opinion, makes a much more pleasing visual impression.
If Cricut somewhat dropped the ball when designing this unit, I am delighted to say that they more than made up for that misstep when putting the whole thing together.
Don’t let the unit’s lightness deceive you – EasyPress 2 is tough as nails. And if you’d asked me whether I like a press pretty or durable, I would always go for the latter option.
The press’s body is made from durable plastic that looks like it can take a lot of beating – a nice thing to know if you plan on doing a lot of the works on site.
But, regardless of the solid housing, the main star of the show here is undoubtedly a well-designed heat plate at the bottom of the unit, which almost single-handedly makes EasyPress 2 a better option than any iron you can find on the market.
The plate surface is entirely flat and has no steam holes, which instantly makes a much stronger impression. The second feature that helps this small press compete with its much more powerful cousins is the ceramic coating which makes the surface smooth, long-lasting, easier to maintain, and, of course, allows for near-perfect heat transfer.
As I already briefly covered when I talked about the specs, EasyPress 2 comes in three different sizes. Let’s now cover them in more detail and see what are they the best used for.
- Small (6" x 7") – With a pressing area so small, this unit is best used for baby clothes, caps and other similar clothing items. You are, technically, able to tackle larger shirts as well, but you will need a couple of runs.
- Medium (9" x 9") – The ideal match for your t-shirts and other regular-sized garments.
- Large (12" x 10") – Upgrading to this size will allow you to tackle oversized hoodies, blankets, and even some smaller-sized banners. On the downsized, this press size isn't all that baggage-friendly as the previous two options.
So, as we can see, Cricut provided a very decent amount of variety to choose from. It is important to remember, though, that all these presses are made for smaller-scale projects. If you want to print larger banners or tackle multiple clothing items at once, you will need to buy a larger clamshell unit.
The positive side of this whole affair is that in regards to their weight, all these units are very manageable, so you won't have any problem putting them into a bag (at least in the case of the small and medium one) and doing a couple of projects on the go.
The small control panel you use to operate the press is located at the upper top part of the unit. Here, everything looks self-explanatory and straightforward.
At the center of the panel, you get the good old LCD screen that gives you essential feedback on the unit's status. Sure it's simplistic and old-fashioned, but it gets the job done and keeps the unit's price on the manageable level.
Take a look around it, and you can find the six different buttons:
- (+) and (-) buttons that allow you to adjust the temperature and the timer dependent on the current settings
- Set temperature, as indicated by a small thermometer (holding the button down will switch the temperature indication from Fahrenheit to Celsius)
- Set time, as indicated by a small clock
- Start timer, as indicated by a small Cricut branded logo
The control panel also features a light indication. When the light is orange, the pressing plate is still heating. Once it turns green, you are good to go.
As you can see, the unit's controls are easy to understand and to grasp. I wish, though, that we got more settings to play with (programmable controls, favorite settings, etc.), but, as I already mentioned, these upgrades would almost certainly bump the price of the product which is something Cricut tried its best to avoid.
Ease of Press
They don’t call it an EasyPress for no reason, right?
Joking aside, one of the main drawbacks the presses of this type have in comparison to clamshell and swinger alternatives is that the pressure has to be applied by the person operating the unit.
The good thing about the EasyPress 2 is that, depending on the size, the presses weigh somewhere between 5 to 14 pounds (2.3 to 6.4 kilograms) which is just enough weight for the comfortable transfer. The additional pressure that needs to be applied is minor if not nonexistent.
This whole matter is largely helped by the fact that the weight of the press is very evenly distributed so the performance you will be able to get is near professional.
Heating Speed and Temperature
Of course, EasyPress 2 is not only efficient when it comes to the applied pressure. The heating times are pretty consistently fast as well. On average, the smallest model takes only a minute to reach the 100% heat, while the biggest unit reaches full heat in just over three minutes. As you can probably guess, medium press clocks somewhere around two.
If you are doing multiple presses with the same material (you don’t need to dial new settings), these figures can save you a lot of time in the long run. Something you can’t achieve with a simple iron, and as much as 25% faster than the previous iteration of this very same product.
Another reason why these heating times are so impressive is that the total temperature you can squeeze out of the press is rather high. With the total range of 400°F (roughly 200 degrees Celsius) EasyPress 2 comes dangerously close to professional presses which work at temperatures around 450°F.
Once again, this is more than a substantial improvement over the previous version of EasyPress that was able to achieve only 350°F. But, believe me, these 50 degrees make all the difference in the world and allow EasyPress 2 to handle much more materials than its older siblings.
Put these two things together, and you will get a very potent, fast and reliable performance that makes a welcome bridge between two drastically different types of tools, and easily tops any other product in this exciting niche.
A More Precise Dial
Regular household irons adjust the temperature in pretty substantial increments that often go as far as 100° F, which is abysmal if you want to do some fine-tuning for more demanding materials.
The previous version of EasyPress dealt with this issue with a lot of grace. The temperature increments were dialed down to pretty manageable 9°F.
EasyPress 2 takes one step further and reduces this range to only 5°F. This level of sophistication is going above and beyond to allow you to go through finer settings and further adjust your press to suit different materials.
Streamlined Safety Base
The Safety Base was quite prominent in the marketing campaign when this product was initially revealed to the public. The manufacturer claims this neat inclusion allows the press to sit in a protected resting position while you are not using it.
Also, the previous iteration of EasyPress didn’t have this accessory.
Now, we haven't noticed that the Safety Base has any influence on the performance of the very press (e.g., helping it to retain the temperature or heat up faster), but even for what it is the base does its job as advertised.
You will always have a safe place to put the press away, and the surface below will be entirely isolated from the heat produced by the unit. And that is perfectly fine.
The Safety Base is not the only feature aimed at improving the unit’s safety. You also get a built-in automatic shut-off that turns the press off after 10 minutes of inactivity.
Now, as useful as this feature is (you can’t go wrong with improving the safety of heat-producing appliances), this was one of the rare occasions that Cricut was withholding something from us.
Ten minutes tend to be quite long. Even if you put the unit in the base and prevent potential accidents, there is still the issue of unnecessary power consumption.
This problem could be easily solved if the manufacturer simply allowed us to cut the waiting time to like, five minutes.
This and all similar advanced functions are utterly absent from the press, and we have to ask ourselves would implementing them leave such a strong mark on the product's price that manufacturer decided to take them out of the equation completely.
When all is said and done, I have to share my overall impressions on how the unit performed over the extended period of use, which is, arguably, the best reference point I can use to assess the quality of a product.
Keeping that in mind, EasyPress 2 works like a charm – surprisingly, to say the least, given the fact the unit exists in a weird limbo between a regular household iron and a full-blown professional press. I was never overwhelmed by the product's weight and dimensions or felt I lack more power to perform the basic printing tasks.
For the most part, the press performed just as advertised. Sure, some more robust materials required more pressure on my behalf, but the results were always satisfying.
A couple of things I felt disappointed the most with were the lack of programmable functions and the underwhelming pressing surface. For instance, although the medium unit is designed for regular-sized t-shirts, larger applications required a couple of runs to be successfully transferred.
Of course, printing bigger banners is entirely out of this product's range, at least if you don’t want to take some sweet, sweet time to get the whole thing done.
However, the purposes EasyPress 2 was designed to accomplish were completed with a lot of grace. I can't wait to see which goods the third iteration will bring to the table.
- Ease of use
- Available in three dimensions and two colors
- Great build quality
- Ceramic-coated heat plate
- Intuitive control panel
- Decent weight
- Fast hating speed
- Temperature goes all the way up to 400°F
- Safety Base
- Built-in shut-off function
- A wide variety of supported materials
- Reasonably affordable
- Relatively small pressing area
- Limited features
- Dated design
- A lot of room for further improvements
Cricut EasyPress 2 is a product that exists in an interesting market corner, where it has very little relevant competition. The manufacturer has set out to bridge the gap between two drastically different types of product and strike a price tag that will have a very broad appeal amongst the inexperienced designers.
For the most part, these noble intentions were accomplished. That doesn't mean EasyPress 2 is perfect. If you observe it as a professional heat press, you will find the lack of advanced functions and rather small pressing surface incredibly underwhelming.
But, if you want a professional press, you should know that this product is not made for you.
If you, on the other hand, need something to pass the time, sharpen your designer skills, or even make the first steps towards serialized branded production, you will hardly find a better alternative at this price point.