So far in this Marketing Manager blog, I have been getting to grips with the different types of flexible packaging, the materials used, the recyclable options available, and the logistics involved in Law Print’s business model.
As I continue my packaging education, I want to take a look at the way we print on the bags we supply. Printing can make all the difference when it comes to aesthetics. The techniques, the colours, the finish – I want to learn about that hi-res dog on the pet food bags and the shiny metal lettering on the protein powder – what goes on behind the scenes to draw my eye in?
Law Print’s ethos is: “Good packaging protects your product; great packaging protects your brand” – I’ve learnt about what makes packaging good (robust, space-saving and efficient materials), next I wanted to learn about what makes packaging great – shelf appeal.
Of course, customers care about environmentally-friendly packaging and want to see their products packaged in a responsible way, but that’s no good if the product doesn’t catch their eye in the supermarket. And that’s why I wanted to learn about printing.
Once again I turned to our Quality Manager Kevin Langan, this time to pester him about printing. He told me about Flexographic (or ‘Flexo’ if you’re hip) and Rotogravure printing, which are the two main options we are able to offer. He told me about the benefits and limitations of each.
Flexo printing has been around longer than rotogravure printing, and is perhaps the more ‘traditional’ option. Basically, it’s the one with lots of tiny dots. I had heard of it before, I just didn’t know the name. I said to Kevin: “Ah yes, like in old comic books”. He nodded politely and continued to explain that flexo is a ‘relief’ technique, like the letterpress technique used by typewriters. “Ah yes, like potato painting”, I interjected, beginning to sound like a nuisance child in a classroom. The dots are printed in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Ketone (Black), merging together to form other colours, indistinguishable as individual dots from afar.
Much more than ‘potato painting’, flexo printing technology is continually advancing, with improvements in the presses, plate making and inks – all of which has increased demand for this method of printing in packaging.
Flexo can be done at high speeds, meaning more bags can be printed in a shorter amount of time. Time is money, they say. However, the print quality and colour intensity isn’t always as good, this is why many premium brands will plump for the sharper results of gravure printing.
The newer way to print on flexible packaging is known as ‘gravure’ printing or ‘rotogravure’. It doesn’t print in dots like flexo, the process is capable of continuous tone. Large copper plated steel cylinders are engraved with the chosen design using a laser or diamond tipped stylus. It sounded pretty impressive to me. The engravings are referred to as ‘cells’ and are etched in differing depths, with deeper cells providing more intense colours.
I found it difficult to imagine, but this video helped me understand better – it goes into detail about how the cylinders are made.
Gravure is undoubtedly a higher-quality print with a more durable finish, but it can be more expensive, in terms of origination costs (cylinders).
They both have their uses, and each are the preferred option for various products. For more information about the pros and cons of each, click here.
There are two ways of producing the right colours for a customer’s printing needs – CMYK (as mentioned before) and Pantone (or ‘colour spots’).
CMYK uses the colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black in different quantities to create all of the colours in an image that is being printed. The new colours are created in a subtractive process in which light is removed or absorbed.
Pantone colours are a certain set of colours that will accurately match when reproduced in print because they are already pre-mixed. Basically, everyone has agreed on this set of colours, so there is a smaller chance of mis-matching and mistakes.
Law Print can offer packaging solutions printed up to 8 or 9 colours in Flexography for paper bags and up to 8 or 10 colours in Rotogravure for plastic bags, including the White backing layer and the surface Matt Varnish.
A lot of Law Print’s customers have their own design teams – we usually work with them to ensure that their designs are appropriate for the printing process in terms of colour, size, lettering, etc. We also have the ability to work with our customers to provide bespoke packaging designs from scratch, through our sister company Digital Creative Packaging (DCP). For more information about the lovely creative people we share a building with, visit their website here.
The more I learn about the company, and the packaging industry in general, the more I see that it’s more than meets the eye. Taking a look ‘behind the scenes’ to investigate the ingenuity, research and creativity that goes into packaging the products we see on our shelves has proven to be a real eye opener for me, and has shown me why more and more customers around the world trust Law Print to take care of everything involved with the process.