by Larry Triplett
What are we talking about? There are many different ways to print promotional products. The size, shape, and type of product, as well as the number of colors in the imprint, will suggest the best method for a particular situation. Figuring all that out is what we’re here for. But in case you’re curious, here’s a quick primer.
Common Printing Terminology:
Screen Printing: an image is transferred to the printed surface by ink, which is pressed through a stenciled screen and treated with a light-sensitive emulsion. Film positives are put in contact with the screens and exposed to light, hardening the emulsion not covered by film and leaving a soft area on the screen for the squeegee to press ink through. (Also called silk screening)
Pad Printing: a recessed surface is covered with ink. The plate is wiped clean, leaving ink in the recessed areas. A silicone pad is then pressed against the plate, pulling the ink out of the recesses, and pressing it directly onto the product.
Etching: using a process in which an image is first covered with a protective coating that resists acid, then exposed, leaving bare metal and protected metal. The acid attacks only the exposed metal, leaving the image etched onto the surface.
Die-casting: injecting molten metal into the cavity of a carved die (a mold)
Die-striking: producing emblems and other flat promotional products by striking a blank metal sheet with a hammer that holds the die
Engraving: cutting an image into metal, wood or glass by one of three methods–computerized engraving, hand tracing, or hand engraving.
Debossing: depressing an image into a material’s surface so that the image sits below the product surface
Embossing: impressing an image in relief to achieve a raised surface
Hot Stamp: setting a design on a relief die, which is then heated and pressed onto the printing surface
Laser or Foil Stamp: applying metallic or colored foil imprints to vinyl, leather or paper surfaces
Colorfill: screen printing an image and then debossing it onto the vinyl’s surface
Embroidery: stitching a design into fabric through the use of high-speed, computer-controlled sewing machines. Artwork must first be “digitized,” which is the specialized process of converting two-dimensional artwork into stitches or thread. A particular format of art such as a jpeg, tif, eps, or bmp, cannot be converted automatically into an embroidery tape. The digitizer must actually recreate the artwork using stitches. Then it programs the sewing machine to sew a specific design, in a specific color, with a specific type of stitch. This is the process known as digitizing. The most common type of digitized file is dst. There are other formats, such as emb. Special software is needed to read embroidery files.
Personalization: imprinting an item with a person’s name using one of several methods such as mechanical engraving, laser engraving, hot stamping, debossing, sublimation, or screen printing, to name a few.
Camera-ready: artwork that is black and white and has very clean, crisp lines that make it easy to scan and suitable for photographic reproduction. This is the traditional definition, but in today’s world of digital art, a better term is Production-ready art, generally a vector file created in Adobe Illustrator and saved in ai or eps format.
Pantone Matching System (PMS): a book of standardized color in a fan format used to identify, match and communicate colors in order to produce accurate color matches in printing. Each color has a coded number indicating instructions for mixing inks to achieve that color.
4-color Process: a system where a color image is separated into 4 different color values by the use of filters and screens (usually done digitally). The result is a color separation of 4 images, that when transferred to printing plates and printed on a printing press with the colored inks cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow, and black, reproduces the original color image. These four colors can be combined to create thousands of colors.
Bleeds: printers cannot print right to the edge of a paper sheet. To create that effect, the printer must use a sheet, which is larger than the document size. Then the printer prints beyond the edge of the document size (usually 1/8″), then cuts the paper down to the document size.
Imprint Area: the area on a product, with specific dimensions, in which the imprint is placed.
Paper proof: Impression of type or artwork on paper so the correctness and quality of the image can be checked. The term has come to also mean a computer image of the artwork, typically sent by email.
Virtual Proof: A photographic image of the product with the logo/imprint added.
Pre-production Proof: an actual physical sample of the product itself produced and sent for approval before an order goes into production.