Emulsion is an extremely fascinating printing process for branding
promotional products. We’ll break it down and explain what exactly emulsion
involves and how it relates to the promo industry. Get ready to put your
thinking caps on and dive into the world of emulsion!
To put it simply, emulsion is a substance that’s used in screen printing to get
a logo on promotional products. The actual process is known as photographic
emulsion, and it’s been around for a long time. In fact, it was used back in the
day to develop photographs.
What’s an Emulsion?
Basically, photographic emulsion is a colloidal suspension of liquid within
another liquid. In other words, photographic emulsion is more of a gel-like
substance rather than a substance that’s totally liquid. It typically contains
silver halide crystals, which disperses evenly throughout the gel.
The silver halide crystals, which are light-sensitive, rest in the gelatinous
material; they can be incorporated onto a variety of mediums such as paper,
plastic, fabric, or glass during the manufacturing process. In photographs, the
silver halide reacts to the chemicals used in the film developing stage, which
produces the image from the film on the photograph paper. It’s a slightly
different process when it comes to promotional products.
The Skinny on Emulsion
The emulsion gel is spread over both sides of a mesh screen that will be used to
transfer the logo onto the promotional item. Prior to the emulsion drying, your
logo is printed onto the emulsion-covered mesh screen. This is done either with
a super special UV-blocking ink, or with clear acetate. Acetate is a thin film
sheet that is used in a variety of different ways – including in baking!
Both of these methods block UV waves, which is important because after your logo
is applied to the screen, it goes under a UV light. When the emulsion is exposed
to UV light, it hardens, except for where your logo is printed. The emulsion gel
is still soft in the area that was protected from the UV light. This makes it
easy to wash away, leaving a negative imprint of your logo. All that’s left
after that is to spread ink onto the screen, which is then pressed through the
logo and onto the promotional product.
See emulsion in action with our video here!
Photography and Emulsion
The emulsion process actually played a role in how the camera company Kodak was
formed. George Eastman, who made the first camera in 1887, put an emulsion onto
a plastic-like material eventually known as ‘film’ and enclosed it in a camera
(which is why you aren’t supposed to expose film to light before developing it –
remember, silver halide crystals are sensitive to light!). Eastman’s company
would take the camera, develop the film, and return the pictures back to the
customer. It was called the Kodak system!
Eventually with the advancement of developers, you could have your film ready to
go in under an hour. However, with the advent of digital photography, and those
smartphone cameras that continue to improve exponentially with each new
generation, the use of photographic emulsion to print pictures isn’t as popular
However, the emulsion process is still one of the most effective ways to imprint
logos onto promotional products. Emulsion is great for tote bags, but it also
works for round products such as tumblers or pens.
You can find all of our promotional products available for screen-printing with
the emulsion method on the Quality Logo Products website. Check them all out
Who knew that the emulsion process is used to develop photos? It might not be as
popular for photos today, but it’s important to the promotional products
industry. Screen printing is a very popular imprint method simply because it
works on many different surfaces like pens, t-shirts, and tumblers. We may not
use it for our digital cameras, but it’s a great way to display your fantastic