4 Promotional Product Printing Terms for Beginners

A while back I wrote a post that defined the word “gusset” and a few others that related to promotional products. And as I promised then, I’m back to define some more.

This time I’ll be defining multiple terms that related to printing your logo on promotional products. So without further ado, let’s get going!

1. PMS

Nope, not that PMS. When it comes to promotional items, we’re talking about the Pantone Matching System. The Pantone Matching System assigns every single color a different number to uniquely distinguish it from every other color.

Why? Because if you want your logo to be printed in blue, there are many shades of blue, and that shade of blue can vary from printer to printer. But if you pick PMS 2728, you can ensure that your logo will be printed in PMS 2728 on your stress balls, t-shirts, and promotional pens.

PMS color

From tumblers to hoodies, PMS colors ensure color consistency on all your promo items.

Each year, Pantone picks a PMS color of the year. The hot color this year is Tangerine Tango! For more about PMS, check out our PMS color chart here.

2. Vectored Art

Vectored art is not your standard .jpg or .png! Vectored art is created in programs like Adobe Illustrator and is defined by mathematical algorithms. This means that instead of thinking “line,” your art program thinks “line with a slope of 2.”

A vectored image maintains its sharpness and quality no matter how much it is resized. Standard images will get blurry as you make them bigger.

vectored art bubba

The Bubba on the left is vectored, so he stays nice and sharp. The Bubba on the right is a regular image, so he gets blurry when resized.

If you’d like to learn more about vector art, check out our YouTube series here or our comprehensive beginner’s guide here.

3. Set-up Charge

As great as it would be, logos don’t appear on products by magic. So before printers can transfer logos, they need to do some prep work; or, in this case, a set-up.

For spot color, printers will need to create a screen. For heat transfer, completely logos need to be printed on transfer papers. And for laser engravings, your logo will need to be programmed into the machine.

Screen print setup

It takes a lot of time to make a reverse image of your logo on a screen!

For the definitions of other imprint processes, as well as the best items for them, check out our article here.

4. Registration

When you choose a multi-colored pad or spot imprint for your promotional products, printers have to create a different screen for every single color. While they are very precise and careful, sometimes a registration occurs.

Registration is when the imprint is off by a little bit and can vary from item to item. But before you discount multi-colored imprints, the registration is only a maximum of 1/32”. This is hardly noticeable.

registration on koozies

The koozie on the right has a slight registration. Can you tell?

Note: Registration is not a concern with digitally printed items. Those are done by physical printers and not screens.

If there are still promotional product printing terms that you find confusing, pop on over to our homepage and take a look. If it’s not listed, leave a comment on this blog post, or send us at email (!

Did any of these promotional product printing terms trip you up before? Any words that you still find confusing?


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. Bret Bonnet

    To this day it’s still WEIRD when explaining what a “PMS” color is to customers.

    You can tell at first the customer is taken back/offended, but after explaining what PMS means as it relates to printing and promotional products – the customer then tends to be a little more receptive and understanding.


    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yeah, it’s a little unfortunate that the Pantone Matching System shares initials with the other PMS. However, it’s such a handy system that it’s worth the extra explanation.

    • Jaimie Smith

      haha! that would be so akward explaining to people what that is. When I first started here and Jeff had me fixing PMS charges, I felt too akward asking what that was, so I just did it.
      Great post, Mandy!! This was honestly reallly helpful for me!

  2. Jeff Porretto

    The Setup thing still cracks me up. It sounds so obvious…. but it’s not. At first it just sounds like, “oh, well they have to set some stuff up I guess. Printing things or something I think.” It’s not until you understand what it is that you can also understand why some items need multiple setups, some just one, and some are free. Then you can more easily decide what’s the right imprint for you!

    Thanks Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      For such a small word, setup is anything but! In fact, it’s probably the most important step of the entire printing process. A messed-up setup means a messed-up logo – and nobody wants that!

  3. Rachel

    I have been staring at those koozies forever, trying to see the difference between the two … Is the pink a slightly different color in the second one? Or maybe the diamond is a little more to the right? I think my eyes are playing tricks on me now, haha. Clearly registration isn’t too noticeable a difference. 🙂

    Thanks for these explanations; they’re very helpful!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Well done, Rachel! The pink is the same color, but the purple diamond is a LITTLE more to the right. I think I hit the arrow key once or twice.

      But precisely: registration isn’t too noticeable a difference – especially since you’ll be (most likely) handing out one to each person. So unless your recipients like to stand there and compare logos on their koozies all night, nobody is going to know. 🙂

    • Jill Tooley

      ::Sigh of relief::

      Oh, good! So I’m not the only one who struggled with the differences in the Registration picture. For a second, I felt like I was reading Highlights magazine again — trying to pick out those last few differences between pictures was the hardest for me!

      Awesome post, Mandy! Thanks for yet another useful reference guide to promotional product jargon 🙂

  4. Amy Swanson

    Great post, Mandy! I always wondered why having “Vectored Art” was so important, and from your picture I can totally see why. Yikes! It would suck to pay for really nice promotional products only to receive something crappy instead 🙁 Thanks for clearing that up!

    • Jen

      I agree with Amy, I didn’t know why we needed vectored artwork, but I can see why now. This is a great post Mandy, your examples will be a great reference tools for our customers.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It would seriously suck to get a whole fleet of tote bags with a blurry logo on them. That’s why vectored artwork will save you a lot of headaches down the road!

  5. Jenna Markowski

    This is another great run-down, Mandy! I had heard of the Pantone Matching System before, but never really knew what it was/what it was for! Like Rachel and Jill, I struggled for a few minutes trying to determine the difference between the two pictures for registration.

    Since even as an employee I found this guide useful, I’m sure this overview will be a great resource for our customers! 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Jenna! PMS is crazy-helpful in making sure that your colors are absolutely perfect. There is generally a fee for a PMS-specific color, but it’s absolutely worth it!

  6. david k waltz


    Thanks for the information, presenting in a way that even a graphic-ignorant person like me can understand.

    I had business cards that had that registration effect – i think my banker’s all made optometrist appointments after meeting with me!

    My issue with the Pantone system is that I can’t get the RGB content in order to replicate the color in Excel, Word, Publisher, R SAS, or any other finance, analysis or writing product. Are you aware of any way to get this without forking over the big bucks to Pantone?

    Finally, that vectoring explanation makes a lot of sense, and now i want some graphic software that will do it, but it being a hobby I would like it to be free, are you aware of any open source product that will do the vectoring?

    How was New York, by the way?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, David!

      Goodness, so many questions!

      I really don’t know about translating Pantone colors over to software. Short of some kind of eyedropper tool, I don’t really have a better suggestion than “make it close?” I say that because every computer monitor displays color a little differently, so even if your color is exactly the color you want, it would look different on a work, home, client, or reader computer.

      I did a quick Google search for you and it seems like Inkscape is a free, open source program for vector artwork. I have no idea about its quality, though. I shelled out the big bucks and I have Illustrator at home. I do know that you can download a month trial of Illustrator for free! Let me know if you find something else that works.

      And I haven’t gone to New York yet, I’m heading out there later this week! I’m sure that I’ll be tweeting about it frequently! 🙂

  7. David abulafia

    What trapping, grips, and chokes to help with registration issues. Could you please explain these. Thanks

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