Screen print, deboss, pad print, embroidery, laser etched… all of these decorating terms are enough to make your head spin! We are happy to help you with the perfect decorating method for your logo and swag item, but we put together a “cheat sheet” of the most common terms used when decorating promotional items to help you see why one method might be more appropriate than another.
- Screen Printing (or Silkscreen) is the most common imprint method and the most widely used term. T-shirts, mugs, key tags and many other items can be “screened”. Screens (usually made with a monofilament material) are coated with a light sensitve emulsions and dried in the dark. Your logo is then “burned” into the screen by exposing it to light. Once the emulsion is removed from the area where your logo was placed it leaves an open area where ink can pass through the screen. A screen must be made for each color of imprint in the design. If you have a 1 color logo, screen printing is generally going to be the least expensive option.
- Embroidery can be used on almost all garments, hats, blankets and other textiles. Embroidery designs are digitized and then read by machines to stitch your specific design using special thread. Embroidery is usually done directly on the item being decorated. However patches and also be embroidered then applied to the item via a special glue or being stitched on. Embroidery gives a higher perceived value than screen printing. And because embroidery prices are based on the number of stitches in a logo instead of the number of colors, you don’t pay extra for multi color logos (up to at least 6 colors, generally).
- Heat Transfer process requires printing the design (usually by screen printing) onto specially treated paper then transferring that design to the garment using a high temperature press. Heat transfer is frequently used when a direct screen is not a good option, such as printing multiple colors over the seam of a hat or printing a full color design with fine details.
- Embossing and Debossing requires making a die of your logo (frequently out of metal). The die is either applied to the front of an item and pressed down (deboss) creating a sunken logo or applied from the back to create a raised (embossed) design. I frequently think of items like padfolios being debossed while paper goods (note cards, invitation) are embossed.
- Digital Printing popularity is growing by leaps and bounds as advances in technology is making this a much more affordable option for printing on a wide variety of materials. This is a 4 color (or full color) process of printing where inks are applied directly from a computer file onto a garment. Instead of printing one color at a time (like screen printing), digital printing prints all colors with one run (think of a really high tech a color printer). This method is excellent for logos with multiple colors, small details or for full color images. However, exact PMS matches cannot be guaranteed.
- Laser Etching uses laser technology to etch (or burn) a logo or design into the surface. Used for many years on awards and metal items such as pens, this technology is now being used on other items, such as textiles with beautiful results.
- Pad Printing process is commonly used on hard to print surfaces- concave, uneven, cylinders, etc. Golf balls are an example of an item pad printing is excellent for. A plate is created with the logo or design then a layer of ink is applied to the design on the plate. A printing pad presses down on the plate and picks up the ink from the image. The printing pad then moved to the item to be imprinted and presses down, leaving behind the imprint.
Decoration methods can also use a combination of processes to create unique imprints. For example, we can deboss a padfolio then color fill the imprint for a completely different look. Or you could laser etch a design onto a shirt then add embroidery to make it really pop.
Have other terms you aren’t sure about? Just ask. We are happy to help you understand all of your options and select the best method to brand your swag.