You’re awesome and know how to do many things – order food at a drive-thru, separate your whites from your darks, train your dog to roll over, put your hair in a fishtail braid for a wedding…

What you probably don’t know a lot about is imprint colors.

It’s always fun to learn something new, so let’s dive into everything there is to know about imprint color. You’ll be a printing pro before you know it!

What Does Imprint Mean?

girl holding custom drawstring bag

An “imprint” is a printing term used to describe the custom design on an item. This design can be a logo, text, or a combination of both.

Look at the drawstring bag in the picture above. The words “Your Design Here” is the imprint.

There are two facets of an imprint:

  • Imprint Area – the space where the image/text is printed
  • Imprint Color – the color(s) of the ink used to create the image/text

Keep in mind, the imprint on an item cannot be changed. It’s set by the factory ahead of time, and they only have a limited space they can use.

Another thing to remember is that most promotional items only come with 1 free imprint color. In other words, you can only print your logo or message using 1 color unless you pay extra, or seek out products that aren’t screen printed.

What is an Imprint Color?

In the world of printing, the imprint color is the color(s) of the ink used to decorate your products.

When your items are screen printed, you usually only get 1 free imprint color to use. If you want to use more colors, then dye sublimation is the way to go. This print process is more expensive, but the tradeoff is you get unlimited free imprint colors for the decoration.

Look at the pictures below to see the difference between
screen printing & dye sublimation!

Screen Printing

There is only 1 imprint color to create the design. Notice how “Culprit Apparel” is printed in only gray on the girl’s shirt.

girl in digitally printed shirt

Dye Sublimation

There are an unlimited amount of imprint colors used to create the design. Notice how the “Oakley” graphic is printed in white and various shades of blue on the girl’s shirt.

Imprint colors are used for any print job, from apparel like custom shirts and bags to promotional materials like signs and flyers. Decide how many imprint colors you really need in your design, so you can stay on budget.

What is the Difference Between an Imprint Colors & Item Color?

The item color is the color of the product you’re decorating, while an imprint color is the color of the decoration itself. Take a look at the custom stress balls pictured below to see this in action!

gray stress ball with green imprint
Item color: Gray
Imprint color: Green
green stress ball with purple imprint
Item color: Pastel Green
Imprint color: Lavender
pink stress ball with black imprint
Item color: Light Pink
Imprint color: Black

These colors work in harmony to create a cool item you can’t help but love! Do you need promotional items for a trade show? How about wedding favors for your guests? Pair the item color with a complimentary imprint color as you decorate.

Which Imprint Colors Can I Get on My Promotional Items

which imprint colors can I use

Every promotional item has a set list of imprint colors you can use. Some products only have 1 or 2 ink colors, while others have a whole rainbow of options!

For the most part, you can print an image/text in any color you want. If you want a specific shade, you can also send in a Pantone color code. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) makes it so your printed design is always the exact same color.

How Can I Get PMS Colors on My Promotional Items?

person choosing PMS colors

You can get PMS colors on your promotional items by asking your customer service rep for help. It’s also easy to find your exact logo color match by using the free Pantone Color Match tool available at Quality Logo Products!

Please note: There may be an extra charge associated with a PMS color match. Ask your customer service rep for more details if you’re interested!

Which Imprint Colors Look Best on My Promotional Items?

At the end of the day, you want your promotional products to look the best they possibly can. Here are some tips about choosing the right imprint color.

Use a Dark Imprint Color on a Light Product

white golf ball with purple imprint

Your design will totally disappear if you don’t use contrasting colors. Are you ordering white golf balls? The imprint color should be black, navy, violet, burnt orange, or any other dark color.

Use a Light Imprint Color on a Dark Item

black travel mug with white imprint

It would be silly to use a black imprint color on something like black travel mugs. If your promo items have a dark color, then you should use a light imprint so that your custom design is easy to see.

Try a Monochrome Look

pink apron with pink imprint

A pale pink logo on a hot pink apron is cute for a cupcake shop. Royal blue on sky blue drawstring bags can match a soccer team’s jerseys. A monochromatic color scheme is eye-catching and distinct, so don’t be shy about giving it a try!

Pair Complimentary Colors

blue shirt with orange imprint

Let the color wheel be your guide! Complementary colors, tertiary color, and analogous colors are all good pairings that work well when printed together. Just look at how nice the orange design looks across the chest of this navy blue t-shirt.

Print in Full Color

full color tote bag

As mentioned, an item that uses dye sublimation features as many colors as you want. You can print a photo or create a palette using 3 to 5 colors. Doesn’t this promotional tote bag look awesome with the cool gradient of colors on front?

Don’t Go Overboard

custom coffee mug with rainbow imprint

As a kid, it was fun to go crazy when coloring pictures in your favorite coloring books. Promotional products are a bit different. Use imprint colors sparingly. This is better for your budget. Plus, the simpler the design, the better the look!  

Final Thoughts

85% of consumers say color alone influences their buying decisions. What’s more, 90% make impulse buys based on color! You should never underestimate the power of a good color scheme.

Imprint color is a big decision as it influences the final look. Hopefully this article helps give you some ideas before you get an order started. And remember…Quality Logo Products is here to help you every step of the way!


Smith, L. (2021, May 11). The Effects of Color on Consumer Behavior. Retrieved from,

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