How does PAD PRINTING work ?

The pad printing process has undergone a rapid development in the past 40 years and is now one of the most important printing processes. The use of silicone rubber was instrumental in bringing about its success as a print medium (pad) because it allows easy deforming, it is ink repellent and as a result ensures an excellent ink transfer.

Pad printing enables printing on uneven surfaces. The printed images vary from simple markings to multicolored photo prints. The pad printing process is flexible and versatile.

To meet the demands of the market pad printing continually rises to new challenges. What started out as a method to print simple marks and inscriptions now goes beyond to the artistic decoration prints. The range of pad printing starts with functional markings such as on measuring cups or on switch buttons, and has been supplemented in the past years by an important factor: the product should look pretty because today, look and design are significant factors that contribute to the sales success.


Pad Printing

Pros & Cons


  • printing irregular shapes and surfaces
  • printing complicated substrates at a reasonable speed
  • printing of fine detailed images
  • offering the printer an enormous versatility
  • high quality printing on irregular surfaces (such as in multi-cavity molds)

The Decorator’s Guide

Struggling to get your head around how promotional production creation works?

We know it’s complicated, so we’ve created an in-depth breakdown of all the decoration processes we use in our industry.

We’ve organised each chapter into bite size, simplified FAQ’s covering average turnaround times, insider tips on inks and techniques, and the recommended surfaces for each technique, so you can pass on your worthy knowledge to your customers.


What surfaces or objects are best suited for pad printing?

Pad printing is a process which involves transferring a two-dimensional image onto a three-dimensional object. However, the results depend on the type of object it is being printed on to.

Pad printing is ideal for objects made of hard materials, such as ceramics, glass, metal, plastic and wood. When it comes to choosing a product for this type of printing process, there are many. Promotional items include pens, mugs, glasses, tumblers, can openers, bottles and office supplies.

What objects, products or surface are least suited or won’t work for pad printing?

Generally, objects that are not strong enough to handle pressure are not suited for pad printing. Objects with rough surfaces or with deep ridges or canals are also not advised.

Rubber objects can be pad printed but are not suitable if you are looking for permanency as the ink does not adhere well to rubber. Objects with sharp surfaces will not work for pad printing as it can damage the ink pad.

How long does this type of printing customisation last?

Pad printing is a durable customisation method. However, the durability of the print largely depends on the purpose of the item. If the item is something that is frequently used, constant friction and scratching can easily wear or fade the print design.

Take for example, a pair of shoes; if worn regularly in rain or shine, you can expect them to wear and tear faster compared to a pair of shoes used on occasion.

Before delivery, extra precautions are implemented to protect the print from being scratched or worn off. Metal and wooden items are packed individually to prevent friction.

What is the benefit of using this type of customisation method?

Pad printing can provide highly accurate results even for complex logos and artwork, especially on non-flat objects or surfaces. CMYK printing can also be done but is only advisable for objects with white surfaces.

What can be considered a disadvantage to this customisation method?

Since this type of printing method requires the use of a stamp pad, there is limited choice for the size of the object to be printed on. The size of the object on influences the size of the pad to be used for printing: can the object withstand the pressure of a bigger and heavier pad?

Also, the size of the whole print design may be affected by the number of print colours and the size of the object. Changes to the chosen logo or print design may be necessary to achieve the best results.

On average, how long does it take to complete clients’ orders?

In general, the goal is to deliver the finished products on, or before the client’s requested deadline. Before a deadline is set or approved, all factors must be considered, such as the delivery of raw products and drying of the ink, to make sure the job will be finished by then.

For orders comprising large quantities, split delivery is an option for clients who expect an early turnaround.

How long does it take to set up necessary materials for a project?

Since the logo or artwork design has already been decided on, set up time begins as the print operator begins preparing the raw materials needed for printing. Once a test run result is approved, multiple printing can start.

On average, set up time takes about half an hour for simple projects and an hour for complex ones.

Repeat jobs have simpler setups.  Does it come at a lower rate?

Yes, it does. For each project, the films or plates are stored and the logos or print designs are saved in the files should a client request a repeat order. Minus the preparation of the film or plate during the setup, repeat projects cost less than the full setup.

Are samples or mockups provided?

Issues and possible factors that can affect the design or artwork when applied to the product are discussed between the printing operator and the client before printing starts. A sample or mockup is gladly provided if a client requests one.

What is the rejection rate in pad printing?

Rejection is always possible when it comes to printing. Clients may be required to provide an additional 3 to 5 items in case the printing machine rejects a few items. However, in pad printing, it is possible to clean the item and use it for reprinting.

Does pad printing require pre-treatment?

Pre-treatment is a process that involves altering the surface of the object to be used for printing so the ink can adhere more. Alterations can be done physically or chemically. Flaming and application of chemicals are some of the techniques used to make a surface less glossy.

For pad printing, pretreatment may be required for plastic objects.

What artwork file provides the best image to be used in pad printing?

For pad printing, logos and print designs should come in a vector file to be able to produce an accurate and sharp result.  A vector file can be made using Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Vector files can be sent or shared as a .pdf file.

Is there a limit to the print size and colours?

The size of the object to be branded is one of the biggest factors to consider before an artwork or print design is approved. For large-sized items, a maximum of two colours may be the only option and other printing methods may be discussed with the client as an alternative.

What is the recommended graphic size for printing?

Pad printing uses a variety of silicon pads to be able to accurately transfer complex logos or designs to an object. Harder pads produce the best results. Hence, the bigger the graphic design is, the more pressure is applied to the object.

These factors will be taken into consideration by an expert operator who is qualified to advise clients on the best options available to them. Generally, approved artworks or graphics are the best options.

Are halftones and special effects applicable to pad printing?

Yes, using colours screened between 30% and 70% provides the best results. Although, use of halftones is recommended only for graphics and logo emblem, not texts.

Is the packing and repacking of the items a concern?

Packing the items is one of the most important things to ensure quality products when it comes to padding printing. If not packed properly, damage to the finished products is highly likely when in transit. Items made of metal and wood are always packed individually while plastic items may be packed in bulk. In some cases, packing of the items may cost more than the actual printing.

Out of all the recommended products, what is the most decorated product in pad printing?

Golf balls.

Are PMS colours replicated easily? Are they coated or uncoated colours?

Frequently, requested PMS colours are ordered beforehand and readily available for use. Printing operators can also mix PMS colours that are not in stock. When placing an order, it is very important to indicate whether you want coated or uncoated colours. It’s a detail that should not be missed as the difference of the end result between the two is colossal.

Coated colours are glossy while uncoated colours are matte.

Are clients required to inform printing operators on the type of surface to be branded prior to receiving the items?

Informing printing operators on the type of surface can greatly shorten the lead time and help in meeting deadlines. They can prepare the necessary materials for printing while waiting for the items to arrive. It also helps in determining the costs of the project.

Are there instances when items were not printed successfully?

Textured polyurethane covers and leather folders are always problematic items in pad printing due to the uneven surfaces. Other printing methods may be suggested for these types of items.

What’s the best advice for distributors when it comes to recommending pad printing to their clients?

In some cases, distributors approve their client’s orders without knowing if pad printing is suited for the items requested by the client. If unsure, do not hesitate to ask before approving a client’s order to avoid dissatisfaction with your service.


  • laser belongs to glare
  • ink belongs to gas
  • volatile, bad smell
  • has an environmental issue
  • health risks for the people

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