Get in the Game: Best Inks for Printing on Sporting Equipment

There’s nothing more exciting than the roar of the crowd, the “thwack” of a bat hitting a baseball, or a hockey puck whizzing across the ice towards the goal. Personalized sporting gear has become synonymous with the big game, whether that’s soccer, football, hockey, golf, or another sport. Many sports manufacturers, teams, and leagues are emblazoning their sporting equipment—bats, sticks, balls, helmets, or clubs—with their name, logo, or other lettering and design.

Customizing sports equipment can be a bit more complex than printing on other items— such as water bottles or pens—because sports products are subjected to such heavy, aggressive use. Think, for example: a sponsor’s name on a football team’s helmets, athletes’ names on the side of a swim cap, or a design on a custom surfboard.

To successfully print on sporting equipment, consider the following:

  • What substrate are you using? Marabu has many high-quality, versatile ink options for sporting goods. Before choosing an ink, it’s important to know what type of substrate you’re printing on—such as plastic, rubber, leather, or wood— and select the right ink to stick to that surface. Some woods (like for baseball bats) might be lacquer-coated, so keep that in mind when selecting appropriate inks, as non-treated wood and lacquer-coated wood may need different inks for best success.
  • What’s the best printing method for the product, based on substrate, shape, and use? Most printers use either screen printing or pad printing for sporting equipment. Screen printing is used for larger, flatter surfaces, like a hockey stick or a surfboard. Pad printing is the more common method for smaller, curvier items, like golf balls, baseballs, and footballs.

    For pad inks, try Marabu’s TampaStar TPR or TampaPur TPU ink series, which are versatile for many sports-related substrates. TampaStar TPR is well-suited for products subject to heavy stress and perspiration, such as basketballs, which are handled with sweaty hands. TampaPur TPU is a high-gloss, quick-curing two-component ink with outstanding mechanical and chemical resistance and excellent adhesion, making it the right choice for a variety of balls, including golf balls.

    For screen printing, use MaraStar SR or MaraPur PU inks, which are solvent-based. MaraStar SR is an optimal ink for high demand, outdoor use, with exceptional fade resistance, making it an ideal choice for swim kickboards or surfboards. MaraPur PU is a highly resistant, two-component ink for interior and outdoor use, with very high chemical and mechanical resistance to nearly all different kinds of fillers and other stresses, so it could be used for hockey pucks or sticks.
  • What are the products’ attributes and requirements? Are you printing on something rigid, like a hockey puck or baseball bat, or something more flexible, like a rubber swim cap? Will the product be used outside, like a golf ball, and need an outdoor UV ink that protects it from the elements? Will the product be repeatedly hit with a hard stick or bat, like a baseball, golf ball or hockey puck? Will it be exposed to water chlorine, and sun, like swim caps, and need resilient inks that won’t fade or peel in those conditions?
  • How will the product be used? All sports equipment will need to be durable, of course, but some items need to withstand lots of heavy use. Hockey pucks, for example, are used on cold, wet ice, slammed into hard boards, and hit repeatedly with sticks. They need to be extremely durable, as well as scratch-proof and waterproof. Golf balls need to withstand being hit hard with metal clubs and must also be waterproof in case golfers shank them into water hazards. Basketballs won’t endure getting hit with sticks, but they will be handled by many sweaty hands, and will need to stand up to perspiration and the heat of crowded gyms or arenas. And football games are played in all kinds of weather—from blazing heat and high humidity to freezing temperatures and sleet, rain or snow—so customized footballs, helmets, and related gear must be able to stand up to all these conditions.
  • Will you need to pretreat or add a topcoat to your clients’ products? Many sports products won’t need pre-treatment, but this ultimately depends on the substrate. Many plastics may require a pre-treatment to create a nice, clean, smooth surface to print on, so the ink will effectively adhere. For instance, rubberized, stretchy swim caps may need a chemical pre-treatment before ink is applied. And while most products won’t need a topcoat, items like hockey pucks may need a clear topcoat applied over the ink to provide an extra layer of protection from the cold, wet ice, hard boards, and aggressive hits with wooden sticks.
  • What color inks do you need? Marabu offers inks in an extensive range of colors in very glossy inks, as well as matte finishes. We have significant flexibility and can match whatever colors or finishes your clients want.  

Marabu understands the intricacies of printing on sports equipment. We know not every type of equipment is used in the same way, that different sporting events are held in different venues or weather conditions, and that sporting equipment is made from a wide range of materials. 

As ink experts, we can help guide printers to the proper inks for their clients’ sporting needs, so please contact us for more information. We can advise you on selecting the best inks (and printing method) for your sports jobs, so you’ll be ready to hit your customers’ projects right out of the park for those all-important wins. You can receive more printing tips here.

//Gravity Forms GA4 track submissions