Whether you’re a first time customer or a promotional products pro, it’s not always easy to be an expert when it comes to ordering promotional items. There’s just so much to know – from ink colors to setup fees to shipping charges…the list goes on and on!

One of the biggest confusions comes from the idea of imprints and imprint areas. This is the space where your logo, text, or design is printed on your promotional swag, and many folks don’t know how this works. So without further ado, let’s dive into all there is to know about imprints and imprint areas.

1. The Material Affects the Quality of the Imprint

Let’s say you’re ordering custom coffee mugs that are made from ceramic. You’re hosting a summer party and want to print a yellow sun imprint on each mug. That sun is going to look very vibrant and will be a cheery, bright yellow.

material affects the color
Color variation will occur based on which promotional items you order.

Now pretend like you’re ordering screen printed t-shirts with the same sun imprint. The yellow in this case may not be as bright on the shirts due to the fact that the ink is going to seep into the fabric.

Overall, the material affects the quality and appearance of the imprint. Fabric holds ink in a different way than ceramic, hard plastic, metal, wood, or glass. Keep that in mind when ordering your custom products.

2. Each Product Uses a Different Printing Method

Promotional items are decorated with your logo, text, or design using one of the following:

  1. Screen printing
  2. Pad printing
  3. Heat transfer
  4. Dye sublimation
  5. Embroidery
  6. Laser engraving
  7. Emboss

Each of these imprint processes (aka printing methods) will result in a different final look. Here’s how it all breaks down:

Screen Printing, Pad Printing, or Heat Transfer

screen printed sunglasses

Screen printing uses a screen to transfer your design onto a product. Pad printing is basically a giant stamp dipped in ink. Finally, heat transfer uses heat to basically iron your design onto the product. No matter which printing method is used, the imprint lays on top of the items and may fade or get scratched away over time.

With these printing processes, you’ll usually only get 1 free ink color included in the order. So if you want to print a logo or design that’s super colorful, you should use dye sublimation or embroidery instead.

Dye Sublimation

dye sublimation example

Dye sublimation is used for printing colorful logos or photography on promotional products. This imprint process is sometimes also referred to as full color printing or digital printing.  

If you’re ordering promotional products that are decorated with dye sublimation, you get to use as many ink colors as you want! See the t-shirt pictured above from Storybook Treasures, a nonprofit in Vermont that focuses on literacy. This tee was decorated using dye sublimation.


embroidered beanie hat

Embroidery is very long-lasting and results in an elegant imprint on your promotional products. It can be used for items made from fabric including all of the following:

Think of the stitched quilt that your grandma made when you were a kid. As long as the thread doesn’t get snagged, the embroidered design will look good on the product for years.


engraved silver rings

Engraving is another permanent imprint method for your promotional products. A laser is used to etch your design onto the item, whether it’s fancy ballpoint pens, engagement rings, or crystal awards.

When you print your design in ink, the design is on the surface of the product. With engraving, the design is etched directly into the material. It’s safer to wash these items in a washing machine or dishwasher without worrying about the design chipping away.


embossed Altoids tin

Create a 3D look by using embossing or debossing. These imprint methods are just as long-lasting as embroidery or engraving, but result in a textured design that you won’t find in other techniques.

A good example of debossing can be found on an Altoids mint tin. The name “ALTOIDS” is printed on the top, and you can physically feel each letter under your finger.

Promotional products that have a debossed or embossed imprint achieve that same 3D look and textured feel. They’re a very professional way to decorate your items.  

3. The Imprint Method Will Affect the Prices

Some imprint methods are more affordable, while others come at a price. This comes down to quality and how you want your promotional products to look. The better the imprint, the higher the cost.

Budget-Friendly Imprint Methods

  • Screen printing
  • Pad printing
  • Heat transfer

More Expensive Imprint Methods

  • Dye sublimation
  • Emboss/deboss
  • Engraving
  • Embroidery

It all comes down to why you’re placing an order. If you want corporate gifts or are trying to woo a client, you might want to splurge on the custom design. If you’re ordering promotional swag for a trade show, you can get away with a simple screen printed design.

4. The Location of the Imprint Varies From Product to Product

Now it’s time to talk about the imprint area, which is the space where your logo, design, or text is printed. The most important thing you need to know about the imprint area is that it’s set in stone. You cannot change the imprint area on your promotional products.

Take a look at the BIic Clic Stic Pen featured below. In this case, the imprint area is on the barrel of the pen.

Bic Clic Stic Pen
Bic Clic Stic Pen – #1 bestseller at Quality Logo Products

The imprint is printed on the barrel of most promotional pens. Tote bags have the imprint area in the front center, hand sanitizer may get the imprint on a custom label, and the imprint area on a license plate frame might be at the top or bottom.

5. The Size of the Imprint Varies From Product to Product

Let’s stick with the pen example from #5. The barrel is super tiny as compared to the space that’s offered on something like a banner or yard sign. As a result, pens have a smaller imprint area than those marketing items.

small imprint area vs large imprint area

Sometimes the imprint will cover the product from top to bottom, while other times it’s in a small area. Think about a t-shirt. The imprint area may be stitched on the front pocket, or it could be a graphic that covers the entire front. Look at the example above. The white t-shirt has a small imprint on the right pocket area, while the yellow t-shirt has a giant imprint area that takes up most of the front.

Every product is different so be sure to ask questions if you’re not sure where your design/logo will end up.

6. Double-Sided Imprints Are Available on Some Products

A double-sided imprint is available on products that can be seen from the front or back. This includes:

Double-sided imprints are nice since you can see the design no matter where you’re standing. It’s a great way for your promotional products to have double the impact.

7. You’ll Get the Chance to See & Approve Your Promotional Products

It can be terrifying to order custom products! After all, there’s so much guesswork, and you’re afraid that you won’t like how everything looks.

Free digital proof

That’s why you should work with Quality Logo Products® if you need bulk promotional products. We send you a free digital proof of your order, so you can see your imprint mocked up on your item of choice. The factories won’t start printing your items until you give us the thumbs up!

Key Takeaways

  • An imprint is another way to talk about the design or logo printed on your promotional items.
  • The imprint area can’t be changed on the product.
  • Your logo or design will look different on fabric than it will on ceramic, wood, glass, plastic, or metal.
  • Imprint methods are different for each item and may affect the prices.
  • The size of the imprint will vary from product to product.  
  • Double-sided imprints are an option for some custom products.
  • Quality Logo Products® will send you a free mockup of your imprint on your promotional items. Your order won’t go into production until you think everything looks good.

You should now feel more confident about ordering your promotional products for business. “Imprints” and “imprint area” sound like jargon, but the whole thing is pretty simple. 

And remember…the Quality Logo Products® team is always around if you have questions about imprints or any other aspect of your order!

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!