Imprint Methods Explained…

Taking the Mystery out of Imprint Methods

One of the most common questions I am asked is “what kind of imprint can I do on this item?” This blog will review the most common ways to imprint our items and why one method might be recommended over another.

Pad Printing & Screen Printing

A pad print is basically an ink stamp while a screen print is more like a stencil being filled in. A pad print is usually used for a one-color imprint on a smaller item that has a smooth surface. A screen print allows for additional colors to be laid down and can be used on a variety of different materials (from plastic to non-woven).


A transfer is similar to an iron-on that you can buy in a craft store. It is used for multi-color logos. Your logo is first reverse-screened onto a paper-like transfer material and then applied to the material’s surface with heat and pressure.

A transfer imprint is ideal for bold, colorful logos with sharp lines. Unlike the pad/screen print, transfer uses heat so you cannot use this method on all items.

Laser Etching & Laser Engraving

The laser engraving imprint method uses a controlled laser beam to vaporize material on an item, resulting in a permanent mark of your logo or message. Laser etching is the same process, just not as deep.

Most commonly laser etching/engraving is used on metal items (such as pens and picture frames), but you can actually laser etch into other items such as apparel or wood as well!


Debossing is my favorite method of imprinting on items that allow for it (like leather, durahyde, ultraHyde, scuba, recycled rubber and paperboard products). This imprint gives the item a higher-end perceived value and never can come off as it is pushed permanently into the material. Just keep in mind that debossing does not allow for an imprint color.



Stitching your imprint onto items (ie: shirts, hats, bags) looks amazing; however, it can get costly. Embroidery cost is dictated by how many stitches your artwork takes. The more stitches, the higher the cost. We do recommend embroidery over screen print or transfer on certain shirt materials purely based on how it will look, but cost is another element to consider.

Embroidering a polo shirt looks much nicer than using an ink imprint; however, on a $3.00 white t-shirt, sometimes the cost to embroider can end up being more than the shirt itself. In these cases the sales rep will suggest the best way to imprint for both the look and cost.

Digital Imprint

Within the past few years digital imprinting has become more popular and easier to print on products. With special machines, printers are able to print multiple colors with gradients directly on to an item (as opposed to printing on a label and then putting the label on the item). This allows for more complicated pieces of art to be printed accurately.

Epoxy Dome

I find that most people don’t know what an epoxy dome is, but at the same time most everyone has something that has been imprinted this way. Epoxy domes are great for a full-color logo. The artwork is printed on high-grade vinyl paper and then covered with a clear, high-gloss polyurethane dome. The finished dome is then affixed to your item, resulting in a smooth, polished look.

Common items that are imprinted using an epoxy dome are buttons, pens and badge reels.


There are more ways to imprint, but these few are the most commonly used. For additional information please see the imprint method details on


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