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Printed Packaging

Friday, December 13, 2019

Packaging is the fastest growing segment in the North American printing industry. Especially in flexible packaging, and in markets like food, agriculture and home/personal care, the trend is steadily upward. We would therefore like to share with you information on the types of printing available, and the benefits of each type for printed packaging.


There are five main types of printing types in the printed packaging industry:

  1. Lithography (also known as litho or offset)--the image or text is etched on a plate and this plate goes through various “rollers” during the printing process using oil and water to print the appropriate image. It is a very high quality print where more than 4 color process is common. The print surface must be flat in order to use lithography. 

  2. Flexography (also known as flexo)--the print plates are made of plastic, polymer or rubber. The plates have a raised image and are mounted on printing cylinders. With this type of printing, each color uses a different print plate. It is ideal for products that need repeated patterns or images. The print surface must be flexible.

  3. Digital (also known as inkjet)--the process of transferring an image directly to packaging without tooling. It uses ultraviolet (UV) curable inks to print the images on the surface. The ink does not permeate the packaging it's printed on. The ink instead creates a thin layer on the substrate and further adheres to the surface over time due to the UV curing inks used in the process. It is said that this type of printing will continue to impact the packaging industry due to quick turn around times, little to no tooling fees and low minimums. 

  4. Rotogravure (also known as gravure)--an image is acid etched on a metal cylinder. One cylinder is needed for each color being used. The etched image has varying depth. If certain areas of the image have deeper etching, the more intense the color.

  5. Silkscreen--This process transfers your design on a sheet of acetate and then the design is transferred onto a mesh screen using photosensitive block and UV light. The ink is pushed through the mesh or screen and onto your packaging. This process is very slow and better suited for smaller runs.

Below is a summary, by print type, on the benefits as well as substrate that can use this type of print.








High Volume



Low Volume



Need Quickly



Small Budget



High Quality Graphic



1Types of Packaging 








Flexible Pkg

Stand-Up Pouches

Folding Cartons



Folding Cartons

Promotional items


Depending on your application and packaging material, there are obviously many options available for printed packaging.  At Murphy Packaging, with over 40 years experience, we take pride in educating ourselves on all the options available so that we can recommend the best options to our customers. We’ve helped companies with simple requests such as printing “do not double stack” on corner board to intricate designs on shrink film. Whatever your needs, our packaging experts can help you make the right decisions on printing.