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Which type of printing method should I use for my corrugated package/display?

Corrugated packaging and displays are one of the most versatile mediums to use for your shipping/marketing project. Think of it as a blank canvas that allows you to communicate directly with your customer.

There are several different methods for printing in corrugated, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here at Forest Packaging we utilize three main printing processes, and our experience and knowledge can help ensure we pick the method that fits your brand, and your budget.

This is a quick rundown of the main printing processes we use everyday in our plant:

FLEXOGRAPHIC: This is the bread and butter of the corrugated industry. Flexographic printing is achieved by creating a positive mirrored master of the required image on a rubber or polymer print plate. A carefully calibrated amount of ink is applied to the print plate and as the corrugated board travels through our presses, the print plate rotates and “stamps” that image on to the board.

Flexographic printing is the perfect choice for things like simple logo’s, reversed-out graphics, and part numbers. It is often the best method to use for high-volume orders because most flexographically printed items can be converted in one machine process. While certain type of Flexographic presses can produce high-quality 4 color-process images, those types of graphics often require very large volume runs in order to be considered economical.

Forest Packaging utilizes several flexo presses and we can print up to three-colors in one pass. We also utilize a spectrometer to analyze the colors of your box as they come off our presses so we can ensure with technical data that your company’s logo comes out looking like it should!

LITHOGRAPHIC: Lithographic printing is the method of choice for high-end displays and retail packaging due to its great image quality, and flexibility for finishes.

Lithographic printing is like flexographic in that it uses a series of printing plates. However, it is an offset method, meaning the ink from the rubber plate is then transferred to a rubber blanket and then on to the substrate. The substrate itself is not corrugated board, but a coated sheet of paper known as a “top sheet”. These top sheets are then applied to finished corrugated board on machines known as “laminators”.

This method of printing offers the highest resolution possible for 4CP images, and embellishments such as gloss coatings, spot coatings, foil, and embossing can be added (for an additional cost). Because of these reasons, lithographic labels are often the choice for high-end POP displays and retail packaging.

That kind of quality does often come with a trade-off. Traditionally lithographic labels require higher run quantities in order to be feasible from a cost-standpoint.

DIGITAL: Digital printing is “the new kid on the block”, so to speak, but it sure has made a name for itself recently. Digital printing presses utilize inkjets to deliver coatings and inks directly to the corrugated board to produce different images and text.

Digital printing presses have come a long way in the last decade. Originally they started as multi-pass machines, meaning that they could only print one color at a time. This limited the speed at which these items were run, but also tended to leave the finished product looking “grainy” or distorted, especially when trying to create detailed, photorealistic images.

Over the last few years the technology has changed through leaps and bounds to allow for faster production speeds and higher quality images. Digital print is great for larger format items like standees and pallet wraps because it does not have the size restrictions you can encounter with lithographic labelling. Digital print also has a leg up on other printing methods because there is no tooling involved, meaning you are not locked in to one single print version for your project. You can personalize different versions of the same box or display to fit the need in that specific market.

However, not all digital presses are built the same and it is important to utilize the correct vendor for your project. Some presses don’t have the ability to apply a protective varnish, meaning your sheets may be scratched and scuffed by the time they reach it’s end destination. Some printers have a limited color spectrum… Since digital printing presses are essentially utilizing four colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) to create a variety of images, they may encounter issues when trying to match specific colors.

All of these variables effect your final products outcome and we at Forest Packaging take a keen interest on keeping up with the changing technology in order to better serve you.

While we have touched on the basics of the various printing methods utilized by Forest Packaging, there are many more variables that will help determine which printing method is best for your company and your project. You can be sure to lean on Forest Packaging and our decades of industry experience to help guide your selection. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert at our company today!

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