Advertising & Marketing

What Is an Imprint and What Is the Best Imprint Method for My Logo?

The question ‘What is an imprint?’ has two answers. For promotional products, an imprint is a mark on a surface — like your logo on a mug, bag or pen. There is an exception to this definition, and that applies to the question ‘What is an imprint in publishing?’ Read on to learn the most popular imprint options for promotional merchandise, and why the term ‘imprint’ is used differently by book publishers.

What Is an Imprint on a Product?

For promotional merchandise, your imprint is a customised mark on the product. A logo imprint means the mark that advertises your business name, charity or special event. The logo imprint or ad message is added after you pick your product, colour, material and other features. Your logo, slogan or ad message is imprinted on the item using the method that works best for that product. For example, a luxury pen intended as an employee anniversary gift might be laser engraved. A plastic water bottle intended for mass distribution at an outdoor event is more likely to use a silkscreen imprint method.

What Are Common Imprint Methods?

Below are the most popular imprint methods for promotional merchandise, including which types of products are best suited for each method:

  • Silkscreen or Screenprint: For the silkscreen imprint method, a design is cut out of paper or another thin, strong material, and then printed by rubbing or spraying paint or ink through the cut-out areas. It’s most commonly used for single-colour imprints. This method is very popular due to its lower cost and ease. It’s often used for drinkware, pens, bags, clothing and accessories and stationery.
  • Full Colour: Full colour printing is most often a digital process and includes laser printing and inkjet printing. For this method, all colours are printed at the same time. Against a plain background like white or neutral, a full colour imprint allows you to show off all your logo colours for maximum attention. It’s a great imprint option on stationery, pens, totes and drinkware.
  • Laser Engraving: This imprint method uses heat, in the form of a laser, to burn your logo imprint into the top layer of a product, such as a metal pen or piece of drinkware.
  • Pad Print: Pad printing is like rubber stamping. With this imprint method, a silicone pad designed with your logo is dipped in colour and transferred onto a product. This technology is typically used to print on oddly-shaped surfaces like a mood bracelet, light bar or stress reliever.
  • Hot or Foil Stamp: For colour and foil imprints on bags and paper, the hot stamp method is cost-effective and produces a stunning result. This method uses a hot stamp press and foils to imprint a design onto a surface. It’s used for logos or artwork on plastic document cases, greetings cards or paper bags. Unlike pad printing, hot stamping is a dry decoration process, so the imprinted area can be handled or packaged immediately.
  • Heat Transfer: This is a popular imprint method for fabric, similar to ironing. A heat press applies both heat and pressure at the same time to imprint designs onto fabric like a tote, hat or clothing. First, the logo or other design is printed onto high-quality paper. Next, the paper is positioned and pressed into the product. You will see heat transfer imprint options on products like totes, cooler bags and folding chairs.
  • Embroidery: Most popular for bags, clothing and accessories, this imprint method gives an especially customised, handmade look to any item. Look for embroidery options on canvas totes, caps, blankets and shirts.
  • Embossing and Debossing: These imprint methods press the imprint into the material so the imprint is either raised above or depressed below the rest of the material. Both embossing and debossing can be used in combination with offset printing or foil stamping to add depth and impact to a design. This method is often used on covers of notebooks and portfolios. Look for embossing and debossing imprint options on notebooks, portfolios, wristbands and luggage tags.
    • Embossing is a raised design where your logo or other design is pressed into a material like card stock from underneath. The raised area can have ink or foil applied, or it can be left unprinted. When an emboss is not printed or foil stamped it is referred to as a blind emboss.
    • Debossing is the opposite of embossing. With debossing, the imprinted design causes depressions in the material, leaving a depressed imprint on the image of the paper.

Which Imprint Method is Best for Promotional Merchandise?

Below we summarise the most commonly used imprint methods for popular branded merchandise.

Tip: For more about imprinting your logo or ad message onto your promotional product, see our artwork tips.

What Is an Imprint in Publishing?

Publishing houses use the word ‘imprint’ differently. Certainly, a book’s cover or flyleaf can be imprinted in the traditional sense, with a full colour title or an embossed medallion, such as ‘Award Winner’ or ‘Best Seller’. Book covers use foil stamping, debossing and embossing to help book titles stand out. But more often, the word ‘imprint’ in publishing refers to something else.

In publishing, an imprint is a division of a larger publisher. Individual ‘imprints’ in publishing group books together to target specific niches and demographics. Imprints in publishing can be looked at like different brands owned by the same company. An imprint in publishing is a brand or niche of published books, perhaps grouped into categories such as science fiction, romance or young adult.

In all cases, an imprint is a distinctive marking, symbol or logo. This can be your brand in marketing your business on promotional products, or a publisher’s brand in marketing a certain genre of books.

What to Imprint When It Comes to My Brand?

When you shop promotional products, we recommend choosing your product category first. Branded merchandise is often used to show customer appreciation, retain clients or celebrate important events. As a result, it’s a good idea to pick a product category that’s valuable to your recipient so it gets used often and your logo gets seen. Once you find your product category, you can sort products by imprint method. For example, you can filter to see only drinkware you can laser engrave with your logo, or only totes you can customise with your full colour logo. Depending on your branding style and budget, you can choose the perfect imprint method for every occasion!


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