The Best Printing Method To Use On Cardboard Packaging Boxes

The importance of choosing the best printing method for cardboard packaging boxes is paramount. 

For instance, creating custom packaging cardboard boxes is crucial for legality, brand identity, sales presentation, safety, and a smoother shipping experience. Additionally, safe packaging also ensures to a customer that you care about the product’s safety. 

So, what are the key methods that you can use for cardboard box packaging? 

Let’s find them together. 

Techniques For Printing On Corrugated Boxes

Nowadays, two common techniques being used for cardboard box packaging are direct and pre-printing. 


  1. Direct printing is the most popular method used for printing on cardboard boxes. It is also known as the “post printing” method, which means to print on the box directly. For instance, directly applying the ink on corrugated boxes. It can easily be done with flexography or digital printing methods. 
  2. As the name suggests, Pre-printing means printing a design on paper first with some cool designs and then using it over the corrugated cardboard boxes. This method is widely popular to achieve quality printing results on cardboard packaging boxes.

However, which method you should prefer for printing on cardboard boxes is something we will also discuss. So, keep reading. 

Key Printing Methods for Cardboard Packaging Boxes

Unique cardboard boxes can surely help you showcase your brand and create a memorable unboxing experience. 

Several printing methods can be used to create custom packaging cardboard boxes, and here we will discuss each in detail. 

Flexography Printing

Flexography is the most renowned method used for cardboard packaging boxes. It can easily be printed on various materials, whether ruff or smooth, with a great finish. Flexo printing is also quick due to minimal setup and effective speed. 

However, quality images can also be printed on cardboard boxes using flexography.

The process of printing on cardboard boxes using flexography involves the use of flexible rubber or photopolymer plates with raised image areas that are mounted on rotary cylinders. However, when the substrate passes between the inked plate and an impression roller – the inked design is transferred onto the cardboard.

Cost-effective method for High-volume runsLimited color reproduction, especially for CMYK
High-speed printing capabilitiesLess suitable for high-resolution imaging
Versatile and adaptable to various substrates.Initial setup costs can be relatively high.
Well-suited for simple to moderately complex designs.Requires skilled operators for optimal results.
Suitable for a range of inks and substrates.You might find it difficult to see color as bold

Offset Printing

Another printing method for cardboard packaging boxes is offset printing, also known as offset lithography or litho lamination. 

It is an excellent and cost-effective method to print cardboard boxes, especially if you need high-quality images and printing of an extraordinary design. In other words, lithography lets you print an exact recreation of your design created with any packaging design software.

The process of offset printing involves creating a printing plate with a desired image. After that, the plate is inked with the ink adhering to the image area. Next, the image is transferred from the plate onto a rubber blanket and finally onto the printing surface, such as cardboard or paper. 

You can also consider this printing method as an indirect transfer that ensures a consistent high quality.

Good for high-quality prints with sharp detailInitial setup costs can be high
Cost-effective for large print runsLonger setup time compared to digital printing
Versatile for various printing SurfacesNot as cost-effective for small print runs
Pantone color matching capabilitiesWaste generation due to setup and make-ready processes
Ability to print on a wide range of substratesLimited variable data printing capabilities
Excellent reproduction of color and detailsNot as quick to change designs between print jobs
Consistent and reliable printing resultsRequires skilled operators for optimal performance

Digital Printing

Digital printing is the one that satisfies every need for printing on cardboard packaging boxes. And as the name suggests, you will no longer require costly plates. This is why digital printing is also cost-effective. 

Moreover, its quick setup and high-end results also set them apart. 

The process of digital printing begins with a digital image being sent to the printer (provided by any offline or online product designer). Here it is interpreted and translated into a series of electronic impulses. These impulses control the deposition of toner or ink onto the printing substrate, such as paper or cardboard boxes.

Quick turnaround timeHigher cost per page compared to offset for large runs
Variable data printing capabilityLimited color range and spot color matching
No plate setup requiredToner-based prints may lack the depth of the ink in offset
Cost-effective for short print runsLimited substrate compatibility, especially for textured surfaces
Lower setup costsOutput speed slows down for large quantities
Wide customization and personalization optionsPotential for color inconsistencies between print runs
Suitable for on-demand printing and small jobsToner prints may be sensitive to scratching

Screen Printing

An alternate or quite similar printing method for cardboard packaging boxes is screen printing, also known as silk printing. 

It is a highly suitable method if you need bold graphics, illustrations, or solid color implementation on cardboard boxes. Also, a most recommended method if you are running small or medium print runs.

The process of screen printing starts with the preparation of a mesh screen stretched tightly over a frame, which is then coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. A film positive of the desired design is placed on the coated screen and exposed to light. After washing, the unexposed screen is ready for printing. After that, ink is applied to the top of the screen, and using a squeegee, ink is evenly spread over the substrate or cardboard boxes. 

You will get high print quality with vibrant colorsTime-consuming for detailed and complex designs
Versatile – suitable for various substratesCost-effective for large quantities but less so for small runs
Durable and long-lasting printsLimited detail in fine text and intricate designs
Allow printing on dark substratesSet-up costs and time can be relatively high
Ability to use specialty inks and finishesLimited color options compared to digital printing
Suitable for large production runsNot as cost-effective for variable data or small custom runs
Ideal for printing on textiles and apparelEnvironmental impact due to chemicals used in screen coating


To conclude, choosing the best printing method for cardboard boxes depends on what kind of outcome you need from a specific project. 

For instance,

  1. Flexography is suitable for large print runs and cost-effective for simpler designs.
  2. Offset or Lithography printing is ideal for high-quality prints.
  3. Digital printing is suitable for short runs and wide customization.
  4. Screen printing is ideal for vibrant prints over various substances.

All you need is to identify the complexity of your design project and cardboard packaging boxes, then choose the one that best suits your business model.