Tech-Talk Made Easy

At some point we are pretty sure you have bumped into a term that was so foreign to you, you thought it was actually some language other than English!

Imprinting is definitely full of terms/terminology that can be challenging to the average person exploring their next promotional product purchase.

To try and ease some of this pain, we have assembled a few of the more common terms that you might encounter while researching the perfect idea.

Pad Printing

A highly flexible silicone pad manufactured in the shape of the imprint artwork that picks up ink out of a unique recessed plate and then transfers an imprint onto the item by pressing the inked pad directly onto the product’s surface.

Screen Printing

An image is transferred to a surface by ink being passed through a stencilled screen stretched over a frame. Screens are first treated with a light-sensitive emulsion. Then a film POSITIVE version of the imprint artwork is placed on the screen and all is exposed to ultraviolet light. This exposure hardens the emulsion not covered by the positive (black) elements of the film. Where the emulsion is covered by the positive elements it does NOT harden; so a spraying of water onto the screen washes it away to open up the exact pattern of the imprint image. Then, when ink is pressed/sprayed across the screen, it is able to pass through these open holes (and NOT where the harden emulsion is blocking the holes) allowing that shape to be imprinted onto the item’s surface below the screen. This process is also called SILK-SCREENING.

Spot Color

An imprint color that is reproduced using a SINGLE specific ink. Spot colors are identified using a matching system like the PANTONE / PMS color numbering system. The number of spot colors used to create a finished imprint usually defines the pricing of that product. The more spot colors required—the more the cost for the imprint run.

Process Color (4 Color Process Imprint – CMYK Imprint)

A method used to reproduce full-color images using only 4 unique ink colors. These are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). Any artwork to be used must be separated into Process Color and then printed using offset or digital printing processes. Looked at under a magnifying glass, 4 color process uses a series of dots or ‘rosetta’ patterns in tight and precise percentages to recreate the full range of the color spectrum. Offset printing (traditionally used on paper) was originally where this process was perfected. However, with the advent of digital technology, full color CMYK imprint is now possible to be done directly onto many products at a very reasonable cost.


Cutting an image/text into metal, wood or glass by one of three methods:

  • computer engraving
  • hand tracing
  • hand engraving

If a LASER is being employed to do engraving, it usually means that the image cut is not very deep on the product and often displays subtly on the product when finished. There is a process available on some items called OXYDIZATION which will cause Laser Engraving to turn colour and stand out more on a product. Additionally, there is another process called DEEP ETCH/ENGRAVE that cuts significantly deeper (allowing for COLOUR-FILL or show-through of product sub-strata colouring) to enhance the imprinting.


The imprinted image is depressed into a material such as paper, leather or suede, so the image sits below the product’s actual surface. Done using a metal die and heat. The opposite of EMBOSSING.


The raising of an image on a product surface, accomplished by pressing the material between a set of concave and convex dies that are heated. The opposite of DEBOSSING and not as readily available to be done. Often referred to as BUMP.

Hot Stamping

A dry imprinting process in which a design is set-up on a relief die that is subsequently impressed onto a roll of foil or other transferable material that affixes specifically onto the product through heat and pressure applied to the die.


Molten metal or other super-heated elements (like plastic/acrylic/etc.) are injected into the cavity of a carved die/mold. Once cooled and hardened, a multi-dimension finished product is produced.


A method of producing emblems and other flat promotional products like medals and lapel pins. A blank, cut from a metal sheet, is struck with a hammer that holds an imprint die.

Color Fill

If a product has a molded trough or deeply cut area in its imprint/construction it is possible to fill these ‘depressed’ areas via an ink being injected into them. This process can add impact, color and higher visibility to subtle imprints like laser-engraving or glass-etching.


Instead of printing directly onto an item it is possible to do a digital print of a logo/image, cut and place it into a molded receptacle and then ‘enclose’ (protect) it by covering it with a quick-hardening epoxy resin or hard plastic snap-on cover plate. The entire finished unit can also then be applied to a variety of products by gluing it onto the surface of the product. In a number of cases, the molded receptacle is actually incorporated directly into the physical makeup of a product (like the clip on a pen or FOB on a keychain).


The process of dying the logo/imprint directly into the fabric/material instead of printing it on the top surface (like the screen printing process). Often used for full colour, very complex or large overall images.


A printing process that employs a flexible printing plate with a raised image area. Often used on product items that are stored/shipped on ROLLS (Labels / Stickers / Decals / etc.).

Offset Lithography

A printing process in which the image is first transferred to a rubber blanket which then applies it to the stock to be printed. Most commonly used with traditional paper and offset printing presses.

Digital / Direct Imprint

A printing process in which art files can be directly processed through a specialized digital printer/press directly onto a number of substrates. Originally developed as an extension of the standard colour printer/copier – manufacturers were able to print full colour images very cheaply and then have them applied onto/into promotional products. Today, technology has created unique printing machines that can actually apply the printing straight onto the item in question. These can range from magnets and decals to T-Shirts, mugs and many other promotional items.