Setting Packaging Artwork – 4 Common Mistakes

16 Sep 2020
Colour-blog image

Boiled down to just the fundamentals, packaging origination is taking on-screen design and translating it to real-world packaging, with the ideal combination of equipment to make it a reality. There is a common misconception that artwork origination is simply switching file formats – but the reality is so much more complex.

This can prove challenge for many newer or less experienced trade shops or brands taking their packaging process inhouse. There are a number of design and layout prepress pitfalls that can make packaging reprographics more challenging.

The last thing brands need is print disruption due to errors, which may not be picked up until it reaches the shelf, when it’s all too late and costs are incurred and along with brand reputational damage. With each stoppage in the supply chain, there are associated costs in terms of reprints, wasted material and time.

In this blog, we outline four of the most common mistakes seen in packaging artwork design and origination. Looking for a partner that takes the strain out of packaging artwork prepress to ensure packaging and labels that delight every time? Speak to the Creation team today!

Not accounting for dot gain

Dot gain is a phenomenon that can change how the ink laydown behaves. The diameter of halftone dots can increase during printing, becoming larger and less sharply defined. An experienced reprographics partner like Creation is able to minimise certain types of dot grain and recreate images more faithfully on the substrate, but it is often a phenomenon that can only be managed and account for; not removed.

Dot gain needs to be accounted for in the design process and delivered with plates that are linear. A typical tolerance of around 2% is common. There are calibration tools, screening algorithms and software options that can compensate for dot gain to ensure the physical print result matches the on-screen design.

Using the wrong colour model

When designing for print, there is a wide array of variables that need to be considered. For example, is the design making the best use of space? Have inks and substrates been selected in advance and checked for compatibility? Does the design require a specific kind of print process to be effective?

However, before elaborate branding visuals and impactful graphics can be established and developed, the correct colour model needs to be selected. In packaging and label design, there are two common colour models that need to be selected long before any design reaches the production stage – RGB (red, green & blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black (or ‘key’)).

RGB colour models are predominantly design for digital screens and electronic displays, which is why the model is commonly used in web banners, remarketing graphics, social media images and web-exclusive documents. RGB graphics look great on screen, but they don’t translate directly to print, which requires CMYK formatting to account for any tonal changes.

CMYK can create additional hues that RGB cannot, such as certain greens and oranges. When combined with spot inks or coatings to extend the colour gamut of the palette, operational efficiencies can be created for the printer in managing changeover of inks, but a wide array of impactful colours can be achieved. Often called Fixed Colour Palette Printing (FCPP) or Extended Gamut Printing (EGP), these ‘fixed’ systems offer significant benefits for cost management and productivity, as well as meet the brand owner’s needs in terms of accurate and consistent print realisation.

Attempting print at low resolutions

For faithful recreation that wows on the shelf, it’s a question of quality. One challenge to brands attempting in-house origination is creating artwork that’s too low-resolution for the print format – but running with it anyway.

Instead, create a 1:1 design that matches the specific dimensions of the final packaging. This requires additional collaboration and communication through the design and packaging supply process. Alternatively, a dedicated repro partner can manage this for you, reducing the likelihood of discrepancies, and the associated time and cost impacts. Avoid blurry barcodes, blurry imagery and fuzzy text by always working to the highest available resolution when setting artwork for print.

Forgetting sustainability

One mistake that’s beginning to have a real influence on the market is neglecting prepress as part of a wider sustainability drive. As the consumer is looking for products with a lower holistic carbon footprint, packaging prepress has a significant role to play. After all, a streamlined and digital origination process is invaluable for reducing waste of materials, time and energy through the reduction and elimination of errors.

In addition, there are print technologies that can directly reduce the carbon footprint of packaging before the packaging has even left the print line. Water-washable flexo plates such as the Asahi AWP™-DEW technologies offer a fantastic alternative to conventional flexographic plates.

The AWP™ plates shatter the misconception that sustainability has to come at the cost of performance or quality by eliminating the need for high temperatures or harmful VOC solvents in the plate production washout process.

The plates offer outstanding plate-to-plate registration, reduced odour in the platemaking process and reduced make-ready with fast run-up to colour thanks to its impressive dot stability and predictability. With consistently excellent ink transfer, a faster plate production time compared to solvent-based plates, combined with a drying time of just five minutes, the AWP™ plates offered by Creation offer a strong and demonstrable way to support brand sustainability through pre-press.

…So how can packaging design and prepress challenges be avoided?

As packaging design becomes ever more complex, why leave design and delivery success to chance? A true packaging and labels partner like Creation can bring specificity of knowledge to the process, with experience in delivering physical print that wows. Turning good digital design into great physical packaging isn’t as simple as a few clicks of a button, it’s a process that requires thorough knowledge of how materials and inks behave under given conditions.

Plus, the ideal repro partner should be able to help and guide even earlier in the process. A working knowledge of buyer behaviour and the commercial psychology is crucial to ensure a packaging design captures the attention on shelves – and not the competitors.

As the first physical touchpoint for the consumer, packaging shouldn’t just survive – it should thrive. Capturing the attention and the imagination in store begins with artwork origination that blends attention to detail with creative flair and the technical expertise to make it happen, no matter the substrate, spot colour or finish.

Get in touch with the Creation team today to find out more about how quality, sustainable reprographics can boost value proposition in store, support a consistent brand identity, reduce waste and even play a part in consumer-led sustainability!

Contact us on +44 (0) 1327 312444  or
and we’ll be happy to help