Choosing the Right Printing Technique for Your Material

June 16, 2015 at 6:49 PM

Even in the Internet Age, printing remains vital for mass communication and product branding. Printing is a lot more than just words on paper; it’s a technology used to convey meaning in a variety of formats. Whether it’s the nutrition information on the side of your milk carton, the identification number on an aerospace component, or the illustrated safety instructions on your lawn mower, printing technology is used to give you the information you need.


According to Freedonia, printing and labeling is a $15.6 billion industry and is expected to grow to $19.7 billion by 2015. Paper remains the primary component for most labels, but plastic stock is taking an increasing role in the industry as technology develops.

Learning more about the various types of printing and their uses can help product designers and marketing professionals discover the best means of communicating important information, instructions, and promotional messages to consumers.

Common Methods of Printing

  • Silk screen printing – Silk screen printing is an inexpensive and easy method of creating prints on a variety of materials. The process uses a fine silk or polyester mesh stretched tightly on a frame. A negative is created on the screen and ink is rolled or sponged onto that screen. The screen is then pressed on the materials being printed. Once the ink has been applied, the product is hung up to dry.

In most silk screen printing applications, photosensitive screens are used. The printer applies a light sensitive emulsion to the screen, and then places a stencil of the pattern on the screen. The screen is then exposed to light and washed. Areas exposed to the UV light will harden and make it impossible for ink to pass, while covered areas of the screen will permit ink to pass through.

Printers can create multicolored prints by using different screens. For example, using the CMYK color process, printers can create very intricate color designs.

Silk screen printing is used to create images on t-shirts, banners, mouse pads, and more. Screen printing isn’t just applicable to textiles, it can also be used to illustrate wood, plastic, and paper, making it a highly versatile form of printing.

  • Flexographic printing – This form of printing uses flexible rubber or plastic printing plates. The plates have a slightly raised image and they are spun on a cylinder. The process transfers the image on the plates to the substrate material. The principal advantage of flexographic printing are that it uses fast drying inks and can print on a variety of mediums, both absorbent and non-absorbent.

Flexographic printing is typically used to print on foil, paper, plastic, or acetate film. It’s often used to print on packaging materials.

  • Digital printing – Digital printing is a versatile form of printing that makes use of several processes, printing styles, and ink choices. In digital printing, RIP software is used to move data from an art file to the software and finally to the printer.

A key benefit of digital printing is that it doesn’t involve printing plates or screens, making it faster than traditional printing techniques. For fast turnaround jobs, digital printing is a preferred printing method.

Digital printing is used in a variety of printing tasks such as paper printing or printing for plastic labels or outdoor signs and banners, window decals, and more.

  • Laser die cutting – In laser die cutting, a laser beam is used to cut the substrate material. Laser die cutting uses a high speed laser to process materials. The laser is used to cut, etch, kiss-cut, perforate, or etch various materials. The process offers quick turnaround and is great for short-run jobs. Some common applications involving laser die cutting include wedding invitations, marketing brochures, business cards, holiday cards, and specialty packaging.
  • Doming – Doming makes use of two chemicals that, when mixed, will create a solution that will solidify over a kiss-cut label to create a domed look. Doming uses specialized devices to mix and apply the chemicals.

Domed labels are more durable than traditional labels and have an attractive three dimensional look. Domed labels are used on a wide variety of products.

  • MetalPhoto – This form of printing uses light exposure to embed an image onto photosensitive anodized aluminum materials. When the image is embedded, the image is sealed and finished

MetalPhoto is used for metal tags and labels used in harsh environments or where label durability is a high priority. Some common uses include military UID barcode label, low-reflection labels on night-vision goggles, landscape architecture and environmental design installations, and more.

  • Converting and die cutting – Converting and die cutting are methods of printing that involve the conversion of raw materials into finished goods that can be used in more efficient manners. This process can make use of a variety of dies, slitting machines, and materials. Printing companies use these devices and processes to cut specialized gaskets, spacers, and other items that will be embossed or printed with company labels or to cut materials for use as labels.
  • Injection molding – Injection molding injects plastics into molds to create pre-labeled products. In injection molding, the label becomes a part of the product. Injection molding is typically used for consumer electronics products, plastic bottles and a variety of other plastic products. Injection molded labels have greater wear resistance and often offer more decorating options.
  • Offset printing – This method of printing transfers inks from a plate to the substrate. This is one of the older methods of printing, but new technology has expanded its utility. Offset printing provides a number of advantages, including consistent image quality, low cost, quick and easy production of plates, and ease of ink control. Offset printing is primarily used for brochures, labels, cartons, etc.

When choosing a printing method for product labels, consulting with specialists in printing and labeling can help you devise the ideal solution. Southern Coating and Nameplate, Inc. has 40 years of experience providing printing and labeling solutions. With a 50,000 sq. ft. facility and more than 50 employees, Southern Coating and Nameplate has the skills, experience, and capacity to help product manufacturers and marketers create eye-catching and effective labels and marketing materials.



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