Custom packaging and point-of-purchase displays can amplify your brand and help to drive sales with the right graphic elements. How those graphics are executed matters. Using the appropriate printing processes can bring your branded message to life. However, not all printing processes will provide the same results. Choosing the best printing process will depend on your needs and your budget.

There are three ways to add graphic elements to corrugated: direct print, litho mount, and litho lamination.

  • Direct print is done by printing directly on the corrugated board using flexographic or digital printing. The sheet is die-cut and glued, if necessary, to complete the box or display
  • Litho mount involves printing on a label mounted on double-faced corrugated. The sheet is die-cut and glued, if necessary, to complete the box or display
  • Litho Lamination is where a top sheet is printed and applied to open flutes of single face corrugated. The sheet is die-cut and glued, if necessary, to complete the box or display

It is best to work with your packaging and display vendor to help determine which application is best for your project. There are many variables, including the level of detail required, run size, design change frequency, colors, and budget.

Printing Processes Explained

Below are descriptions of Flexographic, Digital, Litho Mount, and Litho Lamination printing processes.

Flexographic printing

Flexographic printing, sometimes referred to as flexo or relief printing, gets its name from the thin, flexible relief plates used in the printing process. Each color requires its own plate. The plates are wrapped around a cylinder, and ink is transferred directly to the substrate. Flexography is a less expensive method for printing and the most common.

  • Works best for non-photo quality printing; although new technology is changing this
  • Prints on both corrugated and liners
  • Can be used on both shipping boxes and retail packaging
  • Popular for large orders
  • Less expensive than litho-laminated, but design changes require new plates, which can get expensive.

Digital printing

Digital presses accept files directly from the computer, eliminating the need for expensive plates, and set up is virtually non-existent.

  • Offers higher-quality graphics than flexo
  • Ideal for lower volumes
  • Ideal for variable print or if designs change frequently

Litho Mount Printing

Litho mount uses lithographic printing (also called offset printing) to print onto litho labels (typically an 80# coated paper), which are then mounted on double-faced corrugated. Litho printing is a process where the image area is oil receptive and the non-image area is water receptive to keep ink only where it is supposed to be. Ink is transferred from the lithographic plate to a rubber cylinder, which, in turn, transfers the ink to the substrate.

  • Excellent print quality creates a photo-quality image
  • Cost-effective for high volumes
  • Excellent for foil stamping, embossing, spot gloss, or other embellishments
  • Labels can cover the whole box or cover only a portion of the box as a spot label.
  • If artwork changes, plates have to be remade

Litho Lamination Printing

Litho-lamination also uses lithographic printing. However, this process uses less paper because a top sheet is printed with the graphic design and applied to a single face corrugated sheet.  Single face corrugated is made up of one linerboard with a fluted medium.

  • Excellent print quality creates a photo-quality image
  • Uses less paper, so it produces a lighter box than litho mount printing
  • Cost-effective for high volumes
  • Excellent for foil stamping, embossing, spot gloss, or other embellishments
  • If artwork changes, plates have to be remade

Progress Container’s State-of-the-Art Investments Gives You Higher Quality Print at More Affordable Prices

Our Designers are experienced in flexo, litho, and digital print and can work with you to find the best solution for your project. Our dedication to investing in state-of-the-art equipment and intimate knowledge of print processes allow us to help guide you to the appropriate solution to meet your product branding needs.  Our newest Gpfert RDC Evolution HBL 8-color press can print inside and outside in one pass and provides the highest quality corrugated flexo direct print in the world. Its stunning print quality has allowed us to move some of our customers from more expensive 3-step litho lamination to direct print.

Contact us to get started on your next project.