Decoration 101: Methods and Techniques for Creating Branded Promotional Products


In an earlier post we covered artwork basics, explaining the different file types (and why vector art is always preferred for printing material goods), as well as the color models and systems used in design. And while artwork is what gets imprinted on a promotional product, the decoration method determines how it gets there. In this post we’re talking about the popular decoration methods and printing techniques that are used to create truly unique, customized advertising tools like promotional products.

The Decoration Methods + Techniques

Full Color, also referred to as 4 color, uses the CMYK color model to create colorful imprints.

  • SimpliColor® items are decorated using our full color, CMYK digital imprint method that applies 360-degree wraparound artwork to our plastic pen barrels, and offers a larger imprint area for stationery and other items.
  • ColorJet™ items are decorated using our full color, CMYK inkjet imprint method, producing vibrant, high-quality imprints on a variety of media, including metal pens and products with a soft-touch rubberized finish.
SimpliColor® decoration featuring 360 degrees of artwork wrapped around a plastic pen barrel (item #PWI).
ColorJet™ decoration on a soft-touch rubberized metal pen barrel (item #MMN-C).

Q. “If my customer has a 1-color logo, can they still select a full-color item?”

A. Yes, certainly! Any full-color item can be decorated with a 1-color logo (imprint).

Silkscreen or screen printing is a technique that involves using a mesh screen, ink and blocking stencil to transfer ink onto a variety of surfaces, including hard surfaces like plastic pens and water bottles, as well as fabrics found on tote bags. Since each ink color is set up individually, silkscreen is more commonly used for 1-or 2-color imprints.

Pad printing is a technique that involves first applying an image to a metal plate which is then flooded by ink. Next, a silicone pad is applied to the metal plate, picking up the 2D image. Lastly, the silicone pad is applied to a 3D object, transferring the image to the product. Pad printing is typically used for applying imprints to surfaces that can be difficult to decorate using other methods, including curved plastic surfaces.

fbk (1)
Item featuring a pad print imprint (item #FBK). Item also available for full-color decoration.

Laser Engraving uses a laser beam to etch away a desired area from a product’s surface to expose the layer below. The etched design (imprint) can typically appear as silver, white or gold. It can also serve to expose an LED light located within the barrel of a pen, so that the imprint lights up when activated.

Additionally, at Goldstar we offer mirror laser engraving and colored mirror laser engraving on the Bowie product collection, as well as LaserMax® laser engraving which produces laser engraved imprints twice the height of standard laser engraving areas.

lum (1)
Silver mirror laser engraving (item #LUM). Item also available for full-color decoration.
Colored mirror laser engraving (item #MNG).
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Example of standard vs. LaserMax® imprints. LaserMax®  is a great option to accommodate taller logos or additional lines of text like the artwork pictured at right.

Product Customization

When it comes to branded promotional products like writing instruments, artwork and decoration play a huge role in creating a customized product. Additional factors that contribute to a pen’s custom look and feel include:

  • Choice of product, trim and accent colors (i.e. chrome vs. matte accents)
  • Choice of product finish (i.e. soft-touch rubberized vs. anodized)
  • Choice of product material (i.e. plastic vs. metal)
  • Choice of writing experience (i.e. ballpoint vs. rollerball)

There are several options available to create one-of-a-kind products that stand out from the rest. Explore the options at

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