The constant demand of increasing performances and safety in vehicle industry has led significant innovations in the materials used in sheet metal forming processes. In particular, multiphase steels and lightweight alloys have known higher and higher importance, thanks to the development of new stamping processes at elevated temperatures, which guarantee, at the same time, better formability, lower springback and more accurate micro-structural control in the formed sheets. With respect to these aspects, the correct design and optimization of the new processes cannot prescind of the mechanical characterization of materials in biaxial stress conditions, especially when it strongly varies according to the stress and temperature. In this paper, a novel experimental set-up is presented for determining the in-plane yield locus of sheet metals at elevated temperatures. A cruciform specimen, whose geometry was optimized by numerical simulation, is used for the study of the yield locus in the range of biaxial tensile stresses. The test machine concept is based on punch-wedge mechanism, which uses the vertical movement of the press for the deformation of the specimen along two perpendicular axes. In the first part of the paper, the optimization of the cruciform specimen by thermo-mechanical FE analyses is outlined. Details on the experimental set-up are then given with the description of the apparatus, the measurement of plastic strains and the heating system for tests at elevated temperatures.