At least once a week we receive an inquiry from someone attempting to create a unique brand and look on their e-commerce or subscription boxes by utilizing glossy or shiny graphics. This is can be accomplished a number of different ways but not through the standard or typical flexographic print process.
The limitations of flexographic printing on corrugated board
In most cases boxes are printed using water based (eco-friendly) inks that are printed directly on the corrugated substrate. This approach is economical and effective but results in a “flat” finish with no luster or gloss. The flat finish is most obvious when printing black or other dark flood coat colors and designs.
I often refer to this as an imperfect process being printed on an imperfect substrate because the printing is being done on an industrial grade paper (board) not fine, offset, or other high grade printing paper. That limits the print and finish options that are available.
This is by no means a complete list and any number of combinations and variations are possible. Here are a few ways we can help you create the look you want- in increasing order, least glossy to most glossy:
Special or Display Inks – for a slightly higher level of gloss, it is possible at times to simply use a higher gloss ink. There are minimums and other restrictions but in some cases it is just enough to satisfy the need at minimal additional cost.
Kemi or Special Board – One of the ways to increase the amount of ink that stays on the surface of the board is to restrict or modify the porosity of the board. Rather than soaking into the board, the ink will often appear heavier and brighter.
Varnish and Aqueous Coatings – With equipment limitations and minimums applying we can apply or “print” an edge to edge “flood coat” or a limited “spot” coat of a variety of different gloss finishes. Different gloss levels can be combined for dramatic 3-D like images but keep in mind each adds cost and may require a separate print plate.
Litho Labels – Printing on fine (litho) paper, rather than direct printing on industrial grade board, a wide variety of print processes (offset, digital, etc.) and coatings are available. As an extreme example, it is possible to print a photo or brochure quality color image, coat it with a high gloss varnish and then laminate it to the corrugated board before creating a box out of it.
Laminates – A “poly” laminate can often be applied over a litho label or sometimes directly over the direct printed corrugated image to create a glass like surface to enhance and protect the design. There are a variety or laminate materials available and not all are considered eco-friendly so make sure you understand the impact of any specific finish to the recyclability or repulpability of the box after its use.
Price and minimums?
There are many factors that impact pricing including graphics and quantities being ordered. Generally this list of finish options is in least expensive to most expensive order and also reflects typical lowest to the highest minimums. So for example, litho labels or laminates will probably be cost prohibitive in quantities under 10,000 boxes but Kemi board or special inks, MAY be cost effective at 2,000 or 3,000 boxes.
There are no hard and fast rules other than your typical unprinted stock box source will probably NOT be able to help you. These are not your average or typical boxes so a level of experience is necessary to do it well, and at a reasonable cost.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at Salazar Packaging or call us at 630-551-1700 if you would like to discuss your specific application.