How to Print on Cardboard Boxes

How to Print on Cardboard Boxes

23rd Apr 2024

In today’s marketplace, getting your product’s packaging right is almost as important as the product inside. When it comes to cardboard boxes, the way they’re printed can hugely impact a customer’s first impression of your brand and their decision to buy. It’s not just about putting a logo on a box; it's about choosing the right printing techniques to ensure your packaging pops and resonates with your audience. Whether you’re a new business finding your feet or an established name thinking about a packaging refresh, knowing your options in terms of printing methods is vital.

Here, we'll look into why printing on cardboard boxes may be the right packaging solution for your business, explore the different printing methods available, and show how the right choice can make your brand shine.

Importance of Printing on Cardboard Boxes

The way a product is packaged can tell you a lot before you even see what's inside. In the case of cardboard boxes, the printing quality isn’t just a minor detail - it’s a significant factor in the game of first impressions and brand loyalty. Good printing on packaging does more than make your product look appealing on a shelf; it communicates your brand's attention to detail, quality, and creativity.

A well-printed cardboard box can make your product shout a little louder amidst the noise of competitors. It's your first chance to tell a potential buyer who you are and what you stand for.

Moreover, in the age of social media and unboxing videos, your packaging has the power to reach beyond the physical buyer to a global audience online. A box that looks good on camera can enhance your brand’s visibility and appeal, and turn customers into brand ambassadors as they share their experiences online.

Finally, sustainable and eco-friendly printing practices can also reflect positively on your brand. In this way, you can show your commitment to environmental responsibility, which is increasingly important to consumers.

Printing Methods on Cardboard Boxes

Choosing the right printing method for your cardboard boxes is crucial for achieving the desired impact with your packaging. Each method offers its own set of benefits, tailored to different needs and outcomes. Let’s break down the main contenders: digital printing, screen printing, and offset printing, along with a note on direct printing and the role of the printing plate.

Digital Printing

Digital printing works best when it comes to flexibility and speed. It’s a direct printing method where digital images are printed straight onto the cardboard, bypassing the need for printing plates. This means you can easily customise your designs without slowing down the production process, which is ideal for short runs or personalised packaging. The print quality is high and the colours are vibrant, but it might not be the most cost-effective option for larger quantities.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a bit more hands-on and involves creating a stencil (or screen) of the artwork, which is used to apply layers of ink to the printing surface. It’s renowned for vibrant colours and high durability, and is perfect for designs that need to make a bold statement or withstand rough handling. While it offers a premium finish, it's generally more time-consuming and costly, especially for complex or multi-coloured designs.

Offset Printing

Offset printing, often used for larger runs, involves transferring the ink from a plate to a rubber blanket and then onto the printing surface. It’s celebrated for its exceptional print quality and efficiency in high-volume orders. While the initial setup with printing plates can be costly and time-consuming, the per-unit cost decreases significantly with quantity, making it a cost-effective choice for large orders. Offset printing excels in detailed and consistent image reproduction across thousands of boxes.

Direct Printing vs. Printing Plate

In direct printing, the image is printed directly onto the cardboard, which is usually fast and flexible. This contrasts with methods that require a printing plate, which, while initially more resource-intensive, can provide unmatched quality and efficiency for high-volume runs. The choice between direct printing and using a printing plate often comes down to the specific needs of the project, including the run size, budget, and desired print quality.

Choosing the Right Printing Method

Selecting the ideal printing method for your cardboard boxes involves balancing several factors, including print quality, volume, cost, and the specific needs of your project. Let’s explore how to navigate these considerations to make an informed decision.

Order Volume

The quantity of boxes you need is a primary factor. For smaller runs, digital printing is typically the most cost-effective, thanks to its lower setup costs and flexibility. However, if you’re looking to produce a large number of boxes, offset printing becomes more economical. The initial setup costs are offset by the lower per-unit cost at higher volumes.

Print Quality and Detail

If your design includes fine details or a wide range of colours, offset printing might be your best bet due to its superior quality and colour accuracy. Digital printing still offers excellent quality but might struggle with extremely detailed designs.

Budget Constraints

Your budget will undoubtedly play a significant role in your decision. Digital printing offers a lower cost of entry for smaller quantities, but as mentioned, offset printing becomes more viable financially as the volume increases. Screen printing tends to be more expensive due to the manual processes involved, so it's worth considering if your design and the intended impact justify the extra expense.

Turnaround Time

If time is of the essence, digital printing offers the quickest turnaround, as it requires no setup time for printing plates. Offset and screen printing have longer lead times due to the setup required, so plan accordingly if you choose one of these methods.

Specific Project Needs

Think about your project's specific requirements. Are you aiming for a luxury look, or is durability more important? Do you need eco-friendly packaging? Certain inks and printing processes are more environmentally friendly than others, which could influence your decision if sustainability is a key concern for your brand.

Matching the Method to Your Brand

Ultimately, the choice of printing method should align with your brand’s identity and messaging. A luxury brand might prefer the high-quality finish of offset printing, while a brand focused on eco-friendly practices might prioritise digital printing for its efficiency and reduced waste.

The Printing Process

Understanding the printing process for cardboard boxes can seem daunting, but thinking about it step by step can simplify the journey from design to final product. Here’s a general overview of how the process unfolds, regardless of the specific printing method you choose.

Step 1: Design and Artwork Preparation

The journey begins with your vision. Designing your artwork involves not only creativity but also technical considerations, such as choosing the right colours, ensuring the resolution is high enough for print, and adapting the design to fit the dimensions of your box. This step often involves collaboration between graphic designers and printing specialists to prepare the artwork optimally for the chosen printing method.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Material

Selecting the appropriate cardboard material is crucial, as different materials react differently to ink and printing techniques. The weight, coating, and durability of the cardboard can affect the final print quality. This decision will be guided by the product’s needs and the desired aesthetic.

Step 3: Preparing for Print

This stage involves translating your design into a format that can be printed. For digital printing, it’s relatively straightforward, as the design is printed directly from the digital file. For offset and screen printing, this may involve creating printing plates or screens, which serve as the master copies for transferring your design onto the cardboard.

Step 4: Creating a Prototype (Optional)

Creating a prototype may be a valuable step in many cases, especially for complex or high-value projects. A prototype allows you to see and feel a physical sample of your printed box before you commit to a full production run. It’s an opportunity to make any necessary adjustments to the design or printing method.

Step 5: Printing

Now, the actual printing takes place. The specifics of this step vary significantly depending on the chosen method:

● Digital printing involves the ink being applied directly to the cardboard from the digital image file.

● Screen printing sees ink forced through a mesh screen onto the cardboard in layers.

● Offset printing transfers ink from a plate to a rubber blanket, which then rolls the ink onto the cardboard.

Each method has unique setup, execution, and drying times that influence the overall timeline.

Step 6: Cutting and Folding

After the printing ink has dried, the cardboard sheets are cut into the box shape and scored for folding. This precision cutting ensures that the boxes will assemble correctly and hold the intended shape.

Step 7: Quality Check and Assembly

Quality control is essential. Each box is inspected for print clarity, colour accuracy, and structural integrity. Once approved, the boxes are either assembled for immediate use or shipped flat to be assembled by the recipient.

Step 8: Delivery

The final step is getting your boxes to you or directly to your distribution centres. This logistical step is crucial, as timely delivery can impact product launches or restocking timelines.

How ASC Direct Can Elevate Your Brand with Custom Cardboard Boxes

ASC Direct is your go-to partner for custom box printing, and offers solutions tailored to elevating your brand. With options ranging from digital to offset printing, we match your project's specific needs, and ensure top-notch print quality that makes your packaging stand out. Our expert team is on hand to guide you through the process, guaranteeing your brand's message is delivered clearly and effectively. Let ASC Direct transform your packaging into a powerful asset for your brand. Raise your packaging game with us today.

Shop now or contact our team on 0800 0731 126 for help on our design and print services.