The Ultimate Guide to 7 Custom Pen Printing Techniques

1. Pad Printing

Pad printing, a common method for printing pens, involves applying ink to a 3D object using a soft, silicone pad. This pad transfers ink from a laser-engraved or etched printing plate onto the object.

How Pad Printing Works

  • Etch the design into a metal tray (cliché)
  • Apply ink to the etched tray
  • Scrape off excess ink
  • Press a silicone pad onto the tray to pick up the ink
  • Transfer the design by pressing the pad onto the object

Advantages of pad printing

  • Prints on irregular, curvy, or narrow surfaces
  • Allows up to four PMS colors
  • Enables high-quality small texts and elaborate logo design.


For optimal pad printing, use pens with flat or slightly curved surfaces, as they yield the highest-quality prints. This method is versatile, allowing you to personalize various pens, including ballpoints, gel pens, highlighters, and markers, and print your design on different parts like the clip, barrel, and cap.

Pad Printing

2. Screen Printing

Screen printing, unlike pad printing, uses a fine, stretched mesh and a squeegee to transfer ink to the pen.

How Pen Screen Printing Works

  • Create a design film
  • Stretch fine mesh over the pen to be printed
  • Place the design film onto the mesh
  • Load the ink onto the screen
  • Spread the ink over the mesh using the squeegee
  • Transfer the ink onto the pen as the squeegee moves over the screen
  • Repeat the process for each color, using a separate mesh and squeegee for each ink
  • Allow the ink to dry and cure for a lasting print

Advantages of screen printing on pens

  • Print almost the entire pen
  • Suitable for large volume orders
  • Short drying times
  • Durable print


When personalizing pens with screen printing, consider factors like mesh count, squeegee, and ink compatibility with the pen's material. To prevent color bleeding, adjust the mesh count for each color.

Use vector graphics for designs to maintain quality even when scaled down. Always have a working model before production.

Screen Printing on Pens

3. Laser Printing

Laser printing is a method that uses a concentrated heat beam to engrave the surface of pens, especially those with challenging surfaces. This process involves a computer-controlled machine that forms a specific pattern or message on the pen.

How Laser Printing Works

  • Create and upload a digital file to a laser printer
  • The laser printer uses a focused light beam to vaporize the desired design into the pen's surface
  • Apply a clear protective layer after the design has been burned onto the pen to ensure longevity

Advantages of Laser Printing

  • Flexibility to change design/text without loss of time and money
  • Easy integration with production lines.
  • Permanent process, unlike regular printing.
  • No consumables are required, reducing production costs.
  • Non-polluting due to proper exhaust system.
  • High-quality finished look of the product increases customer satisfaction
  • Computer-controlled, reducing the cost of labor


Avoid laser engraving on rubberized or textured pen materials due to potential interference with the laser's precision. Use high-resolution digital files for clear designs or texts, ensuring accurate reproduction by the laser. Apply a protective coating after engraving to preserve the design.

Laser Printing

4. Digital Printing

Digital printing is a technology that allows designs to be developed or uploaded digitally and then printed directly onto the surface of writing implements such as pens.

How Digital Printing Works

  • Create a digital design.
  • Get the layout ready by tweaking the colors, dimensions, and quality
  • Load the unique plates of digital printing machines with ink
  • Insert the pen into the machine; a printhead moves back and forth over the pen's surface, transferring the ink
  • Let the pen air dry for a few moments

Advantages of Digital Printing

  • Printing in color tones opens up various creative options through CMYK colors
  • Lower start-up costs compared to other printing methods
  • Perfect for larger pens or pens with wider clips
  • Ideal for printing on cases and gift boxes due to borderless printing and printing over large areas


Choose the appropriate digital printing technology for your project, considering options like inkjet, laser, and dye sublimation. Be aware of digital printing limitations, such as restricted print size and difficulty printing on certain pen areas due to the need for flat surfaces in flatbed printers.

Digital Printing


5. Foil Printing

Foil printing is a technique that transfers a metallic or matte foil onto a pen's surface using heat and pressure. The result is a glossy, reflecting, or matte sheen on the final printed piece.

How Foil Printing Works

  • Cut a long roll of foil into squares
  • If you have an adhesive glue print on your pen, cover it with the foil square
  • Activate the glue adhesive and secure the foil to the surface by pressing the pen with heat
  • Remove the foil once the pen has cooled off
  • Remove the excess foil to reveal the printed area on the pen

Advantages of Foil Printing

  • Foil printing can be done in various colors, instantly elevating any design
  • Foil is sturdy and long-lasting, making it perfect for designs requiring a lot of use
  • Quick and easy method that works great for mass printing
  • Versatile as it can be applied to many different surfaces
foil printing pen

6. Sticker Printing

Sticker printing is another option for pen printing. This method involves using adhesive labels or decals that you canstick on different parts of the pen. These stickers can come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, depending on the quality of the pen material.

How Sticker Printing Works

  • Create a digital format.
  • Choose the sticker type you’ll use.
  • Set the printer to the desired formatting.
  • Mount the sticker onto the printer and start printing the design.
  • Cut the design manually or with a cutting machine.
  • Remove the sticker backing and stick it to the pen.
  • Smooth out and remove any air bubbles or creases
  • Wait for the print to dry out

Advantages of Sticker Printing

  • More affordable than most pen printing methods
  • Offers limitless design options
  • Stickers are flexible and can be removed or easily replaced, allowing pens to be reused or repurposed for other promotions
  • Depending on the type and material, stickers can be durable and long-lasting


Choose stickers of appropriate quality for your purpose. Clear stickers add a refined touch, while metallic ones enhance visual appeal.

Optimize your design's appearance with complementary colors, bold fonts, and contrasting hues. Experiment with different sticker placements on the cap or clip for maximum attention.

Sticker Printing

Common Types of Stickers

Sticker Type Material Finish Advantages
Paper stickers Paper Matte or Glossy Affordable, and easy to print, but may not be as durable as other types.
Vinyl stickers Vinyl Durable, Waterproof Ideal for outdoor or long-term use, but more expensive.
Clear stickers Clear vinyl or plastic Transparent Great for adding a subtle design or logo without covering the pen's surface.
Metallic stickers Metal or foil Shiny or Reflective Adds a premium look and feel to the pen, but is more expensive.
Embossed stickers Various materials Raised or 3D design Adds texture and depth, ideal for adding a tactile element to the pen.

7. Heat Press Printing

Heat press printing, also known as heat transfer or sublimation printing, is a popular technique for personalizing pens. This process involves imprinting a design or image onto the pen's surface using heat and pressure.

How Heat Printing Works

  • Print a design or image on heat transfer paper using sublimation ink
  • Clean and prepare the pen surface for ink adhesion
  • Place the heat transfer paper on the pen with the printed side facing the surface
  • Insert the pen into the heat press machine
  • Heat the machine to a specific temperature and apply pressure to the pen for a set duration
  • The heat and pressure cause the ink to vaporize and penetrate the pen surface, resulting in a permanent print
  • Remove the heat transfer paper after the transfer is complete and allow the pen to cool
  • Clean off any excess ink or residue, and the pen is ready for use

Advantages of Heat Press Printing

  • Produces crisp, clear images that give pens a polished, eye-catching appearance
  • The ink penetrates the pen's surface, resulting in a long-lasting and resistant print
  • A flexible method of personalization as it can be applied to various pen materials such as plastic, metal, and wood
  • Full-color Printing


Ensure thorough surface preparation for successful heat transfer printing. Clean the pen surface and remove dust or residue for better ink adhesion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the temperature and pressure settings of the heat press machine.

Handle the pens carefully post-transfer to avoid scratching or damaging the printed surface. Consider the pen's size and shape when choosing a design, and avoid small or intricate elements that may not transfer well.

heat transfer printing

A Summary of Pen Printing Methods

Printing Method Description Key Advantage
Pad Printing Transfers ink from an etched tray to a silicone pad, then onto the pen Ideal for irregular surfaces, enabling high-quality small texts and complex logo designs
Screen Printing Spreads ink over a fine mesh using a squeegee to transfer the design onto the pen Suitable for large orders due to its durability and short drying times
Laser Printing Uses a laser beam to vaporize the design onto the pen's surface Offers flexibility in design changes, easy integration with production lines, and a permanent process
Digital Printing Directly prints onto the pen using inkjet technology Provides high-quality, detailed prints, suitable for small orders
Foil Printing Heats and presses foil onto the pen to transfer the design Produces a metallic and shiny finish, ideal for luxury and high-end pens
Sticker Printing Applies an adhesive sticker with the design onto the pen Cost-effective and easy to apply, suitable for simple designs
Heat Press Printing Uses heat and pressure to transfer the design onto the pen Produces vibrant and durable prints, suitable for plastic pens

Choosing the Perfect Printing Method for Your Branded Pens

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint Pens

The classic choice, ballpoint pens are known for their ink-dispensing ball bearing at the tip. Durable and reliable, they can be personalized with a brand name or design on the barrel or clip.
Best for: Pad Printing, Screen Printing
gel pens

Gel Pens

Offering a smoother writing experience with their water-based gel ink, gel pens can be customized with your brand name or design on the barrel or clip, leaving a vibrant and lasting impression.
Best for: Pad Printing, Screen Printing
Fountain Pens

Fountain Pens

Fountain pens, dispensing ink through a nib, exude a timeless and refined appearance. As a high-end choice for personalized printing, they are often gifted or used as promotional items.
Best for: Laser Printing, Foil Printing
Rollerball Pens

Rollerball Pens

Unlike a ballpoint pen, the ink in a rollerball writes more fluidly. Because they are easy to hold and produce a clear line, they are frequently used in personalized printing.
Best for: Pad Printing, Screen Printing, Digital Printing
stylus pen

Stylus Pens

Stylus pens feature a soft, rubber tip usable on touchscreens like smartphones and tablets.
Best for: Pad Printing, Screen Printing, Digital Printing
twist pen

Twist Pens

Twist pens are retractable, with a mechanism that exposes or retracts the pen tip by twisting the barrel. Their design makes them excellent for quick, everyday note-taking.
Best for: Pad Printing, Screen Printing

Where to Customize My Pens

Interwell offers a comprehensive solution for pen customization, providing diverse printing options to reflect your unique style.

Our pen printing services are perfect for promoting your business, enhancing brand visibility, crafting unique gifts, or creating memorable keepsakes.

Unleash your creativity with Interwell's pen printing solutions and transform your pens into unique promotional items. Reach out to Interwell for a quote today!

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Jerome Wu

Jerome Wu

About the Author

Jerome Wu, a renowned expert in the stationery field, crafts insightful content for Interwell Stationery. With over a decade of industry experience, Jerome brings a deep understanding of stationery trends and innovation.

Connect with Jerome for blog collaborations or inquiries at

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