Sep 05, 22

Understand the printing lingo


If you’re a first-time packaging buyer the print lingo might not be so straightforward. But don´t you worry – let’s go through some common questions and terms together.

What is CMYK?

CMYK stands for four ink colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key/Black. With their help, you can achieve a high range of different colours. Each ink colour is printed separately on a printing press, and the combinations of these inks enable quite a large variety of different colours, known as the colour gamut in print lingo. 

What is a spot colour?

A spot colour is a premixed ink which you use if you need an ink colour that is exactly the one in your brand guideline or outside the CMYK gamut. The most well-known system is Pantone Matching System (PMS).  

What does 1 + 1 and 4 + 4 mean?

If you want just a single-colour logo, text or slogan on your packaging, then one ink colour is often enough. This would commonly be black or premixed Pantone ink. In print lingo, if the reverse side also uses only one ink colour this is abbreviated as 1 + 1 (pronounced one over one), and 1 + 0 (one over zero) if the other side is left blank.

If you need to print something more advanced, then you would probably need to use all four ink colours or even more. This is also called full colour printing and abbreviated as 4 + 4, 4 + 1 or 4 + 0 depending on what you want to be printed on the reverse side of the material. Most modern offset printing presses have more than 4 ink stations enabling you to combine CMYK with one to two Pantone inks or varnishes.

At Circulate we understand that this might sound like Greek to most people and we would never ask you to specify your packaging needs in the number of inks. If you describe what you want to print on your packaging or send us the artworks we will help you specify your packaging requirements according to the right print lingo.

How do you choose between offset and digital printing?

When deciding which printing technique, you should choose there are several different parameters to take into consideration, such as budget, volume, deadline, the material of the packaging and requested print result.

Budget and volume: The setup preparation is more time consuming for offset than for digital printing. Therefore, offset can be considered quite expensive for small runs but becomes cost-efficient for large volumes since the effect of the start-up costs then become insignificant.

For digital print, the setup time is rather short compared to conventional printing. Also, the minimum order quantity is often lower for digital print than for offset. Another strength of digital print is the possibility of variable data e.g. if you want each packaging to have a unique serial number or the text in different languages. 

Print quality: Digital print will often get the job done and offer you satisfactory results but the print quality from offset is one of the best. Offset print can achieve very detailed images and exactly the right colour as specified in your brand guideline. 

Material: With offset you can print on thicker materials e.g. rigid packaging, while printing thinner corrugated packaging can be achieved with both digital and offset. Printing white on kraft (natural brown paper) can be done with some of the high-end digital print presses, however, it is not achievable with offset printing.

Deadline: Choosing printing technology based solely on lead time is not something we recommend but in case you’re in a hurry and need your packaging produced for a very tight deadline – digital print probably is the best choice for you.


What are the benefits of double-sided printing?

Double-sided printing means that you print both the inside and outside of your packaging. This is a good option to make sure that your packaging box truly connects with your brand and leaves a good first impression. Customized boxes with a unique print on the inside can make the customer even more excited about the product while unboxing. You can surprise your customer with a message or a colour print that makes it easy to remember your company. You can also use the space to communicate with your customer by adding a story, instructions or a QR code that leads to your website. 

Still confused? Let Circulate find the best packaging solution for you – contact us here.