Nov 14/14A Lesson In Imprinting Techniques

When you discover your perfect promotional product, the next step usually involves putting your logo and/or marketing message on the chosen item. Depending on the item, you may have to choose your preferred imprinting method, which can be a little overwhelming given the large number of imprint methods available for each type of product.

To better understand imprinting methods, we've put together a quick guide detailing them all.  Read on to learn more!

1. Silk Screen Printing

In order to successfully transfer an image or logo using this method, a silk screen stencil is created using a liquid hardening process called "emulsion." Ink is then pushed through the holes of the silk screen, one colour at a time, to receive the imprint on your choice of promotional product. Between each colour, a heat press is used to dry the ink and permit the use of another silk screen to be placed on top of the surface for an additional colour.

Best Products: Screen Printing typically looks fabulous on clothing, such as custom t-shirts or custom polo shirts.

2. Pad Printing

This imprint process is more commonly used for curved surfaces where a flat silk screen cannot properly adhere to the product. Molded silicone rubber is attached to the pad printing machine and programmed to pick up ink from a printing plate to transfer to the appropriate imprint area, then stamped by the pad to produce the imprint.

Best Products: Pad Printing is often used for promotional mugs and some apparel.

3. Embroidery

Artwork is sent to a stitching factory where the image is digitized, and the stitch count is finalized. Each product is placed under a different sewing machine with an appropriately sized embroidery hoop on the area to be decorated. This hoop ensures that the fabric stays flat and smooth as the sewing machine begins threading the raised design.

Best Products: Embroidery or stitching is commonly used for custom hats.

4. Digital Printing or Full-Colour Printing or 4-Colour Process

This process makes use of physical printers instead of screens and generally allows you to print over the entire surface. NOTE: Digital printing is also referred to as CMYK, full-colour printing, colour burst or 4-colour process printing.

Best Products: Digital Printing is often used for mouse pads or notepads.

5. Sublimation

Sublimation is a process that transfers an image from a piece of special paper to a polyester or acrylic surface using special heat-sensitive ink. When heat is applied to the piece of paper, the ink turns from a solid into a gaseous state, and bonds with the fibers in the garment to create a more permanent design. Sublimation does not wash away over time, so if you are looking for a larger or overall permanent design, sublimation would be your best bet.

Best ProductsCustom Lanyards looks great with Full-Colour Sublimation.

6. Laser Engraving

A custom artwork template guides a high intensity laser beam directly on the surface of a product to etch through the top layer(s), and expose the material and colour underneath. This technique is extremely popular for adding more sophisticated and personalized appeal to promotional products. 

Best Products: Laser Engraving is the most popular imprinting method for custom keychains.

7. Sand Carving

Specialized engraving machines fire powdered sand at extremely high pressure to carve through a product and produce a deep etch.  This process can be used on nearly any material, including granite, marble, crystal, and glass.  This process has eliminated the need for other types of deep etching, such as acid etching.  

Best Products: Sand carving is an industry-standard technique for imprinting artwork onto glass, crystal and ceramic products.

8. Debossing & Embossing

For both processes, a metal stamping dye must be created to match the product imprint surface. Once the stamping dye has been created, our factories tend to keep this on hand to be used for any future orders with the same artwork for no extra charge. To "deboss" means to indent a figure or design into the surface creating a depressed imprint. The opposite would be to "emboss" or to raise the surface decoration. Both effects look fantastic on leather, and last a lifetime!

Best Products: Debossing looks best for leather items like promotional journals.  Embossing is more commonly used for items like custom wristbands

Now that you understand the meaning of the different imprinting methods, you'll be armed with valuable information that will help you deal with your suppliers and/or distributors. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the imprinting technology used for your promotional items, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-745-4031, we’re always here to educate our customers on their promotional items.

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