Posted on August 17, 2023 by Dennis Salazar

Which Printing Process Is Best for YOUR E-commerce Box?

One of our favorite customers is a company with incredibly creative minds and very talented graphic artists. They can afford to be creative because they send out a two or three different boxes to their clients each year and their goal is to make each standout from the previous. Just a few of the different printing processes we have done for them over the last five years, include:

  • Flexo in and Digital out
  • Digital in and litho label out
  • Digital two sides
  • Flexo two sides
  • Litho label two sides

It is not at all a question of not being able to select a design and print process, to the contrary, it is all about giving their gift recipients a different look and a unique unboxing experience. Fortunately, they have a vendor in Salazar Packaging who is well versed in all three primary printing options and can give them the freedom to let their graphic designers go all out. They love that, and quite frankly, so do we. We appreciate the challenge that their diverse designs create and that we believe makes us a better creative partner.

What is the difference between the three most popular print processes?


Flexographic Printing of DTC boxesFlexographic Printing

Is by far the lowest cost option. It uses water-based inks making it the most sustainable process and is printed on a press using rubber print plates which add prepress costs. It has some limitations with the types of images it can produce because in most cases each print color requires its own print plate and ink, so rarely do you see a flexo design that is more than one or two colors. There are also concerns when multiple colors meet and overlap. This does not mean you can’t get creative; it just means there are limitations, and we can help you navigate through those potential issues. You can visit our gallery and keep in mind, by far, most of what you see there was printed flexo.



Digital Printing of DTC boxes Digital Printing

We love the capabilities of digital printing and we even have a website devoted to that print process – Literally, almost anything is possible but there is a difference in equipment types which may limit things like the type of gloss or finish that is possible. Different machines use different inks so some may only be able to print high gloss and others only low gloss. These inks are not water based, which may conflict with your sustainability claims or objectives. The biggest positive about digital printing is that some companies (not us) can print one box if that is all you need. The biggest negative is that digital is quite expensive compared to flexo above. That price difference shrinks as your digital order quantity increases but the high ink costs and expensive specialty board cost always make digital more expensive in any quantity.




Litho Label Printing of DTC Boxes Litho Label Printing      

As explained in detail in the first “related post” below, this is not a direct to corrugated print process. Your copy and graphic design are printed on fine paper using as litho process, delivering the best possible colors and images. If for example, you want colorful photo quality images, this is the process for you. Graphics are printed on this paper and then laminated to the inside, and/or outside of the board that will be die cut into the desired box style and size. Perhaps the best part is the ability to apply a variety of low to high gloss varnishes, and laminates including the very popular “soft touch” finish requested by cosmetics, personal care, and other high-end products. One bit of warning, because of the expensive paper

Going full circle back to the opening question and title of this post, which is the best printing process for your e-commerce box? It mostly depends on three things:

  1. order quantity
  2. your artwork
  3. your budget

Undoubtedly, the greatest single factor is your graphic design and artwork. So let us take a look at what you want to print and after we ask a couple of questions, we can usually very quickly tell you which option is best for you. If cost is an issue, in some cases, we are able to show you how to modify your graphic design to help minimize your cost per box.

Call us at 630-551-1700 or contact us for a free application review. After printing millions of boxes every year for the last 17 years, we are confident in our ability to be a great resource and process guide for you.



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