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Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs

The importance of a product’s retail packaging in modern consumerist society is difficult to overestimate. The way that a product is completed from the place of fabrication to the storehouse and finally to the end-user is protected and accompanied by its retail packaging. The product handling without proper packaging could seem an amateurish, expensive, and muddy venture. Hence, retail packaging is what makes contemporary buyer marketing virtually possible.

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Giving a thought to this alteration in the 21st century, a need to reassess and revaluate package production and its design emerged. This conclusion underlines the significance of choosing the right packaging production methods, printing being one of them.

The objectives that packaging performs are not challenging to determine; nevertheless, they are essential for products’ realization. These objectives include, but are not limited to, transportation and storage facilitation, protection from deterioration or food spoilage, and retail selling overall (Robertson, 2016). On the other hand, the abundance of packages and their production techniques plays a vital role in advertising and product placement, thus creating one more area of competition for manufacturers.

Retail packaging when it comes to advertising performs a symbolic function: it signals to the potential buyer what lifestyle it stands for and communicates what consumerist it needs may satisfy. Thus, retail packaging in today’s society with regard to selling potential raises in importance to its content. Moreover, the retail package production sector constitutes a relatively large segment for industrialized countries’ gross national product (GNP) (Erceg & Volker, 2016). With end-users, having a variety of products exhibited in retail stores to examine, first, based on appearance, package production may have gained higher priority in the eyes of manufactures.

In order to understand better types of packaging and techniques of printing applicable to a folding carton with a three-color print, it seems necessary, first, to appreciate the history behind this invention. The modern production of the variety of wraps, boxes, and cases requires far more resources than in the old days. Today’s package production utilizes a number of printing methods to maximize the efficiency of the process.

Robertson (2016) enumerates these methods, “the conventional printing methods of relief (letterpress, flexography and flexo process), gravure or intaglio, lithography (offset) or planographic and screen or porous and the digital printing methods of ink-jet and electrophotography” (p. 243). Traditional methods of printing differ in the way ink is used in a printing unit, for instance, in a plate or a cylinder with further transfer to the substrate (Robertson, 2016). Among the enumerated methods, two stand out if the problem lies in the necessity to print on the folding carton with a three-color print first for small production and later for a larger one.

Offset lithography has different names – it is also called offset printing or litho, and it has become one of the most widespread printing techniques for certain types of mediums. Offset printing most often utilizes aluminum-printing plates, each having a depiction of the content that is to be engraved (Robertson, 2016). Offset lithography creates high-quality printing on both rough and smooth materials. Nevertheless, it is often used on materials with uneven surfaces such as cloth, wood, carton, and less frequently on paper and books (NIIR Board of Consultants & Engineers, 2017). This fact makes offset lithography an initially suitable printing method for retail carton packages.

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Moreover, offset printing is quite popular not just for mass-production, but also for production on a smaller scale. In this way, offset lithography succeeds in creating polished images; nonetheless, it is not that important for producing folding carton retail packages with a three-color print. However, this method may be used for printing that does not require high-quality images. Advantages of offset lithography also include cost-efficiency, making it the cheapest printing method and an excellent choice for initial stages of production (NIIR Board of Consultants & Engineers, 2017). In conclusion, offset lithography is quite a versatile method since it is used both on smooth and rough surfaces and is suitable for small productions.

Nevertheless, a different method also appropriate for printing on the folding carton exists and it would be more efficient when the product goes into larger production runs. What differentiates flexography from offset lithography is that the image is directly transferred to a substrate. This process is unlike the discussed above offset printing, where the model, first of all, is relocated to an intermediary carries and only after to a substrate (Robertson, 2016).

There is a number of technological differences between offset printing and flexography, which makes the second method more fitting for production that, is more massive. Flexography also uses a different type of ink and flexible plates, which allows it to be employed on a variety of substrates (Robertson, 2016). In this way, differences in printing technology make flexography the right choice for mass production.

Commonly, flexography is a printing technology that is utilized for high-volume productions. This method may be used for printing on a number of materials, for instance, on paper, film, laminate, foil, and carton (NIIR Board of Consultants & Engineers, 2017). Other examples of products, fabrication of which employs flexography, include newspapers and grocery bags – course materials can be printed in a cost-efficient manner, which is profitable for larger runs.

Overall, the advantages of flexography printing include high-performance production and profitability for large runs. In addition, this method employs rolls of substrates, in this way, allowing big orders to be printed without a layoff. Another advantage of flexography is essential for food packaging – this printing method allows ink to evaporate rapidly, thus making a package safer.

Considering all, the strengths of flexography exceed its weak points as long as this printing method is used for longer runs. When production needs shorter print runs, flexography fades in comparison to offset lithography, making the latter more efficient. That is why utilizing offset lithography for smaller runs and flexography when the product goes into a more extensive production seems like the most reasonable solution (Robertson, 2016). Ultimately, in the long-term usage, the equipment for flexography printing makes a tremendous environment-friendly investment.

The lifestyle of the contemporary industrialized population has changed the notion and production of packaging immensely. Nowadays, retail packaging has to offer much more than just transportation and storage facilitation, protection from deterioration, and food spoilage. Producing high-quality retail packaging is a crucial step in making a product in demand among today’s consumers who are hard to surprise. There is a number of tasks that retail packaging should perform, and the number is only increasing. Retail packaging should complete its primary functions, and nevertheless, in this competitive market environment, it should be more than just product protection envelope or an eco‑friendly container.

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Erceg, A., & Volker, T. (2016). Packaging in retail supply chains. Proceedings of the 16th International Scientific Conference Business Logistics in Modern Management. Web.

NIIR Board of Consultants & Engineers. (2017). Handbook on printing technology (offset, flexo, gravure, screen, digital, 3d printing) (3rd ed.). NIIR.

Robertson, G. L. (2016). Food packaging: Principles and practice (3rd ed.). CRC Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 1). Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs.

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"Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs." StudyCorgi, 1 Jan. 2022,

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StudyCorgi. "Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs." January 1, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs." January 1, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Offset Printing for Small and Large Production Runs'. 1 January.

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