How to decide which approach works best for each project

By understanding each decoration method for promotional products, buyers can determine which approach is best for their project. This quick guide reviews the four most popular decorating methods – screen printing, embroidery, laser engraving and die casting, and will help explain what works best for various products.

Screen Printing
Screen printing, also known as silk screening, is one of the most popular methods of decorating products, particularly fabrics and paper goods. It is a fast and affordable way to print sizable orders with a quick turnaround, but it is not ideal for complex/detailed designs.

Screen printing transfers images onto t-shirts, glass, electronics and banners. The process uses ink or dye, a mesh metal screen and a squeegee. Ink is forced through the metal screen onto the desired areas using a stenciler each color.

Screen printing is ideal for:

  • Team wear
  • Work uniforms
  • Safety apparel
  • Paper, canvas and artwork


Embroidery is the use of needlework to apply decorative designs to fabrics and other materials by stitching thread or yard into another material. Embroidery can be done by hand assisted by a machine or automated for commercial purposes.

Projects might include a one-color outline running stitch or a multi-color 3D effect. Embroidery is one of the longest lasting decoration methods and allows for complex detail. It is suggested that embroidered items be washed gently to avoid pulling of threads.

Embroidery is ideal for:

  • Polo shirts
  • Robes
  • Tote bags
  • Caps, gloves and scarves
  • Table cloths, bedding and towels

Laser Engraving

Laser engraving is a modernized version of the age-old art of engraving, now performed by computerized equipment, making it faster and more economical. The laser is programmed for precision, and its point focuses on just a fraction of a millimeter, so it produces a clean finish every time. The lasers generate heat to pinpointed areas, which causes the surface material on these areas to vaporize and create deep cavities. Laser engraving can produce produce intricate details.

Today, laser engraving is the most common means of engraving at a commercial level.

Engraving is not to be confused with etching, which melts the surface to create raised

marks. Engraving is typically done on metals, while etching is usually used to

customize glass, stones or crystal. Both are high-heat processes that produce permanent markings.

Laser engraving is ideal for

• Metal drinkware.

• Awards, trophies, plaques and nameplates.

  • Leather items, such as wallets, bags, purses and journals.
  • Jewelry and watches.

Die Casting & Striking

First invented in the mid-1800s, die casting and striking is a method widely used to make metal parts for manufactured goods and machinery. Most consumer goods, from door

handles to power tools to children’s toys to golf clubs, contain die-casted components. In the promotional products industry, die casting and striking are used to fashion custom

items, such as awards, coins, medallions, belt buckles, model toys and pins.

Die casting is the process of manipulating metals into desired shapes by pouring molten metal into molds to create objects or parts. The most common metal casting materials

include aluminum, magnesium, pewter, zinc, brass and copper. Time and pressure typically cause the liquid metal to solidify in a matter of seconds and take the shape of the mold. The result is a sturdy object that won’t lose its shape.

Die casting is a highly accurate way to duplicate an object’s dimensions, such as a 3D paperweight in the shape of a company emblem. Once the desired object is formed, details are added and excess material removed via metal striking, using mallets, chisels or

other tools, while the metal is still hot and pliable. The method is ideal for mass production.

Die casting and striking are ideal for:

• Awards and recognition

• Memorabilia/collectibles

• Belt buckles and bag hardware

• Electronics

• Cookware

Visit our website to shop for apparel and promotional items to put your brand on. We’ll guide you through the best methods of decoration for your project.

*Excerpted from PPAI Magazine, January 2023