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imprinting methods:

a guide to imprinting promotional products

There are many techniques for transferring images and words onto our products. This guide explains the various ways of creating promotional items, custom-decorated with your logo. Each technique works best for certain kinds of products - for example, screen printing works for textiles, but not for ceramic or metal items.

screen printing/ silk-screening: an ink image on paper or textiles

First an image is turned into a film positive. The film positive is "developed" onto light-sensitive emulsion spread on a screen-when exposed to light, the emulsion covered by the dark parts of the image stays soft, and is easily washed away creating a negative of the image. Ink is pressed through the emulsion negative, transferring the image to a paper or cloth surface. This is the classic way of printing promotional t-shirts.

Multi-colored images require multiple screens, and the colors are printed one at a time (see terms for more information).

embroidery: stitching on textiles

Original artwork is digitized using a special program that converts the image into patterns of stitches. The program then directs specialized high-speed, computer-controlled sewing machines to stitch the pattern using stitch sizes, shapes, and colors that will recreate the image, custom applied to the textile of your choice. Promotional hats may be silk-screened or embroidered, depending on the effect you want.

deboss: a depressed image in paper, leather, or plastic

A custom metal die (see terms) is created from an image. The die is pressed into the material's surface, creating a lowered or depressed imprint stamp of your image, usually without ink. The surface around the logo/artwork appears raised. This method can be accompanied by an optional color-fill, available on some products, to make the logo/artwork stand out.

emboss: a raised image in paper, plastic, or leather sheets

A custom die is made for your image, and pressed into a material's surface from below, creating a raised image, three-dimensional appearance. An embossed image may be inked or not, for various effects.

hot stamp: heated debossing

A custom die of your image is heated and pressed into the printing surface. This allows debossing to be done in harder materials, such as metals.

etching: printing from a custom metal plate

A metal plate is covered with an acid-resistant material in the pattern of your image. Then the plate is immersed in an acid bath, eating away unprotected metal and leaving your image etched onto the plate. Ink is applied to the plate to produce custom prints of your image onto metal, glass, or film.

laser or foil stamp: metallic printing, usually debossed

Uses the same method as basic letterpress printing, substituting foil in place of ink and applied with heat. From a custom die, your image is stamped into vinyl, leather, or paper surfaces. Many colors of foil can be used for various effects.

die-casting: molds

Molten metal is injected into a carved die, or mold, creating the finished product.

die-striking: image pressed into metal

A craftsman renders your design in a soft piece of metal that is then hardened, producing a custom die. The die is used to strike your design into a softer metal, usually brass. This process creates a classic, high quality finish, perfect for very special custom items.

color fill: highlighting an engraved or etched area

Once your image is printed, engraved, or etched, a color fill can be used to highlight areas of the image.

pad printing: perfect for printing onto plastic

Your image is photo-etched onto a plate. The image is inked, and then lifted onto a silicone pad that transfers the ink onto the desired product. The pad can wrap itself around small objects, into any nooks and crannies, and gives excellent ink coverage. Four-color printing is possible. This is an excellent technique for customizing plastic items; a simple way to mass-produce your promotional products.

laser engraving: cut away images or text

A custom template is made from your image or lettering. Lasers directed through openings in the template make clean cuts through a sheet of paper, metal, or plastic, actually evaporating it. The result is a stylish, custom cut out of your message or logo, which is permanent and highly recommended over screen-printing on metal surfaces, since screen printed metallic items will eventually wear and fade.

sublimation: permanent images on porous products

Your message, graphic, or photograph is imprinted using heat-activated dyes. The dye is permanently embedded into the material, absorbed into the pores of the fabric or other material, rather than sitting on top. Used for mouse pads, mugs, T-shirts, caps, and trophies.

offset printing: high quality ink printing

From a custom-made metal plate, the ink is transferred to a "blanket" or rubber-covered cylinder before being pressed to paper. This is a technique for high quality printings of more complex images.

decal: custom stickers

A custom label on special, transparent paper is created from your image, then applied to the product.

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