How can you print on a cup?

Printing on a cup can be accomplished using pad printing or inkjet printing. Before choosing a method, the most important questions to ask are: 

  1. What is my cup made out of? 
    • Digital printing is fairly flexible but it can not print on some substrates such as silicone. Pad printing can print on practically any substrate. 
  2. Do I need full-wrap graphics? 
    • Pad printing can only print on 25% of a drinkware piece. Digital printing can print full, 360-degree images.
  3. How many colors am I looking to achieve? 
    • Digital printing can achieve full-color, photo reproduction whereas pad printing can only print up to 6-colors. 

Elements of Pad Printing on Cups: 

  1. Pad Printing Machine
    • Choose number of colors and maximum image size
  2. Pad printing ink
    • The ink depends on the substrate you are printing on and then possibly any color or specific characteristic requests. If the substrate can only utilize 1 ink, you will need to use that ink
  3. Pad, cup, ring, plate
    • These products are all parts of the pad printing machine. The pad will be picked depending on your product and overall design goals. For pint glasses or shot glasses, a hollow pad is typically chosen to get the slight wrap. The cup and ring are dependent on the machine. If you choose a 90mm, 1-color machine, you will get 1 90 mm ink cup/ring. Finally, the plate or cliche is where the artwork lives. This shallowly etched plate is set on the machine and ready to accept ink.  
  4. Pre-treatment
    • Some products, such as some plastics, will require pre-treatment. This can be in the form of flame, corona or chemical (wipe-on primer). The pre-treatment mix will be spelled out by the product supplier and instructions will be provided. 
  5. Drying
    • Just as some products need to be pre-treated, others need to be dried to ensure optimal adhesion. Again, the product supplier will provide instructions. 
  6. Fixture
    • Finally, the fixture is used to hold the product in place. This is especially important for print more than one color to ensure the best registration. 


Elements of Digital Printing on Cups: 

  1. Machine
    • There are a few digital machines to choose from. You can opt for a strictly cylinder printing machine or you can go with an attachment to a flatbed printer. Using an attachment on a flatbed printer will be slowery and less vibrant than a dedicated digital cylinder printer. Digital cylinder printers such as the X360, Helix or Revolution were designed to print high-quality, full-color graphics directly onto cups, glasses and other cylindrical items. 
  2. Ink
  3. Pre-treatment
    • Also similar to pad printing, some substrates will need to be pre-treated before printing. Glass, for example, needs to be flame-treated to pass basic adhesion testing and then coated with MagiCoat glass primer to pass wash testing. Not all products will need pre-treatment
  4. Fixture
    • For digital printers, the fixture is key. The fixture keeps the part stationary while it is printed.


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