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Promotional Products Glossary

To make our site easier to understand we have put together a glossary of terms that are commonly used in the promotional products industry. Once you have finished reading them you are sure to be an expert!


Advertising Specialty
A useful or interesting item of merchandise usually carrying an imprinted advertising or promotional message and given with no obligation. Another, though older, term for promotional products.

Blind Embossing
Also known as debossing. This is a process where an image is depressed into a material such as paper, leather or suede, so the image sits below the product surface. Ink may or may not accompany the stamp (colour stamping).

Business Gift
Merchandise given by a business in goodwill, without obligation to its customers, employees, friends and the like. Unlike promotional products, the business gift often is not imprinted with the advertiser's identification.

Metal emblems that are stamped from a die. A coloured paste made from ground glass is applied into the recessed areas of the emblem. The emblem is then fired at 1400 degrees and polished by stone and pumice to achieve brilliant colour. Gullies and ridges separate each individual colour, so fine lines between colours are difficult to achieve. This is considered a very high-quality product, and is slightly more costly than other alternatives. Used in emblematic jewellery and pins.

Cost Per Thousand (CPM)
The cost of reaching one thousand units of a media vehicle's circulation or audience with a particular advertising unit. Thus, the cost of an advertising unit divided by the circulation or audience (however it is defined) of the media vehicle in which it appears. Since promotional products are advertising media, one can calculate their CPM just as one would in traditional advertising.

Dealer Incentive
Premium or other reward given by manufacturer to retailers or distributors in return for a specified bulk purchase.

The image is depressed into a material such as paper, leather or suede, so the image sits below the product surface. Ink may or may not accompany the stamp (colour stamping).

Decal Transfer
A water-soluble decal, printed on an offset or letterset press, is submerged in water and slid onto the product to be imprinted. The decal is rubbed with a cloth or squeegee to remove any excess water and air from between the product and the decal. The product is then kiln-fired. Once fired, the decal becomes fused with the glaze. Hairline registration and superior reproduction of detail make it an excellent choice. This imprint withstands washing very well. This method is labor intensive, since each decal must be aligned and applied by hand. Used in when many colours and tight registration are desired on less than perfect porcelain, ceramic and glass products.

A mold into which molten metal, plastic or other material is forced to make a special shape, such as pen barrels or rings. Also a tool made of very hard material used to press a special shape into or onto a softer material such as coins and emblems.

Molten metal is injected into the cavity of a carved die (a mold).

Die Cutting
The use of sharp steel blades to cut special shapes from printed sheets.

Steel plate engraved with desired image used to �stamp� (apply) gold or silver leaf.

A method of producing emblems and other flat promotional products. A blank, cut from a metal sheet, is struck with a hammer that holds the die.

Die-Struck (Die-Stamp)
A die is used to press an image into a softer metal such as brass or gold. The die is put into a press, and the press is released and actually squeezes the metal into the recess of the die making the imprint on the metal. The height of detail is not as deep as casting; the letters and images are shorter. Fine detail and deep images cannot be achieved because the lines and gullies in the die may break during the striking process. Used in metals such as medals, coins and belt buckles.

Direct Premium
An item given free with a purchase at the time of the purchase. Includes on-packs, in-packs and container premiums as well as those given separately.

Direct Response Advertising
Advertising that seeks an immediate response from consumers by mail or telephone usually outside established channels of distribution. Direct response advertising may be carried by mail, by the broadcast media or by the printed media.

Materials such as a product replica, for example, are suspended in a clear substrate, usually poured acrylic or Lucite(r).

Stamping an image on a material, such as paper, leather or suede, so the image rises above the surface of the object. As in debossing, ink may or may not accompany the stamp.

"A design stitched onto a material through the use of high speed, computer controlled sewing machines. The design is reproduced with tightly-stitched thread. Embroidery is most commonly used on wearables and some bags. It gives your item an added perception of quality. Very fine detail is difficult to achieve. The minimum letter height that can be embroidered clearly is 5mm.

A wide variety of thread colours are available. Unlike process printing exact PMS colour matches are not available. Instead a thread of the closest 'fit' is used.

Pricing is dependant on the number of stitches in the design. If you are unsure what category your logo falls into please send a copy to us for evaluation."

The cutting or etching of designs or letters on metal, wood, glass or other materials. There are three engraving techniques. hand-engraving, hand-tracing, and computerized laser engraving. Engraving is performed with a diamond point or rotary blade that cuts into the surface of the product. Engraving offers a permanent imprint that will not wear off because it is cut into the metal base. Used in metals such as trophies, pens and nameplates.

Encapsulated Post Script. A file format that supports both PC and MAC images. EPS format is used to transfer artwork between programs. It allows the decorator to change the size of you logo without losing resolution. 

The product to be imaged is coated with a resist (a protective coating that resists the acid). An image is exposed on the resist, usually photographically, leaving bare metal and protected metal. The acid attacks the exposed metal thus leaving the image etched into the surface of the metal. Very fine lines can be reproduced by this process and the only tooling is a piece of film, so spec samples are easily-made.

A flexible rubber plate is wrapped around a cylinder for speed and control. As the paper moves under the printing plate, it is pressed against the printing plate by another roller, and the ink is transferred onto the paper. A separate plate is needed for each individual colour. Typically done on less expensive materials than screen printing. The inks are very thin and not as durable as those used in screen printing.

Also know as hot stamping. Method is which type or designs in the form of a relief die are impressed with heat and pressure through metallic or pigmented foil onto the printed surface. It is used to decorate fabric, leather, paper, wood, hard rubber, coated metal and all types of plastic.

The collection of a typeface including the lower case, caps, numbers and special characters having unified design. This can be an important consideration when copy includes foreign terms or names with special characters. The different kinds and quantity of characters in a font will vary according to the manufacturer of the typesetting system.

Four-Colour Process
The reproduction of full-colour artwork through the combination of four process ink colours - magenta (red), cyan (blue), yellow and black - in specified intensities. Colours are separated into individual colour plates so that when printed in register, they produce a full-colour illustration. Four-colour separations refer specifically to the process colours: magenta, cyan, yellow and black.

The process of packaging and shipping an order for a distributor. Fulfillment may be performed by a supplier, a distributor or an independent fulfillment house.

Glass Etching
A process in which a piece of glass is covered with a template that has a design cut out of it. The glass is then sandblasted while the portion of the item not covered by the template is protected. The template image is thus etched into the glass.

The reproduction of a continuous tone artwork (such as a photograph) done by filtering light through a screen that converts the image into a pattern of dots of varying size.

Heat Transfer Printing (Direct Transfer Process)
Image is screened on a transfer substrate which is then laid directly on the material to be imprinted. The image is then �transferred� from the substrate to the material through the use of heat and pressure. Works best on cotton and cotton blends.

Heat Transfer Printing (Sublimation)
"Image is screened on a transfer substrate which is then laid directly on the material to be imprinted. The image is then 'transferred' from the substrate to the material through the use of heat and pressure.

Heat transfers allows you to print more complex logos or those with multiple colours and graduations."

Hot Stamping
Method is which type or designs in the form of a relief die are impressed with heat and pressure through metallic or pigmented foil onto the printed surface. It is used to decorate fabric, leather, paper, wood, hard rubber, coated metal and all types of plastic. Hot stamping is a �dry� imprinting process meaning the object can be handled immediately after the stamping without fear of smearing the imprint.

Image Advertising
Advertising designed to make its recipients feel more favourable toward the advertiser by portraying the advertiser in a favourable light.

Reward for a purchase or performance; as it applies to promotional products, it could be, depending on the response required, an ad specialty, premium or prize.

Ink Jet
A printer that reproduces by projecting ink onto paper without the mechanical impact of plates.

Coated with a clear plastic or two separate sheets of paper joined together as a single sheet to provide a special thickness or varying colours from side to side.

Laser Engraving
"A process in which an optically-read or stenciled art/copy is engraved (burned) into a material by a laser beam. Laser engraving is commonly used on wood, aluminum and metal.

The effect of laser engraving on aluminum objects is subtle. If you require a more pronounced effect we recommend oxidising. Oxidising is the blackened finish that goes over laser engraving."

Lenticular Printing
A process of creating multi-dimensional, animated or bi-view effects by photographing with an extremely fine screen and placing plastic made up of tiny lenses over the top. Sometimes called xography.

Letterpress Printing
The original method of mechanical printing, still used though to a lesser extent, based on relief printing. In other words, the ink is transferred from raised metal or rubber to the receiving surface. Also called rubber-plate printing.

Litho (Lithography)
A generic term for printed material. Most typically used to refer to offset printed paper that is intended to be mounted to a display.

A firm's registered symbol, outline, drawing, picture, brand, abbreviation or unusual type style of letter, word or brand name. Used in identifying and advertising and becomes recognized as synonymous with that particular company, brand or service.

Offset Lithography (Offset Printing):
A printing method in which an inked image on a flat plate is transferred to a rubber surface before being pressed on the printing surface. The plate surface is treated to accept greasy ink in image areas that resist water and to accept water in non-image areas while resisting ink. In this method of printing, the ink is less likely to rub off after an object is handled as often happens with letterpress printing.

An additional number of products in excess of what was originally ordered. Five to ten percent is generally considered customary and acceptable.

Pad Printing
A recessed surface is covered with ink. The plate is wiped clean, yet the ink remains in the recessed area of the plate. A silicone pad presses against the plate and pulls the ink out of the recesses. The pad then moves and presses directly against the product. Pad printing is excellent for imprinting small, unusually-shaped objects for which screen-printing is not practical. This is not the most highly-recommended process for imprinting large areas; screen printing is better for large areas of ink coverage. Commonly used on plastics, paper, ceramics, glassware, pens, leather and vinyl.

Photo Etching (Metal)
Process in which an illustration and/or copy is imprinted into metal, usually aluminum, by acid and then sealed by an anodizing process. This is popular for awards and plaques.

An image carrier, rubber or metal which transfers the ink to the printing surface.

Point-of-Purchase Advertising (POP)
Advertising materials - displays, cards, etc. - which are placed within retail stores at the place where purchases are actually made.

Pre-Production Proof
A product imprinted with the specified design and copy of an issued purchase order. Its purpose is to clarify the appearance of the product and the imprint prior to manufacturing.

A product or service offered free or at a reduced price if the recipient performs some task, such as purchasing an item, meeting a sales quota, etc. Usually consumer-related.

Promotional Products
Useful items that can be imprinted with the name of a company or individual and given free to the end user without obligation.

Puff Prints
A screening process, using �puff inks.� After screening, the product is exposed to heat. A chemical additive in the ink will cause the ink to rise as it is heated to dry. This process must be used on a cotton weave material where the ink has something to latch on to. Therefore, it cannot be used on nylon. Used on wearables, such as caps and hats, T-shirts.

Register / Registration
Positioning of elements in printing so their images will be located precisely as desired on the printed sheet especially with reference to applying additional colours.

Screen Printing
"Also known as silk screening, screen printing is a method where ink is pressed through a fine mesh screen, leaving a colour imprint on the material's surface.

Ideal for logos with limited colours and patterns. Pricing does differ between logos with spot colours (colours directly referencing a PMS or permaset colour) and those with process (graduated) colours. Price also differs based on the surface is being printed on. Some surfaces need to be pre treated to ensure that the ink 'sticks'. Dark fabrics have to have an additional layer of ink screened onto the surface so that the logo can be seen clearly.

Screen printing can be used on irregular shaped objects. Glass, plastic, fabric and wood are popular materials on which to screen-print. "

Set Up and Running Charges
Special charges added to certain products that are priced in the catalog without printing included in the price. The set-up charge covers the cost of preparing type for the copy on the press; the running charge covers the actual printing.

Specialty Advertising
Another, older name for promotional products.

Step and Repeat
The same image is printed continuously in a pattern on the same sheet of paper.

A process for imitating copperplate engraving, such as on calling cards, by dusting the freshly printed ink surface with resin powder which, when heated, fuses with the ink to form a slightly raised surface. The finished product is very similar to embossed printing in feel and appearance but is much less expensive.

A number of products less than what was originally ordered.

Most of the information above is courtesy of Promotional Products Association International