How Are Cardboard Boxes Printed?

Some small companies opt for purchasing ink stamps and stamp their logo onto cardboard boxes. While this is a great method for keeping costs down, it isn’t the greatest solution for branding your packaging and is pretty time consuming too!

  • Stamping cardboard boxes has many disadvantages:
  • Ink running out at the worst possible moment.
  • Greater chances of the ink bleeding.
  • Inconsistent placement and ink coverage across parcels.
  • The time it takes to stamp each box.

printing cardboard boxes

For startups, stamping your own boxes can be a way to get you up on your feet, but it’s best
to look into ways to bulk print your boxes as soon as you have the available funds.
There are many options for printing onto your packaging. In this article we’ve listed the
different methods for printing and how each method works. If you haven’t decided if branded
packaging is right for you, take a look at our article: Understanding the Benefits of Branded Packaging.

Silk Screen Printing

Silk screen printing is the oldest method used for branded packaging. It’s a conventional
method that, to this day, works brilliantly for bold designs of one or two colours.

The design is turned into a stencil made from polyester and fine mesh. This mixture of
material allows for full ink coverage across the stencil. The areas of the design that are blank
are filled with an impermeable substance which prevents the ink from bleeding and
transferring through to the cardboard box.

The manual process required by silk screen printing means it has a long setup time (which
translates into a higher setup cost). The nature of silk screen printing only lends itself to
simple designs and small runs; however, it can deliver higher resolution images compared to
most other printing methods.

Flexo Printed Packaging

Flexo printing, as the name suggests, is a form of flexible printing.

Flexo – short for flexography – makes use of plates made from plastic, rubber, or
photopolymer. Your design is turned into a raised plate which allows only the design to touch
the ink before being printed onto the packaging.

The main benefit of Flexo printing is that this method can be used to print designs on a
range of materials such as cardboard, plastic, foil, and brown paper. Once the plates have
been created, modern printers can print up to 600-metres of design per minute!

The downside to this method is that it doesn’t work well for complex designs and the cost of
creating the plates means that you need a high volume of print runs for it to be worthwhile.

Litho Printed Packaging

Lithographic printing, known as Litho printing, is a modern, computerised method of printing
designs onto packaging. This method is the most commonly used throughout the printing

Litho printing works by uploading your design onto a computer. The machine then uses a
laser to create a plate of the image. As this method is computerised, it lends itself to full-
colour and photographic-quality images.

To get your money’s worth with Litho printing, the best method is to use a sheet-feeder for
fast and effective printing. The only downside to a sheet-feeder is that cardboard is too thick
to fit into the feeder; therefore, the traditional printing press method, although slower, is
better suited to cardboard.

As with the Flexo printing process, Litho printing is also costly to set up; therefore, doesn’t
lend itself to short runs. There also isn’t an option to amend your design once the plate has
been created.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a modern printing method that makes use of a large format laser printer or
ink-jet printer.

Digital printing, as the name suggests, is completely computerised, and there is no set up
needed for this form of printing. The design images are sent digitally from the computer to
the printer. The printer prints the design onto the desired material in the same way a
household printer works: line by line. This method removes the need for a plate.

Why Digital Printing is the Preferred Method for Cardboard Box Printing

Digital printing is the preferred method of printing, and not just for cardboard boxes. Digital
printing has many advantages:

  • This method of printing does not require plates. This results in very low set up times
    and therefore lower initial costs. It also means that you can make changes to your
    design even when the printer is printing your designs out.
  • Digital printing allows simple and complex designs; colour, gradients, and complex
    photo images are all accepted in digital printing.
  • As digital printing uses a photo file, you can test changes to your image without
    having anything set in stone or acquiring additional costs. If you want to offer
    customer-specific personalisation to your package, or test out a festive feature to
    your logo, you can do so incredibly easily.

Open as usual
Despite the current circumstances with COVID-19, Boxtopia remains open for a business as usual for the time being. We are able to deliver bespoke boxes to anywhere in the country. For more information on our response to this emerging situation, please visit our business update.