How to get the best from printed packaging and labels

How to get the best from printed packaging and labels
Ant Bap
Ant BapBlumarlin Label and Packaging Consultants

Posted: Thu 18th Apr 2019

Getting the very best from your printed labels and packaging is a powerful way for your small business to make its presence know in the market.

Here, printing consultant Anthony Baptiste shares insider tips to keep your cost on budget, your project on time and the print result that you want for your brand.

The need for packaging and labels

You had the spark of imagination, you took the plunge and now your product, your idea, your 'baby' needs printed packaging or labels. So what's next?

First a graphic designer, design completed, next a printer and finally a commercial packer. There are many things that can go wrong in this process, and here is how to dominate the major hurdles, avoiding stress and saving time and money.

The best approach is a joined up approach. These three key players in this production need to be on stage all at once.

So, what does that mean? When you are speaking to your designer keep the printer and the packer in the loop. If you want to keep things in check with all three, then hire a print consultant.

A print consultant will be able to manage the process for you. They are the hub between your graphic designer, the printer and the packer. They are more than a project manager as they have experience, skills and understanding of the entire process and the technical requirements required at each stage.

However, if you want to do it yourself here is a short guide.

What to ask your printer

Can I have my print on X date? Not designed it yet? It does not matter. The vast majority of commercial printers will have a lead-time of anywhere between four weeks to two months. During busy periods it may be longer. If a company has promised you shelve space you do not want to miss the date.

Printers have existing customers who are already in the queue so you need to join early to ensure that your project in on time. Print consultants usually have a list of reliable print partners who they can recommend.

What is your minimum order quantity? Don't assume that if you need 75, 000 copies that there is no problem. Printers know the cost of their inks, set-up and wash-up costs. Minimum orders may be in metre, kilos, tonnes or impressions depending on the particular printers standard form of measurement.

Do they have the stock materials to print on? Check that your material is in stock as a standard stock item. If a special material is required, check that it can be delivered on time.

Also is the material right for the job e.g. is permanent adhesive, correct barrier film or is a two-ply box required? Does the printer stock an alternative?  If you are just starting out its often cheaper to use a stock item. Gather at least three quotes.

What to ask your packer

What printed sizes can you pack (packaging) or apply as labels (labelling)? Ask them what sizes they can fill and if they have a cutting form. This is a key question. A cutter is the size that the packer's equipment can work with. It shows the front back and sides of your bag, pack or box.

As for labels, speak to your printer and they will advise the list of their standard cutting shapes. Special shapes or sizes cost more. If your designer does not ask about these, then you have selected the wrong person to design for you. Ensure that the labelling and packing equipment can do the job and that they arrive on the correct diameter cores (usually 75 or 100mm)

Can I have my product packed by X date? Packing dates should be pre-booked as with print dates. Allow at least two weeks between the two dates things can go wrong.

What to ask your graphic designer

Will they create your colour palette or will they work to your palette? They must have a pantone colour chart for colour selection, as this is the accepted print industry standard for colour matching. A colour palette is the fixed set of colours of your brand. Colours set the tone, mood and personality of your brand. They are the most powerful part of how you communicate with the buyer. Consistency is the buzzword.

Have they every designed for packaging or labelling? This is absolutely critical, as an experienced designer will know the minimum legal text size, legal information required, correct layout mandatory information.

Because this is quite lucrative, many designers are switching to packaging or labelling design without the training or experience needed. Failing to ensure that all product technical information falls within government guidelines will be costly. Select designers with at least two years experience and or have a print consultant work alongside him or her.

Will I get colour accurate printed proofs? OK, so your designer can create beautiful designs on screen and the glossy prints from their printer make your heart flutter. Sorry folks, that's only good enough to check layout and text.

Because of the varieties of software, monitors, printers and their associated colour profiles, there will vast differences in what you view on a screen, a PDF or a printout. A colour accurate proof, when viewed in close to natural daylight, will give you a more accurate representation of what the finished commercial print will look like.

The last thing that you want is money tied up in useless print. Your print consultant can attend your print run either on your behalf or with you to ensure that the print is what you require.

Finally, you have decided to go it alone so remember there are no silly questions. Have clear communication with all parties involved in producing your print. Use a unified approach. Or hire a print consultant who can be a both a jargon buster and critical eye in the process from design to print which saves you time, money and stress along the way.

Relevant resources

Ant Bap
Ant BapBlumarlin Label and Packaging Consultants

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