example of a custom printed box

Bespoke printed boxes are the ideal way to improve or maintain your brand’s first impressions in a world where packaging has become the new customer face to face. The most common question is: How much do custom printed boxes cost? With so many factors to consider, the answer isn’t a quick one. It will depend on (and is not limited to) the size you need, the volume you want and even your deadline. Then you have to decide whether you are happy with an off the shelf product or do you need something more bespoke? You will also need to think about your product and if this might require single or double-walled boxes for better protection depending on how it will be sent? Who knew choosing a humble cardboard box could be complicated! So, let’s take a closer look to see exactly what you get for your money when purchasing customized printed boxes.

Custom printed boxes

Custom printed boxes

What are the Factors that Contribute to the Cost of Custom Printed Boxes?

The size of the box

Generally speaking, the bigger the custom printed box you need, the more expensive it will be.  This is because the more material that’s used in the manufacture, the more the base cost will be.

Also, going over a certain size may necessitate printing the box on a larger and often slower print machine, which can double or triple the print element of the cost, just because the box is a few mm larger than the maximum size on a faster print machine.

When using multiples of sizes of boxes in your packing operation, you can save costs by getting multi-scored boxes.  Rather than ordering several short runs of cartons with varying depths, you buy larger numbers of the deepest size you use.  Remember that each size of box will have its own print set up cost, and so having a ‘one-size fits all’ will reduce the costs significantly due to economies of scale, especially on short runs of custom print. Cutting down with a knife will enable you to adjust the depth to accommodate what you’re sending out. Multi-scored boxes don’t affect the cost but it will take a little longer to complete the packing process due to the manual adjustment. The multi-scored solution does mean you will buy bigger boxes than you need some of the time, so there’s that to bear in mind.

The strength of the box

carboard Box construction profiles or cross-sections

Box profiles – which one you choose can affect prices on printed boxes

If your packed products are large, heavy or fragile, it’s unlikely that single wall will be sufficient. The first option is to upgrade to double wall, which adds that extra rigidity and strength.

If the carton must be light but extra-rigid, a heavier board grade to standard would mean a slight price increase. Kraft (K) is the normal outer of corrugated board. Available in a range of thicknesses; 125, 150 and 300, with 150KT (Kraft Test) as the standard used for printing on. You may be glad of professional advice on which one to choose.  It comes either brown or white (unbleached or ‘bleached’ respectively) and provides a smooth medium on which to print. The inside face of the board is generally a term called Test (T). This is softer and provides some cushioning to the contents of the carton. It is also weaker because it contains 100% recycled paper.

For very large boxes, an EB flute carton (see illustration above) would achieve strength but is more expensive than single or double-wall. A professional would be able to advise if and where this may be necessary.

The colour of the box

Obviously, the further processing of paper to achieve a white finish increases the cost of the custom printed box over natural brown, but it will be necessary to use white if your artwork requires print colours to be accurate. Brown Kraft is rarely printed on with colours other than black (and possibly dark green and blue) because the darker background will tend to affect the ink colour.  Full-colour flood print is best on white boxes, whereas a simple black logo print will show up well on brown boxes, allowing you to benefit from the lower cost of the brown carton, as well as single-colour print being a lower cost than full-colour print.

The quantity of printed boxes you order

With branded boxes, the higher quantity that can be made at one time the cheaper the unit price will be. In other words, it’s a numbers game. That explains why plain cartons in standard sizes for stock are always so much more of a commodity product. Some manufacturers can print in smaller quantities, but there will be a minimum order quantity depending on the style and sizing you require.

One very effective way of getting the cost down is to use a supplier who is able to print a larger quantity of cartons and hold them in stock for you until you require the next batch. Commonly known as consignment stock, this will help avoid filling your own storage facility with pallets of boxes! 😊

The style of the custom printed box

FEFCO Box styles for custom printed boxes

Some of the FEFCO box styles available

The style and complexity of the box can also affect the cost. Whilst the range of styles may appear to be bewildering, the FEFCO carton style 0201 is most popular and cheapest to produce. Supplied glued and flat, the long flaps meet and the short flaps come well short (except in the case of a square-bottomed carton). The economies come from the cartons being made on a high-speed slitter machine and don’t require a cutter (like a die-cut carton would). You will most likely need to use a fair bit of tape to close the ‘gap’. The use of clear self-adhesive tape will avoid covering your printed message if your design comes near the top or bottom of the box.

This style is considered to be low-security. A die-cut product such as 0203 or 0205 will greatly reduce in-transit losses if you are packing desirable items such as consumer electronics, perfumes and expensive giftware. Your supplier can discuss these options further with you.

And last but not least, the print on the boxes.

  • The fewer colours that are used, the cheaper it is.
  • It doesn’t matter about the coverage of the box, if you want to flood coat the box it would be the same cost as having a small logo on just one side of the box. However, there would be an extra cost for the setup due to the number of printing plates required.
  • Is the above really true? I thought if it was a high ink coverage it adds some cost but the extra cost is really in the set up due to the size of the plates required?
  • For shorter runs, the box may be printed digitally in a few colours. There are no further origination costs after finished artwork, but the unit cost per custom printed box will be more substantial than in-line print using ink.
  • Where custom branded boxes are for retail use (not transit outers) any special finishes will increase the box price. The carton will be die-cut (See FEFCO styles such as 0429) and use a fine corrugated board (such as e-flute). Options can include printing full-colour including photographs, foil blocking or spot UV, having the box PE coated, UV varnished, or laminated. These options can be explored further with your supplier.

Examples of the cost of custom printed boxes.

Below you can see how much you could expect to pay using standard sizes of Double Wall cartons.  This is based on a quantity of 500 cartons (so buying more would be cheaper) and on 1 colour print.  Additional printing colours will add to printing and origination costs. From this example, you can see how the 6 things we have looked at here all play their part in the ultimate cost of customised boxes and branded boxes. A word of caution here too as we find ourselves in a perfect storm of a post-Brexit UK, the Covid crisis as well the huge spike in demand for online shopping – this is all playing a part in escalating prices. Working with a trusted supplier right now is the best way to safely navigate through this current situation. So these prices are correct as we go to print but maybe subject to change due to market fluctuations.

Custom printed box prices

Custom printed box prices

Does the cost depend on the supplier?

In a nutshell, yes.

Online companies where you can make your own choice, upload your artwork and process your order without talking to anyone will likely be cheaper.  However, you may receive something that isn’t as expected and there could be costs incurred to put it right. We recommend you speak to an expert who understands the industry. They can advise what is going to work for your requirements before you spend any money.

Packaging partners and larger companies could be slightly more expensive, but you can have peace of mind that you’re not just a number on the system. You will also be given expert advice on what works best for your requirements. The supplier may also agree to supply a one-off sample, cut specially to the dimensions as ordered if the size is bespoke.

What’s the process to get a quote for custom printed boxes from Acopia?

A member of the team will get in touch to discuss your ideas.

  1. Together, we’ll establish what you’re looking for and make sure we’ve understood your requirements and can share your vision.
  2. We will agree the style of your box that best fits your products/s and review your artwork if you have any. If support is needed to adapt your artwork, we can help get this sorted for you.
  3. We’ll then find the best solution for you. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with the costs and sometimes options that could work best for you.
  4. Once you’ve chosen, we’ll get the artwork drawn up and back over to you for your approval.
  5. Once everyone’s happy, your boxes can go to print. We can either deliver to you or hold in our warehouse ready for you when you need it.

Ready to start your next project or just need some help?  Talk to us today – get in touch using the form below.

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