Printing Options

With their rigid and (normally) flat surfaces, folding cartons are made for eye-catching prints that amplify the marketing impact of your product. The three main types of printers used in packaging—lithographic, flexographic, and digital—all have their benefits and drawbacks, depending on your goals. Here’s what you need to know to choose wisely.


Offset or Lithographic prints involve transferring an image from a plate to a blanket to a substrate (i.e., the paperboard of your folding carton).


High-quality results: the blanket conforms to the substrate’s texture, ensuring sharpness and consistency.

High End Touches: litho enables specialty coatings like super high gloss.

Things to Consider

Higher Upfront Cost: the plate must be custom-made.

Higher Lead Times: “tooling” (e.g., making the plate) takes time.

For our guidelines to print Offset, Click here


Digital prints work much like your home-based printers, just on a larger scale. A digital printer sprays millions of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink dots directly onto the substrate, in whatever combinations will produce the desired colours.


Low Cost, Low Minimums: because you don’t have to create a plate, the start-up costs are low and that allows for lower minimum orders.

Faster Turnaround: of all the printing options, digital offers the fastest turnaround.

Things to Consider

Higher Costs With Bigger Runs: litho and flexo become less expensive in larger runs as their start-up costs are absorbed, while the cost per unit of digital remains constant.

Fewer Finishing Options: with digital you can’t use some of the special coating options that you can with lithography.

To learn more, contact your folding carton packaging specialist.



After printing, you can apply special finishes, embellishments, or coatings to give your packaging pop-off-the-shelf appeal. Here are a few options. 


By using a wet compound that’s dried by UV light, you can get finishes—from pure matte to super gloss— that enhance your print. 

Embossing and Debossing

When you run a lithographic print, you can choose to add three-dimensional embossing or debossing to your package. An emboss is a raised shape, while a deboss is an indented shape. You can even create multi-layered embosses or debosses. 

Foil Stamping 

Foil Stamping or Hot Stamping is a high-end embellishment produced from etching a design onto a die, heating it up, and using it to stamp a piece of foil onto your packages. 


  • Water-based/Aqueous: water-based coatings are fast-drying and more environmentally friendly. 
  • UV: wet compounds dried by UV light can come in many applications, from matte to super-gloss. 
  • Soft Touch: these finishes make the paperboard more velvety and pleasant to touch. 
  • Spot UV: this UV coat can be applied and dried in spots, rather than all over the package. 


Other Enhancements

  • Custom Cut Outs: showcase your product with a uniquely shaped cut-out window
  • Window Material: the three main options are acetate (eco-friendly), PET (extra-strong), and polypropylene (low-cost, versatile). 
  • Blister Coatings: using heat, you can form a plastic, non-adhered coating around any possible shape. 

To learn more, contact your folding carton packaging specialist.