Digital Printing for Packaging: An Introductory Guide

carton laminating at press

Product packaging is often your first chance to make a positive impression on consumers. Whether your products are sitting on a physical shelf in a store or in an online shop, appearance can make or break a sale. Digital printing for product packaging allows you to take full advantage of this valuable real estate. It offers an exciting way to capitalize on advertising space and engage your target audience with your brand messaging. Digital printing on boxes also allows brand owners to adjust their product packaging design more rapidly and cost-effectively than traditional printing methods. In this post, we’ll explore what digital printing is, the many benefits of using digital printing for packaging, and when and where it works best.

What Is Digital Printing for Packaging?

Digital printing is a direct print process that applies ink directly onto the product packaging. Unlike conventional printing methods, most digital printers use toner and liquid inks that don’t soak into the material they’re applied to. UV curing or laser heating adheres the ink to the product packaging to ensure a crisp, quality finish. In contrast, traditional print methods like litho lamination and flexography use prepared print plates and cylinders to transfer the ink to the surface of the packaging. The inks are then partially absorbed by the substrate they’re applied to.  Since digital printing doesn’t require a print plate before printing begins, this method is ideal for short-run packaging printing. 

Is Digital Printing Effective for Packaging?

Digitally printed boxes can be created with stunning visual effects, faithfully reproducing the gradient and details contained in original design files. Digital printing will render the full CMYK spectrum of colors and works on a range of paper materials, but it’s ideal for use on certain types of paper materials like folding cartons. For more complex, textured materials like corrugated cardboard or chipboard, traditional print methods may be a better choice.

Learn more: How to Choose the Right Packaging for Your Products

color targets and color swatches for digital printing

Benefits of Digital Printing for Packaging

Digitally printed boxes have a lot going for them. As digital printing methods improve, the quality and flexibility of this new, more modern approach to printing product packaging is growing in popularity. Here are a few of the reasons why digital printing for packaging could be an ideal fit for your printing and packaging needs.


Digitally printing your product packaging rapidly accelerates the time it takes to move from the initial design concept to the finished product. That’s because digital printing doesn’t require a print plate to be created first, bypassing a time-consuming process. Digitally printed cartons can also be produced on-demand as they’re needed — no waiting required.


Creating print plates and setting up a traditional printing process is time-consuming and labor-intensive. This additional effort increases the time it takes to create a finished product and also adds a significant cost premium. 

Rapid Prototyping

Digital printing supports the rapid production of product packaging prototypes, making it easier to pilot various designs and packaging configurations in a way that’s both quick and cost-effective. Getting your product packaging spot-on is important. Digital printing technology gives you the freedom to experiment, so you can be confident the finished product is the version most likely to resonate with your target audience. 

Customer Responsive Designs

Today’s top brands understand the importance of relationship marketing. Companies that succeed in creating a strong connection with their customers are thriving. Modern consumers want products (and the packaging that goes with it) tailored to them. The digital printing process is naturally suited to supporting small, bespoke product packaging production runs. This makes it easy for brand owners to create digitally printed boxes customized around holidays, promotions, or targeted customer demographics. Digital printing also better supports rapid prototyping, allowing packaging designers to iterate new product packaging designs quickly and affordably. This freedom ignites creativity and innovation that’s very difficult to achieve using traditional printing techniques. 

Eliminate Minimum Order Thresholds

With no complex setup required, digital printing technology allows you to create small batches of product packaging on demand. Digital printing prints your product packaging design directly on the board, significantly reducing the complexity of a production run. In contrast, nearly all traditional printers require a minimum order to make it worth their time and effort to prepare the printing equipment. At Sttark, we don’t have minimum order quantities for label printing or folding carton printing services.

Supports Just-in-Time Inventory

Being able to print small batches of product packaging quickly and at low cost supports brands seeking to run leaner and more efficient operations. Keeping less inventory on hand allows companies to use their operating capital more effectively while remaining responsive to the ever-changing demands of their customers. 

Less Waste

Digital packaging printers can prevent excess printed packaging. Traditional package printing techniques, on the other hand, tend to create a fair amount of waste. These methods tend to favor larger runs that often result in product packaging going unused. When branding or product specifications change, obsolete product packaging either ends up in a landfill or a recycling center. In contrast, digital printers excel at creating small runs of product packaging to meet the current need. Carrying less product packaging in inventory also reduces costs and preserves operating capital.

Environmentally Friendly

Digitally printed boxes aren’t just good for the bottom line — they’re also better for the planet. This method produces few spent ink cartridges to spend eternity in a landfill and creates less air pollution than conventional printing processes. 

Learn more: Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Packaging (+Examples)

Is Digital Printing for Packaging Right for You?

Digital printing comes with many benefits for business owners looking for new, more affordable ways to enhance their products. But this versatile alternative to more traditional product packaging methods isn’t necessarily the right choice for every application. We have years of experience with product packaging and industry expertise to bring your vision to life. If you have any questions about digital printing for your product packaging, don’t hesitate to contact the Customer Care Team by phone or Live Chat! Our team is ready to serve your business with care and excellence.

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