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Printing on Ribbon

Some ribbon printing methods are more suitable for some applications/products than others so we've created this table below to help explain what they are, how many colours can be printed, what technique is most suitable to what applications and the benefits to each technique.

If you have any questions at all please contact Customer Services.


Flat Foil

Uses a flat metal die plate to heat transfer the print design from a foil film to the ribbon.
  • Best for achieving very defined colours and also gives excellent results with metallics and prismatics.
  • Flat foil print has the flexibility to increase gap sizes between images.
Colours: 3
Foil Print

Rotary Foil

Uses a laser engraved print roller or rollers to heat transfer the print design from foil to the ribbon.
  • Standard range of pigment foil colours & not pantone matched. Specials to order but with MOQs.
  • Small font sizes and images may fill in.
  • Foil printing may de-laminate.
  • Rotary is good for continuous designs / tramlines with no joins in the design.
  • Design should not bleed off the edge of the ribbon.
  • For best results use ribbons with an even surface. Uneven surfaces will affect the print quality.
Colours: 3
Foil Print

Rotary Ink

Rotary printing using Photopolymer Plates: The image to be printed is curved around a cylinder. The ink is placed in reservoirs and the image is then transferred on to the ribbon's surface.
  • Best for small, intricate designs.
  • Good colour fastness.
  • Maximum repeat length 300mm.
  • Pantone match print colours on light ribbon colours.
  • Solid print colours & not tonal printing.
  • Design can bleed off the edge of the ribbon.
  • Good tone on tone.
  • For best results use a darker colour on a lighter colour ribbon.
Colours: 4 Face or 2 Face & 1 Reverse
Rotary Ink


Metal plates are used to press a design into the ribbon or fabric. Debossing means the design is sunken into the surface of the material. (The design may protrude on the reverse of the material.)
  • "Tone on Tone" effect using only the ribbon, i.e. no foil/ink etc.
  • High end premium/subtle effect.
  • Suitable for velvet ribbons, as well as polyester satin.
Colours: N/A
Deboss Printed Ribbon

Dye Sublimation

A design is pre-printed on to a special type of paper which then is printed on to ribbon.
  • Digital sublimation best for complex designs.
  • Full colour designs for short runs with unlimited repeat lengths.
  • Prints good quality vibrant designs.
  • Good for all-over print design.
  • Good print durability.
  • Digital min ribbon width: 7mm, maximum ribbon width: 200mm. 4 colour process.
  • Photgraphic images on to ribbon.
  • Cannot print on to dark colour ribbons.
Colours: Unlimited
Thermal / Transfer Print

Flexo Sublimation

A design is pre-printed on to a special type of paper which then is printed on to ribbon.
  • Cannot print metallics.
  • Flexo sublimation best for long runs, but the design must be suitable for this process. (Review design registration.)
  • Minimum ribbon width:10mm, maximum ribbon width 200mm. 1 colour of 160mm 4 colour.
Colours: 4
Thermal / Transfer Print

Flat Screen

Ink is pressed through a fine mesh stencil containing the image. The image is then directly printed on to the ribbon (or other substrate).
  • Good definition when printing light colour inks on to darker ribbon colours, for example white ink on to black ribbon.
  • Limited metallic screen colours - Gold & Silver.
  • We can use 3 different ink types.
  • Adds texture and effects to the substrate.
  • Design cannot bleed off the edge of the ribbon.
  • Pantone match print colours.
  • Suitable for various ribbon surfaces.
  • Suitable for designs with longer repeats.
Colours: 7
Flat Screen Ink Print

Puff Screen

Expandable ink is pressed through a mesh stencil containing the required image onto the ribbon which is then expanded through a heat process to create the raised effect.
  • Best for achieving a 3D effect on the print design.
Colours: UK 1,
Far East 5
Puff Screen Ink Printing

Foil Over Adhesive

Glue is pressed through a mesh stencil containing the required image onto the ribbon in the shape of the design. The secondary process is the foil is then applied over the glue, creating the raised effect.
  • Some metallic available.
Colours: UK 1
Puff Screen Ink Printing

French Raised

A specialist ink is used in conjunction with a laser engraved print roller to produce this unique style of print.
  • Best for customers requiring the highest quality print with excellent definition and raised effect.
  • Suitable for small repeated designs in metallic or normal colours and designs with continuous images.
Colours: 2
French Raised Print

Minimum Order Quanitities

The minium order quantity for a 1 colour foil or rotary print on a standard ribbon is 500 metres. This varies for other printing methods, please contact customer services for more information.


Any artwork supplied is subject to the guidelines below:

  • Artwork should be supplied as an editable illustrator file (.eps .ai), or editable .pdf. 
  • Information should be supplied on any custom font required.
  • Origination costs vary dependent on number of printing plates required for the design. 
  • Plates remain the property of the client, and are held by Cole Fabrics Plc unless otherwise agreed.