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The Emergence of Printed Lanyards

One of the biggest trends in neck lanyards is the custom lanyard. Somewhere along the way, it was realized that lanyards offered an excellent way to advertise a company or event, or to at least provide a sense of solidarity among those who wore them. It was possible to weave lanyards with patterns and logos in them, but this was doing it the hard way: and thus evolved the printed lanyard. While printing isn't recommended for cord-style lanyards, for braided lace-style lanyards, it's possible to print rather complicated 1-6 color logos, patterns, and words directly on the fabric itself. It's not even very hard to do, at least once you know how.

There are three basic ways to transfer printing to a custom lanyard:

  • Hot stamping
  • Screen printing
  • Dye sublimation

Let's take a quick look at each method.

Hot stamping
Hot stamping starts with a metal plate that's stamped with an embossed design of the customer's logo, name, or other artwork. The plate is heated, and a color film is placed between the fabric and the plate. The plate presses down on the lanyard, heating up the film and fusing the color on it to the fabric. This process is one-color only, and is inexpensive; for this reason, it's the method preferred for cheapy event, trade-show, and visitor badges. The gimmes you get at your favorite anime booth at Otakon are probably customized by hot stamping.

Screen printing
Screen printing is the same method used to create T-shirts by the truckload. The result is not only nicer-looking than hot stamping, it's more durable, too. Here's how it works: the lanyard-maker transfers your artwork to a fine-mesh screen. They lay the mesh on top of your lanyard and put ink on it, then squeegee the ink through the holes in the screen. Heat is then applied to set the ink, et viola -- a high-quality, high-resolution result the equal of any $50 concert T-shirt.

Dye sublimation
Now we've come to the crème de la crème of lanyard printing; you can tell this by the complicated name, which is a fancy way of saying "iron-on transfer." This method is used to create complicated designs of up to six colors. A paper version of your design, printed backward with special heat-sensitive dyes rather than inks, is placed on top of the lanyard fabric, and heat and pressure are applied. The pattern and the fabric become imbedded in one another, leaving a smooth pattern less likely than hot stamping or screen-printing to fade, flake, or peel.

You can easily purchase custom lanyards made in all three ways. Unsurprisingly, the hot stamp method is the cheapest, while dye sublimation is most expensive. Keep in mind, when you start looking for lanyard suppliers, that they usually set a minimum order size for each method; otherwise it's not economically feasible to make them for you. For hot stamping, the minimum is likely to be no fewer than 350-500 lanyards, and sometimes as many as 1,000. That's considered a "small" order; the numbers only go up for screen-printing and dye sublimation. Needless to say, the more lanyards you order, the less expensive your lanyards are per piece.


On to part eight :: Future Trends in Lanyard Evolution :: Back to Index



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