Silkscreen and Photoprint

Silkscreening and photoprinting are two different methods for applying colorful images to a lapel pin or emblem. 

The silkscreening process begins with camera ready artwork.  The artwork must be color separated with a different screen produced for each color.  Separated artwork is photographically imaged onto a specially coated silk mesh.  the image is made up of ‘covered’ and ‘open’ holes in the mesh screen.  A covered mesh hole in the screen denies color and an open mesh hole allows color.  A tightly stretched screen is placed over the surface of the blank or label and the ink is pressed through the silk with a squeegee.  One color is applied at a time and it must dry before adding the next color.  The screens require registration marks to keep the colors and design in alignment once the process begins.  Correct registration is vital to producing the correct image.  Several emblems may be screened at one time with a multiple-imprinted screen.


Silk screenings can be applied to a metal blank or finding, or they may be applied to a label.  The metal finding is usually brass or steel.  The blank is normally washed or cleaned before screening.  A better quality pin, however, is electroplated.  A tool stamps out the blank, a fastener is added, and the entire item is plated.  The colors are added afterward.  The silk screen may also be applied to a label that is then affixed to the metal blank.

Silk screen inks can be scratched off the metal surface with a sharp object.  For this reason, a transparent epoxy dome or covering is often applied over the surface to protect the silk screen.    Some people do not like the way an epoxy dome magnifies or distorts the image.  Others request the dome even though their particular piece does not require it.

For large production runs of silk screened items, the use of self-sticking adhesive labels facilitates “ganging up”, screening of multiple emblems of the same type.  This is usually more cost effective than direct screen printing on the metal blank.  Great care must be exercised in cutting out the emblem and applying it to the metal backing.  If the screened part is not properly fastened to the metal, sometimes it is easy to pick up the emblem and remove it from the metal backing.  a lip on the edge of the metal blank facilitates the assembly and eliminates this particular problem.  Silk screening applied to a printed label does not scratch off as easily.  Metal walls around the label’s edge will provide additional protection and protect the label from peeling.

With silkscreening, it is easy to maintain color consistencies and readily match PMS colors.  This process is cost effective for domestic production, smaller quantities, and standard shapes.  It is also very effective making small changes to a basic pin to create a series.  For example, if you would like to have a series of pins with consecutive numbers denoting a kevek if award, such as “1”, “2”, “3”, etc., then silkscreening is a very cost-effective method of adding the numbers.  You incur a single die charge to make the pin and then modest screen charges to add the numbers.  You effectively get multiple pins out of 1 die.

In photo printing, full color artwork is photographically reproduced on a metal blank.  Using this method, we can produce a pin with a lot of colors to produce various effects like blends, bleeds, etc. without a lot of hand color filling.  The photograph can be reproduced from a full color picture or from a digital disc.  The final photograph is reduced in size, properly trimmed, and supplied with an adhesive back.

Usually the photo is mounted onto a metal finding which has been prepared with a fastener and electroplating.  It is preferable to use a finding which has a “lip” which prevents end peeling of the photo.

When stock shapes are used, the tooling cost is modest, particularly if your photo is multicolored.  For additional protection, and epoxy dome may be applied.