Flexographic Printing

Kelly Box and Packaging utilizes our Automatan high speed lithographic labeler to provide a high quality image for your brand at an affordable price

Flexographic printing has been a staple of graphics on packaging at Kelly Box for several decades.  While this style of printing is largely viewed as the most common it is important to understand why it tends to be so popular, and the typical applications where it is utilized.

Understanding the process

By understanding a brief explanation of flexographic printing you are able to better evaluate the best application (as it relates to your type of packaging) and determine when flexographic printing can be most cost effective.

For common style packaging (RSC), flexographic printing is a single pass operation that will cut, print, fold, glue, and unitize your box all in the same set up.  The print process involves a series of rollers that release ink onto a flexible print plate that then impresses your graphic image onto the corrugated sheet.


For more custom box styles, like a 6 corner tray, the process will change from a single pass operation to a 2 machine process, and typically requires a tool.  One pass will score, cut, and print while the second operation will be required to fold and glue a finished box.  While still considered a very efficient method to produce graphics on custom packaging it is important to note that the style of your box will influence how it is produced and ultimately how “cost effective” your packaging needs to be.

With minimal set up times (5-8 min) and high speed production (150-200 boxes/min), flexographic printing tends to be a perfect application for both small (100-1000) and large (1000+) quantity runs that do not require a large variation of color or single use graphic images.

Understanding the limitations

As a customer prepares to add flexographic printing to there packaging there are a couple key components that are important to understand upfront.  Things like lead time, tooling cost and plate management, and print expectations are all good discussion topics before adding graphics to your package utilizing this type of print.

Lead times

Because of the popularity of flexographic printing lead times tend to be quick, and the overall process to add graphics (from art rendering to finished product) can be done in a relatively short time frame.  A customer can start the process by providing us with either a photo of a business card taken with their phone, or a multi-layered high resolution EPS file.  A print plate can be proofed with a  wide range of media, however it is important to understand that the less detailed (photo of a business card) the larger the possibility of incurring an art charge that can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending of the amount of editing needed.  Once art is complete, we will provide a 2D proof that will showcase location of your graphics (not color).  Color will be determined by either a pan-tone color code that the customer provides, or by selecting from either a GCMI or pantone color swatch.  Once a color is selected, we will provide a physical sample of your color ink placed directly on the type of corrugated board your package will be made from.  Upon approval of both layout and ink choice a standard box (RSC) with your custom graphics can be produced within 5-7 days.  For custom packaging (6 corner tray), an additional 3-5 days may be needed to produce the tooling needed to cut the box.  Keep in mind that these lead times can vary and start once the art and color is created, rendered, sampled and approved.  Because of the wide range of media that can be utilized to create a print plate there can be a large variation in quality of art.  Because of this, lead times for art can range from a few days to months before final approvals are made.

Tooling Cost

While each project will differ in upfront cost based on a multitude of variables, it is important to understand that there are three main components that will add to the overall cost of adding graphics to your packaging.  As previously mentioned, the quality of the art a customer provides will determine if there is an art charge.  This can cost several thousand dollars for multiple edits and complete rendering of a concept graphic, or cost nothing for finalized art. Flexographic printing also requires a print plate to be manufactured.  This print plate can range in cost from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on the size of your graphics, amount of colors, and complexity.  For custom boxes, a cutting die may be required which again can range from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on size and complexity of the box.  Each of these charges are a one time charge and typically paid for before the final manufacturing process. Once we have procured the tooling Kelly Box will store and maintain a customers tooling for the life the tool itself or until a customer no longer needs the box.

Print Expectations

When considering flexographic printing it is always good to review examples of other projects and discuss them with your sales representative.  However, there are a couple points to keep in mind when evaluating flexo as it relates to your brand packaging needs such as the amount of color, graphic detail, and registration requirements .  Kelly Box provides two color flexographic printing with a potential third depending on substrate color.  The easiest way to determine what might work best for your brand is looking at a wide variety of samples and asking questions about the differences between the color, graphic detail, and registration.