What is Flexographic Printing? Here’s How It Works

person holding a flat cardboard box with flexo printed design

Have you ever wondered how we turn plain corrugated cardboard into amazing, branded boxes? Well, you’re in luck because this blog has the answer. We use flexographic printing at Echo Cartons, which is a simple method that stamps your boxes with designs. Here’s a brief rundown on how the flexo print process, plus our expert tips for getting the most from your designs.

What is flexographic printing?

Flexography, or flexo for short, is a printing process that transfers designs onto a wide range of materials like cardboard, paper, plastic and metal. The name comes from the flexible plates which are used to print designs.

Flexographic printing is not a new process – it has been around since the late 19th century. It was originally known as letterpress; the method that launched the modern publishing industry. Of course, technology has changed quite a bit since then. Modern flexo printing is much more precise and high-quality than its predecessors.

Get up to speed on important packaging lingo with our glossary of common packaging terms.

How flexo printing works

The best way to describe flexo printing is to imagine a big stamp. In the past, these stamps were made from rubber but these days they use photopolymer – which is a form of flexible resin. In the warehouse, these plates are known as flexo stereos. Below is an image of our flexo stereo wall. We store 2,000+ plates for our clients; ready to print boxes at a moment’s notice.

person picking a flexo stereo for printing

We make boxes using high-tech Flexo Folder Gluer machines. To setup the machine, the customer’s flexo stereo is wrapped around machine cylinders. Inside the machine, these giant stamp plates are being rolled into ink and then pressed against your boxes. These box makers can print, fold and glue up to 300 units per minute.

Tips for the best flexo print artwork

Flexographic printing can create great boxes – it’s why we use it. Having said that, the simplicity of the process means there’s nowhere to hide. If your brand design is too complex or not optimised for the flexo print process; your boxes won’t look great. We’d hate to see your amazing brand vision fall apart when you go to print it. So, we developed some best practice tips for flexographic printing. Here are 5 examples:

  1. Make sure you’ve created a Vector Art file
  2. Use a minimum font size of 10-12pt
  3. Flexo print uses PMS U colours (not CMYK, RGB or web colours)
  4. Avoid grey scale imagery
  5. Line art works best for a high-quality print

The complete guide features 17 flexographic print tips. Get your copy 100% free on the downloads page.

a grid of 12 cardboard boxes with flexo printed designs4 advantages of flexo printing

There are lots of printing options available to you, from flexographic to offset, digital and lithographic printing. We choose flexo printing for a range of reasons, such as:

It’s cost-effective

Compared to other print methods, flexo printing is super cost-effective. Once you have a flexo stereo created, it can be used for millions of print impressions. Engraving the flexo plates is low-cost, and the inks preferred by flexo print machines are usually less expensive than the ones used in other print methods.

Get more ideas with our top tips for reducing your packaging costs.

Fast production times

Like we said earlier, our box machines can print up to 300 boxes per minute. Any faster than that and we reckon you’d be pushing the boundaries of quality for the sake of speed. But it’s not just high-powered machines that make it quick, it’s also the ink. Flexo printing uses low viscosity ink which dries quickly and helps avoid smudges.

In a rush? Here’s how Echo Cartons handle packaging rush orders.

Suitable for industry standards

Certain industries, like pharmaceuticals or food and beverage, have strict safety standards to adhere to. Anything from what kind of ink they use to the packaging material may be set out in industry standards. Both the flexo print process and corrugated cardboard packaging are widely accepted as safe in regulated industries like these.

Did you know that corrugated cardboard helps fresh food last longer?

Great at solid colour printing

A lot of other printing methods have to build up multiple layers for solid colour printing. Not the case for flexo printing. The photopolymer plates are able to get a solid, rich colour in one go. For a smooth appearance with solid colours, we recommend leaving a margin in your design. Our team are always happy to advise on the flexo printing process – or any other box questions you might have. Find our contact details on the website.

One of Melbourne’s preferred cardboard box suppliers

With more than two decades of experience in corrugated box manufacturing, Echo Cartons are industry experts. We pride ourselves on our friendly team, fast service and great quality boxes. Based in Braeside, Melbourne; we’re the packaging supplier of choice for Australian SME’s. When you’re ready to kickstart a packaging order – simply request a quote.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top