Let’s look at some of the jargon and the technical issues or decisions you face. A wrong decision early in the project can have big ramifications down the track so knowing what you’re being asked to decide on now, will save heartache later.
Most printing presses use 4 colours of ink that blend together to produce every colour imaginable. This process is called CMYK and the initials stand for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). It is also sometimes referred to as 4 colour printing or ‘process printing’.
- Pantone Colours
If you have a specific logo and/or brand colour that you want to use consistently across all your printed items, you may want to consider using a Pantone or PMS colour in addition to the CMYK colours.
Pantones are referred to by numbers e.g. PMS485 is a bright red.
If you have several different pieces of print being produced on different materials and by different printers, by using the Pantone Matching System you’ll ensure that the colours are always consistent. Your packaging, leaflets and shelf wobblers will all match each other nicely.
Most design agencies will have several Pantone books that reference exact colours. Ask if you can see them to help guide your colour choices and to understand the exact colours your print will be. They’re very expensive, so they may not let you take them away!
Adding Pantone colours to a job does increase the cost of the print a little because of the extra processing time, but it’s not significant.
Pantone colours are also known as ‘Spot colours’ or ‘Special colours’.
If you want your product to look premium or highly designed, it’s likely that your design agency will recommend some sort of embellishment or ‘finish’. Here are a few different finishes that are common in packaging.
- Foil – This gives the super-shiny metallic looks that appear on a lot of alcohol packaging in particular. The process of applying the foil is known as ‘foil blocking’. There are very few companies in Australia who can foil-block. It’s likely that your printer will need to send your packaging to another supplier to get the foil blocking applied. Because of this, it can be an expensive option as you’re paying for transporting costs and the job being handled by two sets of people. It can be much more reasonable in China, however this comes with other costs/risks as discussed in Round 5.
- Debossing and embossing are two techniques used to imprint images onto paper, leather or vinyl. In embossing, an image is pressed into the material so that the image rises from the surface. Debossing is the opposite of embossing; the area around the image is pressed so that the image is pushed down into the material, rather than raised. There is a fairly high set-up cost with embossing and de-bossing, in that a metal plate needs to be created from which to create the imprints. However, once the plate is created, it’s yours forever and it’s fairly cheap to run more packs through the process.
- Metallic inks can be another way of adding a level of premium to your packaging. They are relatively cheap compared to foils, although the finish doesn’t have as much lustre as a foil. Your designer should have a sample book of metallic pantone colours that they can show you so you understand what can be achieved. You’ll then need to speak to your printer about the additional cost of printing with a metallic ink.
Your pack can be made from a plethora of different materials. For example:
- paper/cardboard cartons
- rigid plastic containers
- flexible plastic packaging
- aluminium containers
- steel containers
- glass containers
- composite packaging formats
- ‘bio’ material formats
- labels and stickers
The packaging that your product is housed in will affect:
- The dieline for your pack
- How your designers set up print files
- How you store and transport the product
- How easy it is to recycle the packaging
- How well the packaging protects the product
- The preservation of the product – e.g. best before dates, especially if it’s a food product
- How easy it is to use the product
- The cost of your production
- How much space you have for wording, photos and other design features
- Whether your customer can see your product before they buy it
Ensure that you have considered all of these items before selecting a packaging material and discuss it with your designers if you have any concerns or questions. Your guideline in making a packaging materials decision will include factors like what the competition does, where you are selling your product and storage and transport requirements.