Promotional items are the key to successful marketing campaigns, so you want your design to stand out and look professional. There are seemingly endless promo products to choose from, along with several different imprint methods. It can be a headache to try and understand all the different methods. That’s why we have it all broken down right here!

From screen printing to laser engraving and embroidery, each imprint process is unique. Learn more about how each imprint method works, and which promotional items are best with each one below.

Screen Printing


The process of screen printing, or silk screen printing is pretty self-explanatory. Your design is printed on to a screen where ink is then forced through the small holes and onto the surface of your promo item. Screen printing works best and is the most cost-effective with single-color designs because multi-color designs must be printed in separate layers.

What is the Difference Between Screen Printing and Laser Printing?

The main difference between screen printing and laser printing is the material used to create the design. Screen printing uses ink, while laser printing uses a powder. Laser printers fuses the colored powder to the item using heat.

What is Emulsion?

Emulsion is a gelatin-like substance used in screen printing. First, the emulsion is spread on the screen and dried. Then, your design is applied to the emulsion by a printer. Finally, the emulsion is exposed to UV light and hardened everywhere besides your design.

Best Promotional Items

Screen printing works best on soft fabric products, or products with hard surfaces such as tote bags, water bottles, plastic pens, stress balls, t-shirts, and umbrellas.

Digital Printing


Digital printing works much like a printer you would use with a computer. Your digital design is added to the product using a laser or inkjet printer. Color choices are limitless, and detailed designs can be printed with ease using this method.

What is the Digibrite Process?

Used by Hit Promotional Products, Digibrite Printing is the process of using the closest colors possible to your original design to digitally print your design.

Best Promotional Items

Mouse pads, magnets, and note pads work best with digital printing.

Pad Printing


Pad printing is essentially the process of stamping your design onto your promo item. Silicone pads come in different shapes and firmness to accommodate several products. With pad printing, only one-color ink can be stamped at once. However, depending on the item, up to four different colors can be used to stamp your design.

What is the Difference Between Pad Printing and Laser Engraving?

The main difference between these two imprint methods is that pad printing uses ink, while laser engraving uses heat. With pad printing, you can print with colors, while laser engraving cannot print in color. Plastic items can be pad printed but not laser engraved because of the heat used.

Best Promotional Items

Products with hard surfaces such a plastic and glass work best with pad printing. You can pad print your design on tumblers, sunglasses, and pens.

Heat Transfer


Also called heat press, heat transfer is like ironing! First, your design is printed on transfer paper coated with an adhesive, and then a flat iron presses the logo onto the product!

Best Promotional Items

Because of the high temperatures involved in this imprint method, heat transfer works best with fabric such as tote bags, t-shirts, and bag chairs.

Laser Engraving


Once your logo is programmed into the engraving machine, the laser converts light energy into heat, and directs that onto your item. Lasers can work on nearly any material, however, then cannot engrave color. Use laser engraving in conjunction with other imprint methods. 

Best Promotional Items

Laser engraving works best on metal pens, wooden items, glass, or plaques.


The process of debossing is similar to pad printing because it involves a “stamp”, however there are some key differences. First, your logo is molded on to a metal plate and stamped down on to your item using pressure and heat to create an indented logo.

What is the difference between embossing and debossing?

Debossing is the process of stamping a design into a surface so it is indented, while embossing is the process of stamping a raised design into a surface.

Best Promotional Items

Paper, leather, and vinyl are all great materials for debossing. Use this imprinting method with leather portfolios, custom chocolate, or backpacks.


Embroidery is the process of creating your logo into a stitched pattern. Your design is uploaded into a computer that tells the machines what to sew. Each thread color is stitched individually, so the options are endless!

Best Promotional Items

Embroidery works best on items like t-shirts, hats, blankets, backpacks, and towels.

Imprinting on Popular Products

Whether you’re planning a company picnic or throwing a surprise party, you want your custom products to have your design perfectly displayed. Each product has a number of imprint methods that work best, so choose the one that fits with your design ideas!

Now that you’ve chosen which imprint method is right for the promotional product you like; it is time to sit back and wait for your items to arrive perfectly printed. Whether you need t-shirts for your school’s graduation or pens to promote your local bank, selecting the right imprint process is the easiest way to get exactly what you envision!

About the author

Gianna Petan

Gianna is no stranger to all things promo products. Her background in research-based writing, linguistics, and advertising gives her an edge in blogging about the marketing industry.