Mouse Pad Printing FAQ
Mouse Paper. Why are there so many types and styles of mouse pads?
A: Because people have different needs and tastes. For example, people who use their mouse to create detailed drawings (a graphic designer) need as much control as the mouse pad can provide. For these people, a large size, fabric surface mouse pad is clearly the best choice. It provides them ample mousing area and the best mouse traction (and hence, control) a mouse pad can deliver. Other users may only need to click an icon from time to time (a secretary doing word processing). These users are often more interested in speed than control. For them, a hard surface pad may be best because the mouse glides across the surface very easily, making the mouse's movement quicker but less controlled.
Many other considerations can come into play in pad selection, including price (fabric is less expensive), the importance of color matching (hard surface offers the best control of color), background color (white fabric will get dirty with use while a white hard surface pad will stay bright white), print resolution (hard surface pads permit high resolution printing of very fine text and graphics while the porous surface of a fabric is much more limited), durability (hard surface is most durable), and weight (MicroThin Pads™ and Magazine Pads™ are least expensive to ship and mail).
Q: What are the different printing methods available?
A: We utilize a number of printing methods, depending on the product, the product material, the effects desired and the client's budget. Each method is described below.
Q: What is sublimation printing?
A: It is a heat transfer method of printing. First, a special piece of paper called a "transfer" is printed on an offset press. Then, using heat and pressure, the transfer's imprint is "dyed" into the fabric surface of the pad. Rub your finger across a sublimation imprint - all you will feel is the fabric, not the ink.
Q: Why is this important?
A: Because the process permits very complex imprints (4-color process, tightly registered multi-color imprints, and halftones) that will never chip or rub off. The mouse pad user also cares because the mouse will not lose traction and annoyingly "skip" on-screen as it would if it were passing over slick patches of surface ink.
Q: Why do most sublimation imprints require a white mouse pad?
A: Since sublimation inks are not very opaque, they will only print their true color if printed on a white background (and even then, exact PMS matches are not possible). Printing on a non-white pad will change (sometimes drastically) the color tone of most sublimation inks.
Q: What if I don't want a white background?
A: No problem; we only have to start with a white surface. We can print any background color you want by dyeing it into the fabric - most people will think the pad started out that color.
Q: What if part of my art is supposed to print white?
A: Because white sublimation ink does not exist, we simply print the background color(s) and "reverse out" white from the underlying pad. In other words, we use the white of the pad for the white of your imprint. This works for all but the thinnest and/or smallest of imprints.
Q: Are there any exceptions to the "sublimate on white" rule?
Exception #1: Black ink. Since black is extremely opaque, it is the one ink color that can be sublimated into any colored fabric surface (except black). You cannot sublimate anything onto a black pad - it won't show up at all.
Exception #2: Dark ink/Gray pad. Some dark ink colors like reflex blue, maroon or forest green will sublimate into our gray pads with little loss of color integrity. Somewhat lighter ink colors (like royal blue) can also be sublimated into gray pads, though the ink colors will appear darker or "dirtier" than if they were printed into a white pad. Light colors (like yellow) will not reproduce on non-white backgrounds at all.
Q: Any other limitations on sublimation printing?
A: We do not have every possible PMS color in stock as a sublimation ink. And, unlike silk-screening, you cannot readily mix two sublimation inks to create a third-colored ink. We can special order whatever color you want, but remember that exact PMS matches cannot be guaranteed with sublimation. We suggest a pre-production proof to satisfy color concerns. Also, you cannot sublimate metallic inks.
Q: What is "direct printing"?
A: Also called "silk-screening," it is a process whereby ink is applied directly on top of the fabric surface.
Q: What is wrong with direct printing?
A: Nothing, though it has several limitations: (1) Registration is difficult, so we offer 1-color imprints only on our fabric and leather pads; (2) large imprints in the center of the pad can interfere with traction; and (3) thin lines, halftones and bleeds do not reproduce well.
Q: Why even offer it?
A: Because direct prints are excellent for 1-color jobs where exact PMS matches or metallic inks are required. Also, they can generally be done on any of our fabric surface colors, which can spice up a 1-color imprint.
Q: What is offset printing?
A: Offset printing (also called "offset lithography") is a process of transferring ink from a metal printing plate to a rubber-covered cylinder, then to a substrate, usually paper. It is by far the most commonly used method in commercial printing. Most brochures, cards, menus, and catalogs you see use the offset method.
Q: Anything else?
A: Remember that all offset/laminated products start with a white imprint surface, but (as with sublimated soft surface pads) we can print the whole pad with any background color; we can also do "reverse-outs" if your imprint includes white.
Four Color Process
Q: What exactly is "four color process" printing?
A: "Four-color process" refers to an imprinting method that uses just four basic ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) in combination to create an image in whatever color(s) of the rainbow called for. It is a complex printing method that allows vivid imprints (such as photographs) to be reproduced.
Q: Which products can I imprint with four color process printing?
A: Every one of our products except our ExecuPad™ mouse pads and coasters.
Q: Which printing methods offer PMS matching?
A: PMS color matches are available for all offset/laminated products and all direct printed items. Note, however, that the lamination surface will affect the color of the underlying printed paper somewhat; we therefore recommend a pre-production press proof or a laminated color match print.
Q: What about sublimation imprints?
A: Exact PMS matching is not possible for sublimation imprints. The heat and pressure required to produce a sublimation imprint make it impossible to control color with 100% accuracy, and therefore to offer exact PMS color matches. Even if a new PMS ink is used "out of the can," very slight changes to the amount of heat and pressure may alter the printed color somewhat. Colors will be close but cannot be guaranteed as exact. If color is a concern for a sublimation imprint, we recommend doing a pre-production proof (so that you know what color you will get before the whole order is printed) or switching to an offset or direct print if possible.
Q: How tightly can you register an imprint?
A: Except for direct print jobs, all of our mouse pads, wrist rests and jar openers are offset-printed onto paper sheets in near perfect color-to-color registration. However, the perfectly registered printed sheet must then be applied to a spongy rubber-based product.
In the case of fabric pads, the image is offset-printed onto a "transfer" sheet and then placed on top of the pad, where the ink is transferred into the fabric. In the case of hard surface mouse pads, the image is offset-printed onto paper and the paper is then "sandwiched" between the laminate top and rubber base. Because the flexible pad cannot be held in precise position while the printed sheet is placed onto the pad, placement of the overall imprint relative to the pad's edges may be off +/-1/16".
Q: How are borders affected?
A: Borders that are designed to follow the outline of a square or round pad are not recommended due to registration limitations just discussed. As you may know, the human eye is very adept at picking up lines that are even slightly out of parallel, for example, the lines creating the border and the edge of the pad. Similarly, on a round pad, the eye is very good at noticing non-concentric circles, for example, a round border and the edge of the round pad.
A border that is out of position even 1/16" will be picked up by the eye and will appear noticeably crooked. As discussed, the flexible nature of rubber based pads limits our registration to off +/-1/16", and therefore we recommend that borders not be used.
Laminating Your Printed Sheets
Q: Can I provide pre-printed sheets?
A: As a rule, no. Generally, due to large volume buying power, we can provide printed sheets at a much lower cost, and avoid the additional shipping charges.