Product packaging

Printing Methods For Product Packaging – How Do You Choose One?

When it comes to your product packaging, the printing technique that you choose plays a great role. It dictates the quality that will be achieved, the lead time that will be required, and whether you’ll be increasing the cost or keeping it within budget. 

If you want your product to stand out amongst the rest, you need an eye-catching design for your packaging. The perfect packaging design can improve customer experiences, increase sales, and benefit your brand overall!

However, even the best packaging designs can go to waste if you don’t use the right printing technique. This article will discuss different printing techniques and make a comparison between the two most used printing techniques. So, whether you’re ordering custom boxes or looking for luxury packaging, go through this post to better understand how various printing techniques work. 

Different Printing Methods Available For Custom Boxes

choosing a printing technique

It’s very important to use the right printing method for your packaging; choosing one will depend on several factors. If you understand all of the different options, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your specific needs. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of different printing methods available on the market today.

1. Lithography or Offset Printing

offset printing

Lithography is a process used to print various marketing materials, from business cards to sell sheets. This printing method is also frequently used for packaging, especially for items such as folding cartons and labels.

Lithography printing is a process where a litho-printed sheet is glued or laminated into corrugate inventory, and this is known as Litho Laminate Printing. Lithography printing allows business owners to make sleek, professional-looking packaging for their products.

Litho printing for packaging offers business owners a chance to create high-quality, retail-ready packaging. Almost any item that utilizes full-color corrugate can be printed using this litho laminate process.

Adding specialty coatings to your merchandise’s finish will create a high-gloss, matte, or soft-touch look that will make your products appear more valuable.

Compared to other printing methods, banding is significantly reduced, allowing for a smooth color gradient.

To custom-print plates, a company must invest in specific tools. But if you’re willing to put in the work upfront, it will pay off later. You’ll be able to use your printing tooling for future projects, and you won’t have to make any adjustments to your artwork. In general, this printing process is most efficient with larger print runs and thus requires more time to produce.

2. Flexographic Printing

Flexographic-Printing

The use of printing for flexible packaging is on the rise due to the many benefits it provides. Flexo printing, or flexographic printing, is most commonly used for flexible packaging- such as stand-up pouches.

Furthermore, it can also be effectively used for printing on corrugated boxes. One of the many advantages that flexographic printing for packaging offers is the lower cost per unit. 

Thanks to the lowered tooling prices, you’ll be enjoying the economy that this printing technique offers. In addition, turnaround times also improve as opposed to other printing methods used for packaging. 

Flexo printing can use water- or oil-based inks, depending on the desired application. Water-based inks are most commonly used for food packaging and labels.

Flexo printing is quick and inexpensive, but the print quality is often subpar. So if you need to print high-quality photos, this might not be the best solution. The primary reason that flexo printing machines generally have more color units than other printing methods is their inability to deliver high-quality results.

For example, if you need to print a picture of a human face, you will likely need different gradients of color to accurately recreate skin tones. Flexo printing uses both the full-color and light-color units to create these gradients.

Despite some notable disadvantages, flexographic printing’s affordability contributes to its popularity in the packaging industry.

3. Digital Printing

digital printing

Out of all the printing techniques used for packaging, digital printing is one of the most versatile ones. Using digital printing for labels, corrugated boxes, folding cartons, prototypes, stand-up pouches, and more is a great way to get high-quality prints.

As well as being personalizable, electronic printing also provides quick results, which can be ready in as little as two weeks. With this printing system, you won’t have to spend extra on tooling or setup.

You typically won’t have to pay for a die plate, as most die-cutting is done with an automatic cutting table.

The low minimums are average, and the printing quality is just as good as lithographic printing—guaranteeing great results. The advancement of corrugate electronic printing has led businesses to consider this technology when starting up or evaluating new products and packaging.

When you use a digital printing machine, the colors that appear in your prints are limited to those made with dots of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Sometimes OGV (orange, green, violet) can be used as well, but these machines cannot print PMS colors. So it might not be possible to get an exact match for the color you want.

The cost will quickly multiply if you plan to print a large number of items. At this point, it might be cheaper to go with another bundle printing method.

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is also difficult to match colors with, and there are fewer coating options available than if you were using lithography printing. If you’re looking for a specific printing solution, digital printing may be the answer. Digital Laser printing or technologies like HP Indigo’s machines are the only printing techniques that come close to offset printing.

4. Rotogravure Printing

Rotogravure Printing

 

Large-scale printing projects like those often used in industrial packaging (including stand-up pouches and folding cartons) typically utilize rotogravure printing. 

Additionally, this process, known as gravure printing, is often used to print packaging layouts. Rotogravure printing is still a desirable printing option, and it could be the best packaging choice for your business. It delivers outstanding print quality and is quite capable of reproducing high-quality images. 

Rotogravure printing is a high-quality printing method that can produce consistent, continuous-tone images, even when printed in high volume.

Though gravure cylinders are quite durable and can last for numerous printing runs, their original price tag is very hefty. Few coating alternatives are available, and generally, higher volumes are required to make it more cost-effective. Even though digital printing technology has come a long way, rotogravure printing is still one of the most popular options. This may be the ideal option if your company requires high-quality printing for packaging in bulk.

5. Silkscreen Printing

silkscreen printing

Silkscreen printing is a printing process that produces clear and sharp images on materials like fabric, corrugated boxes, and plastics.

Silkscreen printing can streamline the production of prototypes, tags, promotional materials, and more, making it an ideal solution for pre-made or stock packaging businesses.

Additionally, if you’re looking to print promotional materials like t-shirts and cups, look no further!

A typical setup for silkscreen printing is very affordable, making it a great option for smaller print jobs. Additionally, this method can be used on corrugated packaging and other surfaces that are not flat.

The extra cost of taking screenies and the time needed to set up production for multiple colors could significantly impact screen printing productions.

Plus, with the printed ink being thicker, it will be much harder to get clear pictures; it is recommended that each color of screen printing should be a solid color since no gradients are possible.

Small-scale packaging jobs and prototypes often require photo-quality images, which silkscreening can provide with some tradeoffs. The finish isn’t always clean, but it’s repeatable enough to get accurate results.

Digital vs. Offset Printing Pros and Cons

digital vs offset printing

Offset and digital printing are the two most commonly used printing techniques in the packaging industry. Brands generally employ the use of digital printing when they are trying out different designs for their custom boxes. On the other hand, luxury packaging generally uses offset printing to ensure top-notch quality. 

A comparison between the two printing techniques is followed based on different metrics. The metrics include the following:

  • Minimum Order Quantity
  • Prototyping
  • Lead Time
  • Pricing

Minimum Order Quantity

The minimum order volume required to place an order is one of the biggest differentiators between digital and offset printing. 

If your company routinely places large orders for the same packaging design, offset printing becomes more cost-effective in the long run. A hefty deposit is necessary because of the expensive customization process for custom printing plates. The minimum number of units required for offset printing is typically several thousand.

On the other hand, digital printing has much lower minimum order quantities, sometimes as a low, singular unit. In addition, because no plates need to be used or created, this method saves you money upfront, making it more economical for small orders.

Digital vs. Offset Printing- The Verdict

Small businesses and brands who want to save money should use digital printing for their needs. With fewer restrictions and a lower cost-per-unit, digital printing is perfect for those who don’t want to commit too much financially up-front.

Prototyping

Prototyping

The primary distinction between the two methods of printing is in the initial setup. Unlike digital printing, which only copies a file from the digital world to turn it into a physical copy, offset printing requires extra steps. 

The first step is to finalize the design, which takes time. After that, custom metal plates need to be created- this part is usually costly and slows down production. Always keep this in mind for each design. So, if there’s a need for changes after the first prototype, an entirely new set of plates must be crafted (and another expensive bill arrives). 

Another thing to remember is that most, if not all, printing companies require a minimum order of 1000 units for an offset design. So, stop worrying about getting 10 or 100 copies of a prototype for testing! 

With digital printing, you can order small quantities of a prototype without the costly setup cost. In addition, you can easily create custom packaging prototypes that might require several changes before being finalized.

Digital vs. Offset Printing- The Verdict

Although a brand may want to use offset printing for the official product, it would be wiser to create a prototype digitally. The advantages of digital printing – including efficiency, affordability, and user-friendliness – make it the ideal method for creating a packaging prototype. Then, once you’re happy with your design, move on to full production-scale offset printing.

Lead Time

As mentioned earlier, starting a project is slow with offset printing because of the lengthy setup process. In addition, offset printing is meant for large-volume orders, not for a quick turnaround. On the other hand, digital printing is the best choice for small businesses that need quick turnaround times.

Digital vs. Offset Printing- The Verdict

If you want quick turnaround times and a lower order volume, go for digital printing. However, if you don’t mind the lead time but will not tolerate any compromises in quality, then you should opt for offset printing. 

Pricing

If your brand sticks with the same design, eventually, offset printing costs per unit will become lower than digital printing. The primary expenses of investing in this printing technique for packaging are the initial setup costs for the printing plates. 

With digital printing, you don’t have to fork over extra cash for custom plates or setup fees like you do with offset printing—making it a more budget-friendly option from the get-go. Likewise, digital printing will be more affordable if your brand frequently innovates its packaging and rarely orders thousands of items at once.

Digital vs. Offset Printing- The Verdict

If you’re printing a single design multiple times, offset printing will be cheaper in the long run. However, digital printing is more affordable if you need to make changes on the fly or if your order is smaller.

Digital Printing Suits Small Business Needs

 

Seeing your packaging design come to life through printing is an incredibly gratifying experience. However, when you feel overwhelmed by the design process, remember your end goal and stay focused. 

Keep your Product packaging design’s color palette, level of detail, and budget in mind from the start to ensure a project timeline that works for you and a result that you’re happy with.

E-commerce businesses will find digital packaging printing advantageous because it is easy to use and economical. Although your company may have plans to produce large quantities of a product, testing the market first with prototypes created through digital printing can be beneficial. 

These prototypes can then be reproduced en masse using lithographic technology later on.

Digital printing is perfect for e-commerce packaging because it is cost-effective and offers quicker turnaround times.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Choosing A Printing Technique

Are you ready to choose a printing technique for your luxury product packaging? Or maybe you want to choose a printing technique for testing different custom boxes? Either way, before you go ahead and make a decision, it is imperative that you consider a few factors. 

These factors are only a few of the factors that must be considered. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you consult your packaging company before deciding. A wrongly chosen printing technique can create more issues than it solves.

In the meantime, you can check out some of the factors that must be taken into consideration before you make your decision below:

What’s The Number Of Units That You Need?

Generally, digital printing is more affordable than litho printing, especially if you’re working with smaller quantities or need personalization. With digital print, there are no plate or ink setup costs.

If you need to print a large quantity, litho printing will be your best option. The litho press is cheaper in the long run because once it’s up and running, the cost of printing decreases. Therefore, costing less for plates and ink setups.

The decision between digital and litho printing is best made by talking to your printer, as the amount you’re printing isn’t always indicative of which process to use.

How Quickly Do You Need The Packaging?

If you need your print job done immediately, we recommend going digital. With digital printing, you have to open the file, click “print,” and wait for your prints–it’s just like using a desktop printer! 

Digital printing is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the way to go for quicker turnaround times. Although it’s slightly more sophisticated than simply hitting “print,” things like impositions and paper stocks must be taken into account.

Though it may take longer to set up, litho printing can be faster than digital once the plates are made and prepared. But, again, the all-deciding factor is quantity.

What Kind of Material Will You Be Using?

If you want your packaging to be unique and memorable, offset printing is the best way to go. With this method, the design that is transferred onto the plates can be printed on many different types of materials. Digital printing, on the other hand, can be used with basic packaging materials. 

How True Should The Colors Be?

With digital printing, you might have to sacrifice precision for quantity. However, if you print using the offset method, you can get both an accurate color and as many copies as you need. 

Even though digital printing has progressed significantly and now uses more blended inks, the offset printing technique is still superior for color purity. This is because a greater spectrum of colors can be achieved by mixing and matching different types of inks.

Do You Want Personalization?

Personalization in print means that you can send unique letters to each customer rather than a generic message. This is possible because of digital printing technology, which allows you to customize every piece of printed material.

For example, a customer letter does not have to begin with “Dear Sir/Madam” or even “Dear Customer.” There are a number of personalized options you can choose from for your data, ranging from the simple “Dear John” to more sophisticated campaigns that involve variable paragraphs, images, and signatures on letters. The possibilities are endless, depending on the data you have on your customers. By sending relevant content, you will gain a better return on investment.

This is an easy fix for Digital Print, as long it has the customer’s print files and data.

What’s Your Budget?

You don’t want to overspend, so what are the cheapest options? When it comes to price, it usually depends on these six factors:

  • I need a small number of prints: Digital Print
  • I need many prints: Litho Print
  • I need them quickly: For smaller quantities – Digital Print
  • I need the best quality: Digital or Litho Print
  • I have more than one design: Digital Print
  • Frequently needing to order the same product: Dependent on quantity

Summing It All Up 

Printing techniques are responsible for transferring your artwork onto your product packaging. Put simply, even the greatest of artworks would be in vain if you end up choosing the wrong printing technique. 

The wrong printing technique can cause you to break the bank, end up with delays, or subpar quality printing on your custom boxes. That’s why it is crucial, absolutely crucial, that you choose the right printing technique for your product packaging.

Although there are many printing methods available when it comes to the packaging industry, the two most commonly used techniques are digital and offset printing. 

In this post, we have tried to explain all printing techniques in detail, along with a comparison between offset and digital printing. If you have anything to add, feel free to post a comment. And if you still have questions, feel free to contact us, and we’ll be more than happy to answer your queries. 

 

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