The best printing method for your design

Basic printing methods

Letterpress printing

A traditional relief printing technique in which text and images are pressed on to the material.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • Ink feed is regulated and applied using rollers.
  • Relief technique - elements to be printed are higher on the plate than areas to be left blank.
  • Uses photopolymer printing plates.
  • Inks used are in paste form.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper).
  • Non-absorbent materials (film).

BENEFITS

  • Low dot gain.
  • Produces good quality halftone images.
  • High-quality reproduction of detailed images, for example, faces and food.
  • Great choice for premium quality labels such as cosmetics and wine.

DRAWBACKS

  • Expensive and complicated printing unit setup.
  • Only partly suitable for heavily textured materials.

Flexo printing

A popular relief printing technique developed from the older letterpress method. Text and images are applied using relief plates.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • Ink feed is regulated by grooves in an anilox roller.
  • Relief technique - elements to be printed are higher on the plate than areas to be left blank.
  • Photopolymer printing plates are the most popular plate type.
  • Uses very low viscosity inks.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper).
  • Non-absorbent materials (film).

BENEFITS

  • Printing unit inexpensive and simple to use.
  • Quick setup time.
  • Suitable for all types of material.

DRAWBACKS

  • Higher dot gain than the letterpress or offset printing techniques.
  • Halftone images are not quite as sharp as the letterpress or offset methods - but results are constantly improving.

Offset litho printing

A high-speed and cost-effective printing technique, well suited for high-quality text and image reproduction.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • Uses both ink and a dampening solution.
  • Printing plates - areas to be printed and areas to be left blank are on the same plane.
  • Hydrophilic and hydrophobic process - blank areas are covered with a dampening solution, while printed areas will be covered with ink.
  • Waterless offset printing replaces the dampening solution with a silicon emulsion, but is only suitable for narrow web offset presses.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper).
  • Special inks required for non-absorbent materials (film).

BENEFITS

  • Low dot gain.
  • Produces excellent quality halftone images.
  • High-quality reproduction of detailed images, for example, faces and food.
  • Great choice for premium quality labels such as cosmetics and wine.

DRAWBACKS

  • Expensive and complicated printing unit setup.
  • Longer press setup time.

Gravure printing

Gravure presses are typically used for long run, high-quality printing. Printing is fast and can be applied to a wide range of smooth materials.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • The gravure plate cylinder rolls the ink directly onto the substrate.
  • The ink is regulated by the grooves and recesses in the gravure cylinder.
  • Uses very low viscosity solvent-based inks.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper).
  • Non-absorbent materials (film).
  • Note: typically used on corona treated films, as solvent-based inks soften water-based acrylic top coatings.

BENEFITS

  • Produces high-quality images.
  • Fast printing method.
  • Very economical for long runs.

DRAWBACKS

  • As the gravure cylinder is expensive, long runs are recommended.
  • Solvent based inks.

Digital printing

Technology that prints directly on to a substrate from the data of a digital file.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

HP Indigo and Xeikon - the main press manufacturers

HP Indigo

  • Uses digital offset technology with liquid toners called ElectroInks.
  • As this technology sets high requirements on the printing substrate, UPM Raflatac's HP Indigo products have a special topcoat to ensure good print quality.

Xeikon

  • Based on LED electrophotography.
  • Requires the printing substrate to have an optimal and uniform resistivity, which can only be achieved through correct and uniform moisture content and good material formation.

BENEFITS

  • Profitable with short to medium print runs
  • No plates required
  • Fast turnaround
  • High-quality prints
  • Reduced waste
  • Able to print on a wide range of substrates

Digital label printing is typically used for food, pharmaceutical, industrial chemical and special product labelling.

Special effects

Screen printing

Screen printing is a relatively simple process that allows heavier layers of ink and decorative inks to be applied to designs.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • A woven mesh forms the screen through which ink is pressed onto the substrate.
  • A stencil on the mesh prevents ink from being pressed through certain areas of the mesh in order to create the design.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper).
  • Non-absorbent materials (film).
  • Note: difficult to obtain sufficient ink adhesion on corona treated PP films.

BENEFITS

  • Heavy ink layers are possible.
  • Ideal for opaque areas on clear-on-clear labels.
  • Textured printing can be achieved, for example Braille printing.
  • Decorative inks, such as metal inks, can be used to add something extra to your designs.

DRAWBACKS

  • Screen printing is a relatively slow method.
  • Screens are exposed to mechanical stress, and therefore not extremely durable.
  • The use of UV curable inks can cause the ink layer to be brittle.

Hot foiling

Foiling is a decoration method ideal for premium-style design elements such as mirror and hologram effects. Hot foiling is the traditional foiling technique.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • The substrate and a ribbon carrying metallic ink pass between cylinders in the press.
  • The ink on the ribbon is transferred to the substrate by pressure applied by a heated embossed brass cylinder.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper)

BENEFITS

  • Simple method that produces results quickly once it is set up.
  • Adds a premium quality element to your design.

DRAWBACKS

  • The heated brass cylinder with embossed design is expensive to produce.

Cold foiling

Cold foiling is more economical than hot foiling on short runs. Ideal for decorative and premium-style design elements, it does not deform flexible face materials.

Details

THE TECHNOLOGY

  • UV-curable adhesive is applied using a flexographic unit to the areas of the substrate where the effect is desired.
  • A ribbon carrying the specialised ink is passed through the unit, against the substrate.
  • The adhesive is cured with UV light, so the ribbon leaves the specialised ink behind on the surface of the substrate.

SUITABLE MATERIALS

  • Absorbent materials (paper)

BENEFITS

  • More economical than hot foiling.
  • Adds a premium quality element to your design.

Other special effects

Embossing, varnishing and overlaminating are other effects that can be applied to labels to give them something extra.

Details

EMBOSSING

Embossing is the process of using pressure and heat to created a raised or recessed surface, for example, creating raised lettering. This effect is popular on spirits and cosmetic packaging.

VARNISHING

A thin, flexible coating of varnish is applied as the last step in the printing process. It serves both an aesthetic and functional purpose.

OVERLAMINATING

A very thin transparent film is applied to the surface of the substrate to provide extra protection.

Letterpress printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Flexo printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Offset litho printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Gravure printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Digital printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

HP Indigo and Xeikon - the main press manufacturers

HP Indigo

Xeikon

BENEFITS

Digital label printing is typically used for food, pharmaceutical, industrial chemical and special product labelling.

Screen printing

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Hot foiling

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

DRAWBACKS

Cold foiling

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THE TECHNOLOGY

SUITABLE MATERIALS

BENEFITS

Other special effects

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EMBOSSING

Embossing is the process of using pressure and heat to created a raised or recessed surface, for example, creating raised lettering. This effect is popular on spirits and cosmetic packaging.

VARNISHING

A thin, flexible coating of varnish is applied as the last step in the printing process. This serves both an aesthetic purpose - increasing the gloss - and a functional purpose - protecting the print.

OVERLAMINATING

A very thin transparent film is applied to the surface of the substrate to provide extra protection.