What is Pad Printing?

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Long before I was an art school graduate with a refined sense of composition, I was just a happy little stress ball who loved stamping designs all over her scrapbook. Who knew I was on my way to mastering a promotional product printing technique? You’ll see what I mean in this lesson, when we answer an oh-so-important question: what is pad printing?

Pad printing is a technical term for one of the printing processes available for customizing your promotional products. See it in action, and you might be tempted to call it by another name: stamping.

Stamp It!

So why do we call it pad printing? After all, it essentially involves taking a big rubber stamp, dipping it in ink, and stamping products over and over until the order is complete. The big rubber stamp is called a pad by those in the printing industry, and it differs from the stamps you might find at your local craft store.

The pads used in pad printing come in all sizes and shapes like pointed, rectangular, and round. This allows products of nearly any size to be customized with pad printing. The pads vary in density, too. Some are extra-firm, while others are best described as squishy. Whether an object's surface is flat (like t-shirts) or curved (like pens), the pad can conform to the shape and print the design accurately.

Let’s Get Inked!

Pads are reused from one printing job to the next, so creating a custom design requires some additional equipment. To create a custom pad imprint, it's not the pad that gets customized, but a metal or plastic plate. This plate gets the logo or design to be printed etched into its surface. This creates a well that gets filled with ink in the color of choice. The right pad for the job then gets pressed against the plate, the ink gets transferred onto its surface, and the pad then transfers the ink to the selected products.

Things To Keep In Mind

Most of the time when pad printing is selected as the decoration method, it produces a single-color image. Makes sense, right? Only one ink color gets poured into the plate's etching, and the items all file through the printing process one after another. Because the ink in pad printing dries so quickly, colors can be printed on top of each other. It all depends on the item, of course; not every item offers the option of multiple imprint colors. But some offer up to four beautiful pad printed colors to make a logo stand out.

Pad printing is most frequently used with items made from hard materials, like plastic and glass. Tumblers, water bottles, sunglasses, and pens are all great candidates for pad printing. But fabrics like cotton and leather sometimes can be pad printed as well. Every manufacturer's processes are different, but they all work to get customers the best-looking pad printed logo at an affordable price.

The next time you use a rubber stamp on a piece of paper, give yourself a hand (but put your stamp down first so you don’t get messy). And remember, pad printing is different than using the stamps at craft stores. When it comes to spiffing up your custom promotional products, pad printing is a great way for your business to leave its mark!