Types of Imprint Methods

Posted September 1, 2015

Screen printing or silk screen printing is the most common and budget-friendly imprint method for apparel and great for bright pops of color and solid colored logos. All screen printed artwork is printed using standard Pantone ink colors so colors prints true, crisp, and clear. The process of screen printing goes like this: Your design is burned into a fine mesh screen with one screen for each color in your design. Ink is then applied to each screen and squeezed through the tiny mesh onto your product layer by layer. Below is an illustration of the screen printing process.

how silk screen workssilk screen example

Full Color / Four Color Process / CMYK is a very popular imprint method for those who want to have their promotional products decorated with a photograph or other full color image. This method is perfect for artwork with lots of shading and gradients. The full color printing process combines four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to create full color images, commonly referred to as “CMYK”. Theses colors are printed and layered on top of one another producing full color image. Below is an illustration of the full color printing process. When viewed up close under a magnifying glass, you may be able to see the dots of individual colors within the image. Many of our vendors offer full color printing but have special proprietary names for it such as Photographix or BritePix but it is an identical or very similar process as noted here. Full color printing can be achieved by a few different methods. Usually the artwork is separated into 4 different screens (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) similar to the way colors are separated for silk screen process as noted above. The screens are then printed onto the item one at a time using a printing press and layered over each other to achieve the full color look.

CMYK screen examples

Full color printing can also be achieved by with infusion or direct to garment printing. Using a specialized digital printer (think like your home or office printer, but about 10 times the size) the item is fed into the machine (like paper) and the four colors of ink are printed all at once directly to the product in rows of color. The final effect is a beautiful design with a soft touch (unlike the “plastic” feel of silk screened shirts). However, with direct printing, we recommend white promotional products for the brightest designs as the inks cannot include white – so the designs may have a weathered or faded look on colored promotional products.

direct to garment printer full color imprint on white full color imprint on dark colored item

 

Dye Sublimation is a process for decorating polyester fabrics. It is accomplished by printing a special ink onto transfer paper, applying that paper to a substrate and then applying heat and pressure to the material. The result is a soft-hand print and excellent color reproduction. This technique works best on white, or light colored polyester fabric. This technique allows for full color imprints on fabric. Not only is the technique exciting, the fact that we have a huge print area makes it even better. You can print all over garments, full front or full back print. Please note that due to the sleeves, all over imprint may have imperfections or “character marks” in the underarm area.

Dye sublimated t-shirt with character marks

Heat Transfer is a process by which your image is printed and trimmed out of a sheet of fusible material and then applied to the product using heat to seal it onto the item. This method’s well-known relative is the iron-on transfer that you may have encountered at craft stores, but heat transfers used by Inkhead are made of high-quality, professional grade materials. Your artwork will be fused onto the item and look crisp and clean though it may not work best with artwork that has faded edges or seamless shading in the background.

Heat transfer example

Embroidery is very popular for uniforms or corporate events. Inkhead will take your design and digitize it into a file that an embroidery machine can read and then the machine will sew the threads directly into your item. This method works best with solid color logos. Fine detail and small text is not recommended for this type of decoration.

embroidery

Laser Engraving is a process where a laser printer is used to very slightly and precisely melt the very surface of product, creating a beautiful and sleek tone on tone design. No color is used in this imprint process unless a chemical process called oxidation is used, in which the design is oxidized and turns black. This process is only available on certain materials.

laser engraving

Debossing is a process in which a metal die of your design is created and then pressed into the item material leaving a colorless impression. The final product sports a cool and subtle 3-D look which is very unique. No color is used in this imprint process. This process is only available on certain materials.

debossing

Etching refers to the technique of creating art on the surface of glass by applying acidic, caustic, or abrasive substances. The removal of minute amounts of glass causes the characteristic rough surface and translucent quality of frosted glass.

etching example

Foil Heat Stamping / Hot Stamping, is the application of pigment or metallic foil, often gold or silver to a product’s surface. A heated die is stamped onto the foil, making it adhere to the surface leaving the design of the die on the product.

foil imprint example

Epoxy Dome is a means of displaying a logo on a promotional item clearly but unobtrusively. Your logo is rendered on a base, which is then overlaid with a clear bubble of acrylic epoxy. The dome is then affixed to the promotional item with permanent adhesive. This imprint method is preferred on briefcases, notepads, and jotters as a full-color alternative to debossing. It is also an option in the manufacture of lapel pins.

epoxy dome

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