Posted on May 31, 2019 by Dennis Salazar

FAQ for Flexographic Ink and Color Guide for E-Commerce D2C Shipping Boxes

Launching a new branded shipping or subscription box requires several decisions; box style and dimensions, insert design (if necessary), and the key decision, what do I want it to look like? Printed in, and/or printed out, and most important of all, what colors do I want to use? Flood coat or minimal coverage?

Certainly, a good graphic artist will be invaluable if they understand the advantages and limitations of flexographic printing (see related posts below). That is when an experienced packaging designer like Salazar Packaging can save you a tremendous amount of time and money by providing great insight on does and does not work. We can help guide you and your graphic artist to the best possible print job at minimal cost.

Here are a few questions frequently asked about ink, colors, and graphic designs:

Are all box printing inks eco-friendly?

Some are not but most are. However, ALL the inks we use are water based and considered eco-friendly. The rule of thumb is to keep it simple. The more complex you make your box with varnishes, coatings, labeling, etc., the less likely the board will remain green. Corrugated board is made green by nature, but what we do to it may take us in the opposite direction.

Boxes for personal care productsWhat is the most popular color for e-commerce and subscription boxes?

There are many popular ink colors, and some are very simple such as black or white that both look great on Kraft board. Others are more sophisticated such as pastels or very bold, bright colors. Some Pantone colors are trendy such as Living Coral, which is the hot color for 2019, but last year in 2018 it was Ultraviolet. We believe the key is making sure your color blends well or sharply contrasts with your company colors and logo. Your DTC box color should also reflect who you are and what you do. Don’t worry, if we believe you may be making a color choice mistake, we will tell you.

Do all colors print the same?

This is a great question we hear often, and the answer is no, they do not. Colors tend to print slightly differently depending on the substrates and ink formulations. I often refer to direct printing on corrugated as an imperfect process on an imperfect substrate. As great as today’s equipment is, there are two things that we cannot control. One is the natural Kraft (brown) board color variations and the porosity or ink absorption rates.

Like no two trees are the same color, no two corrugated sheets are identical. On high recycled content corrugated board, the color varies even more due to the specific mix of recycled materials. That is why we prefer to print some colors on white board rather than Kraft, especially flood coats.

Corrugated is sponge-like in that it tends to absorb ink in dry weather and climates, leaving less ink visible on the surface. In higher humidity conditions, ink is not absorbed as deeply, and ink colors appear fuller or denser.

boxes for weddings and special eventsHow much more expensive is printing two colors compared to one color?

The fact is that printing two colors is only slightly more expensive compared to one color. In most cases it is less than a few cents or 5% difference. Set up time (1 versus 2 colors) is almost identical and water-based inks are relatively inexpensive. The only additional cost is the ONETIME cost for a second print plate that typically runs between $400 and $600.

What is the price difference between one- and two-sided custom printing?

Printing the outside of a box is relatively inexpensive because it is printed simultaneously when the box is being die cut. However, printing inside adds 20 to 30% because it requires a second pass through the same machine.

There is some great news coming later this summer that we will have equipment able to print inside and out on a single pass. That will dramatically reduce the cost of this now “must have” print option.

I really want but can’t afford inside printing at this time.

That is a common problem and it is wise to not spend more than you can at the start-up stage of your business. Any inside print can be added anytime in the future when you are ready.  See this post for more info.

These are just a handful out of hundreds of questions we have been asked over the course of the last twelve years. If we have not covered yours, please contact us at Salazar Packaging or call us at 630-551-1700. One of our branded packaging advisors or I will be glad to help you determine the best path forward for your specific product and application.

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