There are some things you just know how to do like order food at a drive-thru, separate your whites from your darks when doing laundry, put your hair in a fishtail braid for a wedding, and maybe get an incredibly high score in a game of “Pac-Man.”

Something you may not know much about, however, is ordering promotional items for your business. If you’ve never ordered custom giveaways before, the whole process may seem like a big old headache! Customization can be tricky since there’s so much involved in the process, from shipping charges to setup fees to minimum requirements.

But fear not! I’m here to give you the 411 when it comes to all things you need to know about ordering the best promotional items. This guide breaks down one of the most important parts of your order: imprint colors.

If you’re looking to get a specific question answered, use these links to jump ahead!

What Does Imprint Mean?

In the world of custom printing, the definition of “imprint” is the text and/or logo that decorates an item. Basically, it’s a fancy way to refer to the graphic design that is printed on your t-shirts, coffee mugs, face masks, bags, and other promotional products.

What is an Imprint Color?

The imprint color is the color of the ink used when putting your logo design onto an item. This ink is loaded into a printer (which is usually either a screen printer or digital printer) and then transferred onto your promotional products.

Take a look at the stress ball pictured below. The stress ball is blue, while the imprint color is black.

blue stress ball with black imprint color
Round Stress Reliever – #1 bestselling stress ball at Quality Logo Products

The imprint colors are what make your personalized promotional items distinct and memorable. You want to make sure you pick something that shows up clearly and pops against the products that you’re ordering.

What is the Difference Between Imprint Colors & Item Colors?

You will have a ton of color options when it comes to choosing promotional items. Let’s refer back to the Round Stress Reliever from the previous example. This stress ball comes in 29 different colors, and you can choose from 18 imprint colors to print on the front.

  • Item Colors: The color of the item itself.

  • Imprint Colors: The color of the ink used to decorate your item.
colorful promotional stress balls

Check out the rainbow of stress balls pictured above! Stress ball #1’s item color is pastel green, while the imprint color is dark blue. Stress ball #2’s item color is lavender, while the imprint color is pink. Stress ball #3’s item color is cream, while the imprint color is burgundy.

Which Imprint Colors Can I Get on My Promotional Items

Every promotional item comes from a different factory or vendor. The factory/vendor will determine the imprint colors that are available based on which ink they use in their machines.

You can see which imprint/ink colors are available on each product page under “What Color(s) Can I Make My Logo?”

what imprint colors can i get on promotional items

Some custom products only have 1 or 2 imprint colors that you can choose from, while others have as many as 25 imprint colors. It really just depends on what you’re ordering!

What Does Full Color Imprint Mean?

A full color imprint has an unlimited number of ink colors included in the price. It’s done using digital printing or dye sublimation and often makes the item pricier at first glance.

full color golf balls
full color imprint
filter by “full color imprint” if you want a colorful logo on your promotional products

Items that are imprinted in full color are a great choice if you want a vibrant logo or design. It’s super easy to find these promotional items, just filter down your search by decoration method and you’ll see all the products that are customized using this process.

So let’s say you want custom golf balls that are printed with full color. You’d first go to the custom golf balls category, change the search settings to only those with full color, and then select your favorite option. Now go get that hole-in-one, Tiger!

What is the Difference Between a One Color & Full Color Imprint?

full color sticky notes

A one color imprint has only 1 ink color, while full color has as many as you want. If your promotional products are decorated using screen printing or pad printing, you’ll likely only get to use 1 ink color before you have to pay for more. The beauty of a full color imprint is that you can use as many imprint colors as you want without getting charged for extra ink.

The sticky notes in the photo above have a full color imprint. So this means the blue, orange, and black ink colors that are printed on each sheet will all be included in the price.

What Does “PMS” Mean?

pantone matching system

When ordering promotional items, you may hear the term “PMS.” This stands for Pantone Matching System, a color matching technique that was invented in New York in 1962.

The Pantone Matching System was created so that businesses can be consistent with their color scheme. It’s kind of like hex colors, only a bit more accurate and scientifically sound.

Think about Coca-Cola’s distinct red. They use PMS 2347 C on their packaging, billboards, social media posts, and all other marketing products. Any other color wouldn’t look quite right.

How Can I Get PMS Colors on My Promotional Items?

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 PMS Color Matcher available at Quality Logo Products®!

Option 1: Upload your logo or artwork to get a PMS color match.

upload logo for PMS color match

Option 2: Browse the entire Pantone catalog to find the right colors for you. 

find your PMS color match

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 Will Look Best on My Promotional Items?

The imprint color is totally up to you! Of course, you want your products to look the best they possibly can, so follow these tips to ensure that you end up with custom giveaways that everyone loves.

print dark ink on light products

Tip 1. Print Dark Ink on Light Products

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

print light ink on dark products

Tip 2. Print Light Ink on Dark Products

It would be silly to print black ink on black travel mugs, right? If your promotional products are a darker color, then you should use a lighter imprint color so that your logo is easy to see.

try a monochrome look

Tip 3. Try a Monochrome Look

Don’t be shy about using hot pink ink on pale pink aprons for your cupcake shop, or royal blue ink on sky blue drawstring bags for your soccer team. A monochromatic color scheme is eye-catching and distinct.  

use colors that go well together

Tip 4. Use Colors That Go Well Together

Let the color wheel be your guide! Complementary colors, tertiary color, and analogous colors are all good pairings that work well when printed together. Try this out if your items have a full color imprint.

don't go overboard

Tip 5. Don’t Go Overboard

As a kid, it was fun to go crazy when coloring pictures in your favorite coloring books. You can use as many crayons as you wanted! Promotional products are a bit different. Use ink colors sparingly. In fact, usually the simpler the design, the more professional the finished promotional products.

How About a Quick Refresher?

  • “Imprint” means the design, text, or logo that’s printed on your promotional items.
  • Imprint colors are the same as ink colors and will vary from product to product.
  • A full color imprint is a good option if you want a colorful design or logo on your promotional products.
  • PMS colors are always available if you’re very picky about your logo design colors.
  • Be sure to choose imprint colors that work well with the item’s color. Dark ink on light products and light ink on dark products are good rules of thumb.

Whether you get a bunch of premium swag with your logo on it or just buy promotional products cheap, it helps to know more about imprint colors. They have an impact on both the look and cost of your order.

Remember, you can always contact the Quality Logo Products® team if you have additional questions about imprint colors. Send us an email at or call us directly at 1-866-312-5646.

No matter what logo design you have in mind for your custom products, we’re always here to help every step of the way!

Quality Logo Products®

are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!