This is part of a multi-part series on custom stickers. Part one is Custom Stickers For Your Business and part two is A Guide to Buying Custom Stickers.
Sticker printing has evolved greatly over the past several decades. While a black marker and white paper were once the tools of the trade, today’s stickers are available in wide variety of stocks as well as a wide variety of color options.
Screen-printing is the oldest, but the most common technique of sticker printing. As the name implies, the process utilized silk, although today synthetic screens are now used. Screen-printing is the most basic form of printing stickers and is typically limited to very small amounts.
For screen-printing, ultra-violet cured pigment colors are used and the desired image is cut out onto a stencil. The stencil is then placed on the sticker stock. The screen is then laid over the top and ink poured on to the screen and pressed into place using a squeegee. If more than one color is required, the process must be done for each color and only after the last has dried. The process must only be completed once for one-color items.
Letterpress, also known as relief printing, is another form of printing where the image is taken from a raised surface. Letterpress printing is best understood if you think of it as something with ink being pressed down onto the sticker stock. Letterpress printing is used on simple projects that typically only require one color.
Flexography is a much quicker form of printing stickers and allows larger quantities to be produced. This method utilizes reverse master image transfer and is used most commonly in commercial label printing. This method was originally designed to allow for constant contact with the material being printed on. Flexography uses a master print that makes contact with the sticker stock and then leaves a print from the contact of being rolled over it. Flexography is fast becoming the most popular way to print stickers that come on rolls. This process is environmentally cleaner as well as being faster.
Offset printing involves transferring an image from a plate cylinder or rubber cylinder. Although offset printing uses an additional step, it allows you a lot of flexibility in terms of color options. Offset printing provides excellent color results. Offset printing and lithograph printing area often utilized together, as they can provide vivid colors and effects when combined.
The most common type of printing is 4-color process color that utilizes 4 ink colors to create the effect of full color photographs. The four colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
Digital printing is the most advanced form of printing. Digital printing provides you the ability to make changes to the image until just before it is printed. Because the print is a reproduction of the digital image, this technique of printing also allows for color changes on the fly. The inks that are used in digital printing sit on top of the sticker stock rather than being absorbed into it.
Digital printing is one of the most common technologies used in producing personal, commercial and small business products. The biggest advantage to digital printing is that you don’t have to have a master file and you can make adjustments to the image as necessary. However, digital printing is usually limited to quantities below 500.