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  • Ultimate Guide to Print Finishes

Ultimate Guide to Print Finishes


Digital printing – full colour print on a budget

Digital printing onto plastic is a relatively new phenomenon when compared to screen or litho and has progressed rapidly over the last few years. Modern digital printers are fast and the best can produce close to litho quality print. Digital presses require far less set up time and make ready costs than litho presses do so cost savings can be made at the right quantities.

Digital printing has advanced but is still not up to the highest quality print that litho printing can offer and it can also become rather costly for very large volumes. It is however a great option for lower volume full colour print and for proof of concept and prototyping.

Please also be aware that due to the nature of printing onto plastic digital print can suffer from ‘cracking’ or ‘flaking ‘ on creases and high ink coverage bleed.

Litho Printing – highest quality print available.

Print can be achieved from CMYK four colour process or SPOT colours or a mixture of the two. Litho print is usually sealed with a gloss varnish but other sealers are available such as matt/satin or specialist coatings that allow further processes such as foil blocking. If printing using CMYK four colour process it is common practice to provide a full size, colour accurate paper proof of your artwork for approval prior to going to press. It is also possible to attend a press pass to check your artwork is as desired by approving the sheets in person.

Litho printing requires an extensive set up and make-ready process and so is usually only economically viable for large print runs if cost is the overriding factor. Litho printing can also be specified for smaller print runs if quality is the main driving factor, however if cost is an issue then for small full colour print runs we would recommend digital printing.

Screen printing – our most popular print for presentation items

Screen printing is a great option for lower to medium quantity orders or where only 1 or 2 colours are required. Screen printing produces characteristically bright solid colours with hard wearing print. Colours are either matched to a customer sample or are printed to match Pantone™ colours usually from the solid coated catalogue. Screen printing is usually cost effective for a small to medium sized run but this can be affected by number of colours required and ink coverage. For ultra small runs we often recommend considering digital print as this has less set up costs than screen printing. For large runs it may sometimes be beneficial to choose litho print.

Our default screen print uses conventional inks which have a satin/matt finish, if you require glossy finish inks please specify at quote stage. Artwork should ideally be set up as vector graphics with Pantone colour swatches assigned in the file.

Gradients and tints are possible to reproduce using the screen printing process but will not look as they do on a computer screen. Gradients and tints are printed using dot tones and are usually only practical to reproduce between 60% and 30% due to the resolution of screen printing.  Artwork is checked by our in house team prior to print who will usually highlight any issues but please ask if you are concerned how your artwork will reproduce.

Foil Blocking Ooh Shiny…..

Foil Blocking is the application of metallic or pigmented foil onto a solid surface. Using a combination of heat, dwell time and pressure the foil is transferred onto the substrate, making it permanently adhere to the substrate surface leaving the design of the die.  Foil blocking can give a bright metallic reflective finish which brings print to life giving a premium brand look.

Embossing – Textured finish.

Embossing is the process for producing raised designs onto a solid surface.  An image is pressed into the material so that the image raises from the surface creating a three-dimensional effect.  Debossing is the opposite of embossing; the image is pressed into the surface of the material rather than raised from it. Embossing / debossing is a simple way to create a tactile product with a stunning finish.  Note: Embossing can be combined with foil blocking for a high end finish.

We can emboss plastic and metals subject to sight of artwork.

DYE Sublimation Vibrant full colour prints onto Metal

Dye sublimation is offered as part of our Graphic Metal brand. Dye sublimation is a process many are familiar with for promotional product printing such as photo gifts and textiles. We use the process to transfer your high resolution full colour artwork onto our Promolyte material.

The artwork is printed on a wide format printer using special inks onto transfer paper. The transfer paper is then combined with the substrate in a heat press. The combination of heat and pressure activates the special sublimation inks which then migrate into the coating on the substrate. The combination of special inks, high resolution printer and our Promolyte substrate creates visually stunning and wonderfully tactile products that are sure to impress.

If you are providing free issue material or are unsure of how your product will turn out please contact our customer service team for advice prior to order.

Laser MarkingIts not magic, but it’s close.

Laser marking is offered under the wider umbrella of our Graphic Metal products. We can laser mark onto most metals with the mark differing depending on a mixture of power used, dwell time, number of passes and most significantly the substrate being marked. Unlike a print process laser marking is resistant to scratching and corrosion.

A common combination specification is to laser mark through an anodised coating for alumium to clear away the coloured surface to reveal the laser marked area in bright silver.

There are also several types of mark that can be achieved with different substrates, for example aluminium and our promolyte material will produce a bright mark through ablation whereas stainless steel can be annealed to a silver/black finish. If you are providing free issue material or are unsure of how your product will turn out please contact our customer service team for advice.

Photo etching, chemical etching, chemical milling.

Use photo etching to create deep marks in a huge range of metals. Artwork can be etched from one or both sides and can also include full cut outs and voids in the finished sheets.

The process relies on photo tooling to transfer your artwork via an outputted film to your chosen metal that is coated with a photosensitive resist layer. When the film has been lined up an exposure unit then exposes the image so that any areas not covered by the film remain soft. These soft areas are then washed away leaving areas of the metal exposed. The sheet is then passed through an etching solution that eats away the exposed areas. After the etching solution has done its job the sheet is stripped of the remaining photoresist leaving your finished item/s.

Photoetching can achieve some very high detailed components. it is also possible to leave items ‘tabbed’ into thin sheets for removal at a later date. Another popular choice is to infill the etched areas with colour to produce a contrast effect with the surrounding material.

Powder Coating – Durable coating

We are familiar with powder coating at Ambro for producing brightly coloured mechanisms such as that seen in the picture to the left, and now as part of Graphic Metal powder coating can be specified for tough coatings with a large range of colours. check with our friendly customer service staff for details.

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