We want your promotional products to look great, which is why we only partner with the industry’s best printers, engravers and embroidery experts. Our imprint partners have decades of experience between them, so your promotional gifts are in good hands – literally!
Our friendly account managers will always offer honest advice when recommending printing processes, or other branding techniques for your promotional items. The main pros and cons are outlined for you, with transparency relating to finish, lead time and cost.
We’ve put together a list of popular imprint techniques, some of which you might not have considered or even heard of! Rest assured, your branded merchandise will be expertly finished using any of these tried and tested methods.
Screen Printing AKA Silk Screen Printing
Overview: Due to its versatility, screen printing is doubtlessly the most popular branding method for promotional gifts. It involves forcing ink through a mesh screen, which includes a stencilled version of your artwork. The ink creates an imprint of the design onto the product surface.
Benefits: It’s suitable for plastic, glass, cotton, metal, bamboo and more. Large or small, flat or cylindrical, dark or light – it tackles all manner of items with ease. Perfect for Pantone matching spot colour artwork, the resulting finish is clean, concise and robust. Ideal then, for drawstring bags, t-shirts and more.
Considerations: Screen printing delivers unit price savings as quantities increase. A separate screen is required for each colour (layer) of the artwork. As these are charged per colour – costs will naturally add up for multi-colour logos. Perfect registration (colour alignment) is not always achievable with multi-colour artwork.
Pad Printing AKA Tampo Printing
Overview: Pad printing is the closest alternative to screen printing. The main difference between the two, is the ink application method. Rather than forcing ink through a screen, the ink is applied to products via a silicone pad. The pad is prepared by laser etching a 2D image of artwork onto it, which is then transferred onto the promo product.
Benefits: As the pad is flexible and small, it’s ideal for promotional items with irregular, awkward and smaller branding areas. These might include convex mint tins, lip balms and highlighters. Pad printing is perfect for Pantone matching promotional giveaways, regardless of colour or material type.
Considerations: Set-up and unit costs are typically the same as screen printing, and are also charged per colour. Metal products like bottle opener keyrings, are more susceptible to scratching over time. It’s also worth noting, that intricate detail may fill within very small print areas.
Digital Transfer Printing
Overview: Transfer printing is predominantly used on larger merchandise like cotton shoppers and tea towels. Artwork is digitally printed onto a special sheet of paper, which is then heat pressed onto the item surface.
Benefits: As they are robust and versatile, transfers work well on most product types – even on tougher textiles items like jute bags. Full colour and complex designs are the norm, and can be applied to small promotional giveaways like bone china mugs and stress balls. Be aware, this type of transfer is pain-stakingly applied by hand, so allow for longer lead times!
Considerations: A good quality transfer print should be very durable, plus the key-line (transparent border) should not be obvious and/or visible. Unit pricing does increase with print size, but there are cost savings on larger volumes.
Direct Digital Printing
Overview: A digital printer is a bit like an office printer, but bigger and more sophisticated! Using ink-jet technology, designs are printed directly onto paper and other types of promotional products. This process enables the use of full colour artwork, with photo realistic results.
Benefits: Digital printing is a very cost-effective way of printing small products in low volumes. Most promotional paper products like sticky notes and memo blocks are printed in this way. It’s also ideal for low cost promotional giveaways, including mint cards, coasters and plastic keyrings.
Overview: OK, so we cheated a bit on this one! This is a manufacturing process which uses 2 layers of PVC. The bottom layer is the background colour. Additional colours in the design are cut to shape and laid on top to create a 2D effect.
Benefits: This type of item is made in the Far East. So, although the MOQ is usually around 500 units, unit costs are very low. They are truly unique and have a gift shop quality about them. Ideal then for fundraising and P.O.S. Our most popular 2D PVC products are keyrings, coasters, luggage tags and photo frames.
Considerations: The mould cost is higher than average, but can be re-used subject to frequency of orders. Individual packaging include backing cards add higher perceived value. Lead times are longer than average.
Epoxy Doming AKA Resin Doming
Overview: An epoxy dome is a clear liquid resin, poured over a cut-to-shape printed sticker/label. Larger stickers are known as decals. When set (hardened), the resin resembles a dome and can be applied to the promo gift exterior.
Benefits: The result is an elegant and lustrous finish, with a 3D like effect. This type of branding is ideal for packaging. Just check out our mini paint tin and maxi rectangle pot, each filled with delicious promo sweets!
Considerations: Resin domes should be applied to a flat surface. Promotional items with a slight recess generally work best, notably tape measures, lapel pin badges and USB’s. Epoxy doming is more expensive than traditional branding methods, but can look quite striking. As the domes are applied by hand, you should allow for minor alignment tolerances (subject to product type).
Overview: With the use of a wide-format printer, artwork is printed onto transfer paper with dye-sub inks. Using a heat press, the ink is transferred from the paper to the promotional item.
Benefits: During the transfer process, the ink actually converts to a gas – this is known as sublimation. Consequently, the ink is embedded into the material, rather than onto the product surface. This results in a longer lasting and robust finish. Dye-sublimation is ideal for reproducing vibrant, full colour artwork. Dependent on the product type, even 100% / 360° surface coverage is achievable. This versatility provides enhanced branding possibilities on mugs, metal water bottles and more.
Considerations: Dye-sublimation is also commonly used to print fabric, with stunning results achievable on running vests, lanyards, feather flags and golf umbrellas. Only 100% polyester should be used when dye-sub printing fabric though. Dye-sublimation products begin life white and are specially treated beforehand.
Overview: As the name suggests, this technique uses an actual laser to brand promotional products! In short, the laser heat removes the product surface layer, leaving a permanent mark beneath. The design is programmed using special software to ensure consistency, accuracy and speed.
Benefits: Laser engraving is often associated with traditional corporate gifts such as metal keyrings and travel mugs. Whilst it’s ideal for these popular giveaways, it also looks great on eco-friendly promo products like our bamboo notebooks. It’s an elegant branding technique, which is long lasting and the results are often quite striking. It’s also a cost effective way of individually personalising gifts – perfect for employee recognition awards and metal pens.
Considerations: Logo finishes and colours will vary subject to product material – as the imprint is literally formed below the product surface. As a comparison, the set-up cost is usually higher than screen print, as are unit prices.
Debossing and Embossing
Overview: Debossing is an elegant branding method, which leaves a recessed logo impression on a product. Embossing in contrast, creates a raised logo impression. Both are achieved by using metal plates or blocks, which are rolled or stamped from above/below respectively. The logo is usually left plain (blind debossed/embossed) for a subtle look, or can be colour infilled with ink(s) to add vibrancy.
Benefits: Each method looks great on PU and leather items like conference folders. As it’s quite a versatile branding method, it can even be used on premium card products, or cheap promotional giveaways. You may have even received or purchased silicone wristbands or bookmarks branded in this manner.
Considerations: The plate (set-up) cost is above average, as are unit prices. Plates can however be re-used and the additional expense is definitely worth it. This imprint method screams brand sophistication and offers a unique take on your logo.
Overview: Embroidery is the process of sewing a logo or other design onto promotional merchandise. Rest assured, we don’t use a needle and thread! At Purple Moon, this is achieved by programming an industrial machine that consists of multiple sewing heads. This is ideal for bulk branding staff uniforms for express delivery. Embroidery isn’t confined to promotional clothing though. Laptop bags and backpacks are great examples of embroidery friendly merchandise.
Benefits: A corporate feel is the hallmark of high quality embroidery. A discreet below neckline logo or sleeve logo for example, will elevate brand perception. Pricing is based on artwork size (stitches), not colours (threads). So, unlike screen printing, artwork colours aren’t price relevant. The set-up cost (disc charge) is quite low and free on repeat orders.
Considerations: Embroidery works best on weightier items like polo shirts, fleeces and beanie hats, so cheap promotional t-shirts should be avoided! Logo reproduction restrictions may apply to multi-colour and/or extremely intricate logos. Larger logos are more expensive, and there aren’t significant savings on volume.
Overview: If you have a very simple single colour design e.g. a name or number, then vinyl transfers are ideal. Beginning with a vinyl sheet, the design is machine (CAD) cut into the required shape. This is then heat pressed (transferred) onto a garment.
Benefits: Vinyl is a cost effective way to personalise garments like sweatshirts and promotional t-shirts, so excellent for low volume orders. Consequently, this branding method is often combined with embroidery or screen print e.g. on leavers hoodies. Although designs are quite simple, vinyl sheets can be purchased in different colours and finishes, including fluorescent and metallic. Vinyl is also multi-fabric friendly.
Considerations: The finished transfer may sometimes feel rigid and even ‘plastic like’ to the touch. Subject to use, care and quality – vinyl prints are susceptible to peeling over time. Larger transfers are more expensive.
Considerations: As it’s predominantly used to print low volumes, unit pricing is consequently higher. The process is also slower than most. Digital printing is not recommended then, for larger promotional items and/or higher volumes. There are significant savings on set-up costs though.
Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing
Overview: A combination of technology advances and the print-on-demand market, has signified the exponential growth in DTG printing. As the name suggests, designs are printed directly onto garments (using a high-tech ink-jet printer). In fact, garments actually absorb the ink.
Benefits: DTG is tailor made for printing low order runs of around 25 units or less. It’s very cost effective, as there are no set-up costs and the entire process is incredibly quick. As the inks are injected, DTG can also create very intricate and high quality full colour designs.
Considerations: DTG printing works best on 100% cotton garments, so try and avoid anything else. Colour reproduction on darker garments may vary, subject to design and machine quality. When utilising the best machinery, DTG printing looks great on promotional t-shirts, hoodies, cotton shoppers and sweatshirts.
At Purple Moon, we’re always exploring alternative ways to create high impact branded merchandise for our clients. By paying attention to small details, we can really enhance products to make your marketing campaign an even greater success. We’ve outlined a handful of finishing techniques to complement our popular branding methods. Don’t forget, we also offer fully bespoke merchandise solutions.
If you require both elegant and subtle branding, then customised product accents are perfect. You can elevate your brand, by simply colour changing the stiches on a wallet, the ribbon on a notebook or the handle on a bag.
This method of branding also looks great on customised clothing. Anything from a button or sleeve colour can be adapted to complement your logo. Minimum order quantities apply and will vary subject to item
Mix & Match Components
If you want something really original, we can even match confectionery to your logo colours. Our best selling Jelly Bean Factory® range is tailor made for this! Interchangeable components are also available on plastic pens and other popular promotional giveaways.
Matching Coloured Products
Whether it’s a simple printed notebook and pen combo, or a more substantial corporate gift pack – matching coloured promotional gifts will add distinction to your marketing. Most brand guidelines offer a degree of flexibility when selecting product colours, so matching items can usually be plucked from stock.
When there isn’t room for compromise, then Pantone matched branded merchandise is the way to go. Typically made at source in the Far East, there is generally no additional cost for this service. Promotional lanyards, USB’s and silicone wristbands are all Pantone matched as standard by our factories.
At Purple Moon, we can also Pantone match UK stocked promotional merchandise. This is achieved by applying a special coating to the product exterior, instead of manufacturing the product colour at source. Pantone Matched drinkware is one of our specialties. We have an extensive range, which includes our popular tulip mug.
Packaging should never be underestimated when presenting branded merchandise to your target audience. It is literally the finishing touch, but should always be aligned to the gift type, distribution method and budget.
We can supply everything from a simple presentation box for power banks, to custom printed boxes for on-boarding gifts and welcome packs. If you require fully bespoke packaging, that’s fine too!
If you require more information on how Purple Moon can assist with creative promotional products and corporate gifts, please do not hesitate to contact us.