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Printing Methods Explained

There are various ways in which products can be personalised; the method used is often dependant on the product material, print area available and the customer artwork. With over 20 years’ experience in the promotional products industry we will always advise you on which is the best and most cost effective way you are able to reproduce your branding.

These are the main methods used which we hope explains some of the origination and set-up costs and the restrictions you may come across when choosing your product.

SCREEN PRINTING
Is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh which supports an ink blocking stencil of the artwork. When ink is drawn across the screen the open areas of mesh allow a single colour ink through as a sharp-edge image onto the product. A different screen has to be produced and run for each ink colour; therefore this method can only be used for printing solid spot colour without any shading on items such as close woven textiles and large areas of flat products or the rotating surface of a mug

PAD PRINTING
This technique uses a 2D silicon pad to transfer solid colour ink onto the product (very similar to a 2D stamp) A different pad has to be produced and run for each ink colour therefore this method again is not suitable for process of full colour printing only spot colour. This method is usually used on products with small restricted flat print areas or with special machines the rotating surface of a pen. On certain products pad printing more than one colour can have registration problems therefore, these items only offer a single colour print.

OFFSET LITHO PRINTING
This is the most common method used when printing large volumes of paper products. It uses a photographic technique which transfers images onto printing plates. If the artwork is in full colour CMYK - 4 plates are produced, one for each of the colour spectrum (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). If the artwork is made up of Pantone colours, one plate is also produce for each colour. This process printing method also allows tints, shading or vignettes of a colour to be printed.

FULL COLOUR DIGITAL PRINTING
With the development of CMYK Ink Jet Technology this method enables full colour images to be printed directly onto the surface of a product without the use of transfers or a sublimation process. Full colour digital technology also uses a UV light to cure the print during the process so there is no need to use an over laminate or have to allow for drying time. This method is used for small runs of paper products and the flat surfaces of a selected number of plastic products.

TRANSFER PRINTING
The design is either screen printed or Litho printed onto special paper as a reverse image. The paper is then laid on top of the product and a heat press is then used to transfer the image from the paper onto product. The backing paper is then removed. This process is most commonly used on small full colour runs on textiles and ceramics
 
DYE SUBLIMATION PRINTING
This is a similar process to transfer printing but produces a higher quality print. This method can also be used on a wide variety of man-made textiles as well as ceramics.

LASER ENGRAVING
The single colour lined artwork is scanned into the computer of the laser engraving machine and a pencil like laser etches this into the surface of the product. Although a lot of detail can be obtained from laser engraving it is not recommended that text be any smaller than 1mm high. Laser engraving can only be used on metal or glass objects. The colour of the image on glass will appear white and on metal objects the colour will be dependent on the base material which may not always be the same colour as the surface material (e.g. silver products may have a brass base material therefore the engraving will appear gold and not silver).

EMBROIDERY
It is only possible to reproduce solid coloured artwork as embroidery and not full colour photo or shaded images. The artwork is scanned and an embroidery tape is produced which acts as a program for the embroidery machine. The cost of embroidery is dependent on the number of stitches it takes to reproduce the design. So the bigger and more complicated the design the more expensive the embroidery costs will be. Unlike any other branding processes, the cost of embroidery is not dependant on the number of colours in your design and the silk colours can often be changed at no extra cost as long as the stitch design remains the same. Embroidery can be reproduce onto any textiles, bags or clothing as long as there is sufficient room to fit the embroidery frame directly underneath. Although there is a very large range of silk colours they do not come in the full pantone or CMYK spectrum therefore 100% colour match may not always be possible.

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