Jargon Buster

These are a series of definitions of commonly used jargon from within my industry, the promotional gifts and personalised clothing market. Please feel free to add your comments, perhaps giving me a better explanation, or maybe suggesting words that you have come across but don’t fully understand their meaning.

When printing onto an object (mostly paper), it’s common for there to be a run-off area. Your artwork is expected to fit within a given area, say 100mm x 250mm, but you will need to allow for an area bigger than this, usually 5%, so that the printers can print beyond the given area. This area is called a ‘bleed’.

Blind Embossed
Embossing is an old established technique for personalising leather, soft PU/plastic, and diaries, whereby a heavy metal die is moulded in the shape of your logo or message. It then strikes the material with sufficient force as to leave an impression of your logo. Embossing is commonly used with a gold or silver foil, which is left behind, thereby colouring the logo in a gold or silver colour. This method is called foil embossing, whereas blind embossing is done without any foil.

The cost of transporting the product from the production line, to your chosen address. In the promotional gifts market in the UK, ‘Carriage’ is often NOT included in displayed pricing and will need to be added to the total costs.


Foil Embossed
See ‘blind embossed’ above

Half Tones
A half tone is like a gradient of a solid colour. If you look at newspaper print close up, you will see its really made of lots of little dots, giving the illusion of greytones. Think of an apple that is pale green at one end, and gradually changes its shading to dark green at the other end. These are all a form of half tones, and may cause problems with certain types or printing. Many print processes for promotional giveaways use processes called ‘screen printing’ or ‘pad printing’. Both of these processes can only use artwork with solid colours, so in the example above, the apple would have to be just one colour, not a gradient of colours.

This is a term commonly used with embroidery. When you are having your company logo embroidered, the artwork is first digitized so that the embroidery machines know how to lay down and build the embroidery up and onto the garment. Your logo will have been a flat two dimensional object, and embroidery effectively turns it into a three dimensional one. Having created the digital disc of your logo, it now needs to be tested and embroidered onto a test swatch. This is called the jacquard, and will be shown to you for approval, prior to production commencing on the full consignment of embroidered garments.

The true definition of this is ‘joint photographic experts group’, but lets not worry too much about that. It’s a simple artwork file, of the type you would get from a digital photograph. It’s usually not of a high enough standard for use within screen printing processes.

The artwork you provide that will ultimately be printed onto the promotional product you have selected, has to be set-up so that the production machine can understand your artwork. This process varies from company to company, and basically involves the shop floor ‘tooling up’ for your job, prior to it coming on line. In the case of a diary, it will involve the creation of a blocking die to imprint your logo, in the example of a pen, it may involve a complicated process to create tiny little silk screens to squeeze the inks through and onto your pen. These charges are called ‘screen charges’, ‘set-ups’ or ‘origination’

Pad Print
This is a technique commonly used for printing onto awkward or rounded shapes. It involves a ‘pad’ that when pressed against the surface being printed naturally wraps itself over it leaving a printed image behind.

When arranging for your artwork to be printed onto a promotional gift like a pen, coffee mug or keyring, you will be asked what colour you want it printed in. These colours are often referred to as ‘pantones’, or sometimes ‘PMS’. These are established systems giving each specific colour an identity, referred to by a unique number, this is your pantone reference number. This ensures that your chosen colour, lets say ‘red’, will be exactly the same tone or shade of red, wherever and whenever you have it printed.

Pre-Production Sample
If you are really nervous that the job will look just right, you can always request ONE of the items you are having printed to go through the production process all on its own! It’s not common top do this, and is disruptive to the production line, so there is usually a hefty charge to have this done. The one-off item that you then receive, fully personalised, is called a ‘pre-production sample’.

Print Area
You may look at a pen, or a coffee mug, and think yuou can have your logo or artwork printed anywhere you like. The simple answer is you rarely can. There will be pre-determined areas where you can print, which are known as the print areas.

A very important part of the process when purchasing a promotional product. You have supplied the artwork. You have even seen a visual of how everyone thinks the pen will look with your logo on it, and the production team are ready to start work on your project. It’s now that you will be given a ‘pre-production proof’ or ‘proof’ of your artwork thats about to be used. This is usually done by email and a pdf attachment that you will need to print out and read VERY carefully. This is your last chance to make sure that there are no spelling mistakes, that your telephone number or web address are correct, and that the colour thats about to be printed is the right one. You will always be asked to sign your approval on this form, and only then, will production commence. 

These are examples of the item you are considering. They will be a current production example, but not necessarily in the colour you are considering purchasing, and they may even be ‘plain stock’, that is, they may not have any branding on them at all. They give you an opportunity to touch and feel, and perhaps even use the article you are considering personalising.

See ‘Origination’ above. It’s important to remember that screen charges will often be charged ‘per colour’ you want printed. So, if you are having a pen printed with your logo on it, and your logo has three colours, its likely you will be charged for three screens (one per colour used).

Screen Print
A sophisticated method of printing that places a material (silk screening is most popular) onto the item being printed, and then allows the inks to be squeezed through the material, leaving the image of your artwork behind.

See ‘Proof’ above


4 Responses to “Jargon Buster”

  1. Cristina Keene Says:


    Thank you so much for the jargon buster! I’ve been out of the mainstream workforce for 4 years and now trying to get back in. Everything has changed and it seems like everyone is speaking a new language now. This has been extremely helpful.

    Great blog!

    -Cristina Keene

  2. Hi Cristina
    That’s very kind. Thank you, and glad to be of help.

  3. My 12 year old daughter done a google search for cool memory sticks. The needle one came up and she loves it. Can I buy this? if so, Where can I get it from? This has to be one of the best memory sticks I have ever seen, the idea behind it is amazing so well done to the person who thought this up. Many thanks in advance for your help.

  4. Thank you Lee….
    Promotional gifts are usually used by businesses, and the one thing they need to do is STAND OUT. So if they use a gift that inspires you and your daughter to take action and email me…. it must be hitting the buttons right?

    Unfortunately, these things aren’t on sale as single items.
    They are sold in units of 50, and will be branded with the businesses logo.

    If you contact me on my private email (visit my website, the links are on the home page), I may be able to help you. Are you in the UK?

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