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Printed Shipping Boxes

Are you considering custom printed boxes or mailers? Its one way to brand your business. Your customers might not care if their order arrives in a custom box, heck most people do not even look at the box if its on time after all its whatís inside thatís important. It might be a cold damp day and the box is clearly wet and worn from itís long multi state trip over the conveyer belts of the shipping carriers into the trucks and then the porch but the big smile logo is still there, loud and clear.

Printing Doesn't Protect the Product

One thing I have noticed, one company will spend money on custom box printing and branding and throw a new hard drive in the box with little or no void fill? Yes itís a mystery to me too why you would not protect sensitive electronic products with a dollars worth of void fill but spent an extra 3 dollars on box printing. I have alerted the shipping manager of that company but they still are shipping with far less void fill than we would use if we sold electronics.

Branding - Worth the Cost?

Youíve all seen them, boxes that are printed with a huge logo or company slogan, some kind of trade marked picture if your building a brand itís required look at Amazon or TigerDirect they all have their own design for their corrugated shipping boxes. But is it worth the cost? Well only you can answer that. I personally think it all comes under branding and no you do not get your moneyís worth but again itís branding where you want people to see your name enough that it is burned into your memory when they need something you have.

Can we Print on Anything?

I spent over 20 years in the printing trade in both prepress and the pressroom and I can tell you from experience it is very expensive to print anything on your cardboard shipping boxes. Even if you only do a one color small sized logo its still going to cost you for concept, artwork, and you may need to have it digitalized if itís on flat art boards. Most of the time it will be created in a software program by a graphic artist and you can provide the files directly to the printer.

Custom Box Printing and Manufacturing is done together.

When they make corrugated boxes it all has to be done at one time, in that I mean they have to create the box, apply any hot stamp manufacturing seals or other printing to the box, fold the box, die cut, glue or staple the box together, stack the boxes in bundles and strap the boxes in bundles of 15, 20 or 25. Cardboard shipping boxes are stamped out from a larger sheet of corrugated by a die that is made to the size and shape of the box. A manufacturer seal with the box specifications is then printed on the bottom of the cardboard box. Then it is glued or stapled together and stacked flat in a bundle. You will need to pay for the die to cut the box into the correct size. That is a plywood sheet with blades and rubber pads attached in the correct places the shape of the box so when the corrugated cardboard is pressed into the die it is cut to the size of the box and the rubber pads make the box lift out above the blades so it can progress to the next phase of production.

Pre-Press Costs - Proofs

You will need plates for each color as the printing is done on the box during the production phase and if it is a long run you may need to pay for multiple plates. Printing plates will break down after so many impressions and that can be affected by the acid content of the corrugation. Ask your printer if they can save and store your plates for future runs. If you do not ask they will not always clean, gum and save the plates properly. If the plates are not gummed properly they will corrode and be useless for reruns. Digital technology is growing in leaps and bounds so some larger companies might offer direct to plate. You will want to proof the art before it is printed onto thousands of boxes so there are proof charges for each color. If its 4 color process you will want a color proof of the art like a color key or 3M Matchprint, color art print or even a press proof were they will print one on a small proof press with the actual plates to see how it will look on your box the day of the press run.

Custom Printing or Sizes = Minimum Order Amounts

The big one is the minimum order size. There is always a minimum order size normally it is 7-10,000 boxes and of course at 10000 boxes the price per box would not be anywhere near as low as you could buy a plain stock corrugated shipping box. Take a 4 x 4 x 4 corrugated cube box for example with you can buy stock around 20 cents each. But you print a 1 color logo on them and at 10000 your price per box might be as high as .50-.00 and if you print 100000 the price per box will drop but you are making more boxes so thereís an old saying in the print trade if you need to ask how much maybe you do not want custom printed boxes. Some companies have short run capabilities with some of the smaller and will quote smaller runs of 1000 or 1500 but the price per box will be on the high side again. The larger the run the better price per box.

Other Options to Custom Printed Boxes

Other Options? - So there are cheaper options some companies offer hot stamping on boxes or mailers which is usually limited to 2 colors with no big traps (overprinting areas). Hot stamping can allow them to print on existing boxes or mailers and they are fed into a press flat like an envelope printer.


Flexography (often abbreviated to flexo) is a form of printing process which utilizes a flexible relief plate. It is essentially a modern version of letterpress which can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper. Used often for label printing and packaging like clear snack food covers and clear product containers, with clear containers they need to print a white bubble under the other colors so they look good. This white bubble would be a required color if you are printing on a clear substance. Color proofs are available like 3M Matchprints and press proofs that are made with the actual plates that are inked and pressed to paper to get a proof of what the finished product will be.

Label Options for Shipping Boxes

Labels are a great option for shipping boxes - Many of my customers found that their local printers can order crack and peel paper and print just about anything they want on the crack and peel which is a self adhesive paper sheet that can be printed and cut to size to fit any box, envelope or mailer. They can print 1-6 process colors, 4/color process or any combination with dull or gloss varnishes to make them shinny and water resistant. Labels can be used for all kinds of shipping boxes, corrugated mailers, padded mailers, envelopes, and folders or bags what ever you need them to stick on just peel the paper off the back and it will stick to almost anything.

Another option is a label printer, you can do this in house or have labels printed professionally for your shipping boxes, some printers specialize in labels with gold, silver, colored foil to make your boxes stand out. Check online or with your local printers for label printers to get the best roll prices. These too can be used for multiple uses in the office or sales division for sales folders or proposals. Labels can include product information, warnings, diet and nutrition information and more.

For a large or existing company it may be a committee decision to print that box to assist in reorders, provide product details, and specs or the president that wants a printed box to convey an image or look or maybe he just wants his name on the boxes. I myself do not really pay much attention to what is printed on boxes most of the time the boxes end up in the recycling bin. If you are a new company or venture starting up with a limited budget I would suggest to use stock boxes for your product until you get some sales on the books you might consider a local or in house printer and crack and peel paper to help get started. Never under estimate corrugated mailer boxes they are small, inexpensive, store flat and look nice.

Article Posted: 10/08/2019 10:00:12 PM

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