Promotional Printing Methods

“I want to create promotional products for my business but with so many products and printing methods, I don’t know where to start… “

Have you ever been there?

We know how you can easily get lost in the variety of options and processes available for creating and customising promotional products.

It is important to choose the right digital printing methods for your type of product, in order to get a great-looking, long-lasting, quality print. The durability of printing methods ensures your brand visibility for a long time and makes customers appreciate your promotional products for their high quality.

The world of promotional products can be overwhelming so we’re giving you the low down on the types of promotional printing out there and where to start.

Screen Printing (Silk Printing)

Screen printing or silk printing is a printing method that makes it possible to print an image onto almost any surface such as paper, wood, glass, leather, and other materials. It consists of transferring ink onto printing materials using a woven mesh screen. A squeegee moving across the screen stencil forces ink through the mesh opening to wet the substrate.


  • Being able to print on a wide variety of materials;
  • It creates a crisp, sharp design that is aesthetically pleasing;
  • Ideal for high volumes as the more items you print, the lower the costs;
  • Print durability, even when the product is under direct contact with the sunlight.


  • Not suitable when you want to print a photography-based image;
  • Requires high print volume – not suitable for small quantities;
  • Complicated set up of the printing mesh;
  • Limited range of colours;

Silk printing is recommended for printing basic logos, company names, and simple graphics. It can be utilised for a variety of materials, with the most common promotional products using this method being apparel, corporate gifts, golf balls, electronics, drink ware and pens.

Pad Printing

Pad printing is the transfer of a two-dimensional image onto a tri-dimensional object through the use of silicone pads. This practical and popular printing method was developed after World War II and is now most commonly found in industries such as medical, cosmetics, and electronics.


  • Works both for flat surfaces and rounded or concave surfaces;
  • The silicone pad wraps around the surface shape of the product without distorting the image;
  • Can achieve fine details and multicolour printing;
  • Uses automation for high-volume projects;
  • Can print on plastic, glass, ceramics, metal, silicone, and even foods and pharmaceutical products.


  • Requires a stabilised environment;
  • A proper print process can be difficult to establish.

Pad printing is used for complicated and irregular shapes, such as symbols on keyboard keys, industrial tools, electronic components, sporting goods, toys, and household appliances.

Laser Engraving

Laser engraving uses a high intensity beam of infrared light that burns and removes material to create an engraved mark.


  • Laser engraving leaves a permanent mark with high contrast;
  • Gives the graphics depth and texture;
  • Does not require additional materials like dyes and plastics;
  • It is possible to transmit files directly from Auto CAD or CorelDraw;
  • The scanning speed is very fast.


  • It is not possible to use colours;
  • Not suitable for hard materials with a low ignition point, like iron, glass, or copper.

Laser engraving is recommended for printing on leather and wood. The most common items printed this way include wooden key holders, coasters, word puzzles, wooden signage, leather wallets, and leather book covers.


Embroidery is a centuries-old art that consists of decorating fabric or other materials using a needle to apply thread or yarn. Nowadays, machine embroidery is used as it is a lot faster and more precise.


  • Machine embroidery uses a programmable embroidery digitiser that will convert your design into a format that can be read by the machine;
  • Embroidery companies often have stock pieces already available (T-shirts, caps, etc.);
  • The process is very fast;
  • Can use artwork with lower quality or resolution than what is required for printing;


  • Can only be used on fabric;
  • Cannot reproduce gradients and subtle shades;
  • Does not produce very fine details;
  • Can damage waterproof materials.

Needless to say, embroidery is suitable for a large majority of promotional items that are made from textile materials.

Digital Printing

Digital printing transfers images from digital files directly to a variety of mediums, most commonly paper. In the early 1990s the first digital printing presses appeared on the market.


  • Minimum setup time;
  • Suitable for relatively low quantities, such as 2,000 and under;
  • Reaching the same colour range as traditional offset presses;
  • Low-cost;
  • Suitable for substrates;
  • Quick turnaround time.


  • Print is less durable;
  • Colour white cannot usually be reproduced within the print;
  • Because of fixed pricing, bulk printing does not offer scaled cost reductions.

Digital printing is used for paper products like books, leaflets, outdoor advertising, and event signage, even wall murals and floor graphics.

UV Printing

UV printing is a type of digital printing that use ultraviolet lights to heal or cure ink as it is printed.


  • Finer details are obtained through UV printing because the dots of wet ink don’t have a chance to spread out once printed;
  • UV prints are more resilient to environmental factors and fade more slowly;
  • Does not use solvent inks that release harmful compounds, like the traditional printing method;
  • It speeds up production time and delivers higher quality prints;
  • UV printers can accommodate oddly-shaped objects.


  • The high upfront cost of the printer;
  • Does not produce good results on silicone substrate;
  • Not suitable for items that are subjected to repeated dish washing, such as drink ware;
  • Not suitable for garments;
  • Has a big learning curve for printing operators.

This method can be used to print on almost anything, but is not recommended for items that require frequent washing at high temperature.

Heat Transfer Printing

One of the most common printing methods for clothes, heat transfer printing uses heat and pressure to transfer special ink on to a garment.


  • A clean and environmentally safe technique;
  • Uses special inks that ensure a high quality finished product;
  • Allows small runs of printing at low prices;
  • Suitable for a variety of colours, with graphics being easily altered through the use of specialist software.


  • Not suitable for large quantities as the process becomes more expensive and time-consuming;
  • Prints can fade after several washes and do not last long;
  • Prints are stiff and can make the fabric firm and less comfortable;
  • Ironing prints will ruin image.

All things considered, heat printing remains a good method if you want a limited number of items printed as it offers a high level of detail at a low cost.

Embossing and Debossing

Embossing is raising an image to create a 3D graphic, while debossing is the opposite process – the design is obtained by creating an indent in the material you are using.


  • Can be used in combination with offset printing or foil printing for a more appealing visual effect;
  • It transfers even the tiniest details;


  • The reverse image appears on the other side of the substrate if the material is too thin;
  • Recommended for simple artwork to avoid damage to substrate;
  • Embossed designs rise above the material, which makes them subject to wear and tear.

Embossing and debossing are used to create promotional paper materials and business cards that stand out from the crowd and transpire distinction.

Combination of Methods

Different printing methods can be combined to obtain unique effects, such as debossing with digital printing, screen printing with embroidery, and other combinations of traditional and digital printing methods.

At VMA Promo we recommend initially checking out our FAQ page and image requirements info page.  Once you have a general idea of what you require, contact us and we can advise you on the best promo products and printing methods to meet your needs!

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