How Screen Prints on Pens Work

Screen print on pens

Pens make a thoughtful gift for coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. Still, sometimes you wish you could personalize your pens beyond the typical engraving of someone’s initials. Could you get artwork or a design screen printed onto a pen? If so, how would it work?

It is indeed possible to screen print on a pen, although pad printing is more common for these writing instruments. Screen printing pens works the following way:

  • A squeegee gets loaded with the colors for the design on the pen
  • A film has the design on it, which then transfers the design to a cloth
  • The squeegee pushes the colors through a fine mesh surface
  • The pen receives the printed design  

Wait, what is pad printing? Is that the better option for printing a design on a pen, or can you use screen printing instead? We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article, so keep reading. You won’t want to miss it!

Can You Screen Print on Pens?

Custom-printed pens could have a lot of uses. Not only would they make a fantastic gift, as we said before, but they could be promotional in nature as well. If you printed your company name and logo on pens and then handed them out at an event, your name gets out there. You could even drum up business this way, as each time the recipient uses a pen with your name on it, they warm up to you.

On this blog, you’ve learned how to screen print on shirts and hoodies, but a pen isn’t a garment. It’s not even flat! To you, it seems like screen printing would be out of the question and you’d have to rely on a different option instead.

Well, not only is it possible to screen print on a pen, but it’s a job many screen printing services do regularly. Pens are a heavily requested item, after all, and why wouldn’t they be? Even in today’s digital world, everyone needs a pen to jot things down, take notes, and do other general writing. Now you can get your pens screen printed for a fun, unique look.

How Does Pen Screen Printing Work?

We’ve established that it’s possible to screen print pens, but you may wonder how the whole process even works. To answer that, let’s discuss the steps from the intro in more detail.

To screen print a pen, the team at your screen-printing company will use a mesh, a film, several cloths, a squeegee, and of course, the screen printer itself. This mesh is stretched to ensure the design will wrap around the entirety of the pen. The texture of the mesh is also fine enough that the color can pass through to print a perfect design onto the pen.

It’s best to choose more basic designs for pen screen printing, as only four colors can be transferred at once. For each color in your design, a cloth is required that’s used only for that color.

Once your design is confirmed, it gets reproduced onto a film. The film is then applied to the cloths. This keeps other unwanted colors out of your design. Next, the mesh is added. The squeegee, which is attached to the screen-printing machine, begins to transfer color through the mesh and onto the pen.

If you want to see pen screen printing in action, check out this video on YouTube here:

What Are the Benefits of Screen Printing a Pen?

There are several other printing methods you could use for your pen printing, which we’ll talk about in the sections to follow. While they’re viable options, screen printing remains a premier choice for those who want printed pens for a reason. Here are some benefits you can expect if you go the screen-printing route for your customized pens.

Can Order Printed Pens in Bulk

If you’re looking for a screen-printed pen, you could wish to order just one or maybe several dozen. No matter the volume of your order, through screen printing, it’s possible to produce a multitude of pens in a short span. Even if you have a bulk order of like 50 pens, a screen-printing machine can get through the printing job quickly. This shorter overtime means less time spent waiting for your order to be ready.

More Space in Which to Print

Do you have a larger or wider design in mind for your screen-printed pen? Not all printing methods allow you to print on almost the entirety of the pen. That’s no concern with screen printing. You have the whole base of the pen to work with, so make sure you choose a design that makes the most of all this space!

Durable Design that Lasts Longer

Pens can go through some wear and tear. We tap them, click them in and out, carry them with us, and yes, sometimes even write with them. It would be quite unfortunate for your printed design to fade away with all this basic pen usage, but hey, sometimes it happens. Well, not with a screen-printed pen, it doesn’t. These printed designs are known for being especially durable, so they won’t just rub off your pen.

The Print Dries Quickly

A few paragraphs above, we mentioned how it’s possible for screen printing companies to produce bulk orders of printed pens quite fast. Part of that is attributed to how quickly screen-printed ink dries, even on pens.

What Is Pad Printing and How Is it Different Than Screen Printing?

As great as screen printing is for pens, it’s actually not the most-used method. That would be pad printing. If you’ve never heard of pad printing before, here’s how it works. Instead of printing your design onto a cloth-like with screen printing, it gets transferred to a cliché. This is a tray made of metal. Also, your design is etched in, not colored in.

Again, you get the option of four colors with pad printing, so choose carefully. Once you select your colors, the etchings receive the appropriate color to faithfully reproduce your design. If necessary, the printers will remove leftover ink spots that don’t belong.

Next, a part of the machine known as a silicon pad pushes down on the design, applying it to the pen. Like how screen printers have a cloth per each color in the design, with pad printing, a different cliché is needed for every color.

If you want to get a metal pen printed or one with clips, curves, or a narrow shape, then you should select pad printing as your printing option. Even if your design features tiny text or logos with a lot of flourishes or details, the pad printing process does not degrade quality.

Take a look at a pen being printed via pad printing right here:

What Other Printing Methods Can You Use for Pens?

If you’re still on the fence between screen printing or pad printing your pen, don’t make up your mind quite yet. You also have the following printing options that might suit your needs even more.

Digital Printing

Pens can be printed on a digital printing machine, which is almost always a digital flatbed printer. Although pens aren’t traditionally used for these printers, by switching out different plates for the pens, the printer can handle pen printing.

After the pens are situated on the plate, the machine gets turned on. The digital flatbed printer’s printhead moves from one pen to another, adding ink to each. It’s sort of like printing on paper.

One of the top benefits of using digital printing for pens is that you’re not limited to four colors. Digital flatbed printers include standard printer CMYK ink, or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. You can also incorporate lighter or darker shades of those four colors into your pen design.

You can’t print on as much of the pen with digital printing as you can with screen printing. In fact, it’s better to stick to pens that are thicker and don’t have clips that protrude too much.

Foil Printing

The last pen printing option we want to talk about is foil printing. The way this works is the printing machine has a heated cylinder that puts foil on the pen. This foil comes in either silver or gold, but no other colors. As you may have guessed, this limits your pen printing design to mostly just logos or names.

For gold foil printing to look best, you should print it on a gold pen. If you’re more interested in getting silver foil printed onto the pen, then try a chrome pen. Even if you only use those pen types, do know that not every gold or chrome pen is eligible for this printing. The pen must have an even surface or the design won’t print clearly.


If you’re looking to customize pens for a gift, to promote your company, or even for yourself, one option you have is screen printing. Yes, just like you can screen print a t-shirt, it’s possible to print pens mostly the same way.

You may also opt for pad printing, digital printing, or foil printing. However, given the brief drying time, the durability, and the quality of a screen-printed pen, we think you’ll find this is your best option.

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