Litho vs. Flexo Printing

Both lithography and flexography are printing techniques used to produce packaging, maps, books and other printed paper materials. While each method is used for a different purpose, each has its upsides and downsides regarding cost, quality and function. Read on to discover the differences between litho and flexo printing and learn when to choose one over the other.

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Floral printed box

Lithographic Printing

Litho printing stands out from flexo, digital and other techniques in that it involves laminating printed sheets on top of your mailing box. Instead of directly applying color to shipping boxes via stamping, litho printing is a two-step process that consists of applying ink to a printing plate before transferring it to a rubber blanket. From there, the ink is passed on to the printing box.


The second process used for box printing is lithographic lamination. The print is first made on paper and then laminated on the box for a premium, glossy finish.

Modern litho printing is a high-end, magazine-quality technique that uses an offset process. In fact, it’s the go-to technique for vibrantly colored printing in large quantities.

Flexographic Printing


Flexography is a high-volume, reliable printing process that involves applying logos and images directly on a shipping box. Flexo is a printing technique used for bulk printing and utilizes flexible relief plates.

A flexographic printing process uses an anilox roll to distribute ink onto a printing plate.

When to Go the Litho Printing Route

If your media is mostly flat, litho printing may be the way to go. It’s also best for designs that have intricate details and photographs that call for full-color prints. Litho printing works best on paper and flat cardboard mailing boxes.


Other benefits of lithographic printing include that it:

  • Uses less ink than flexography
  • Produces high-quality maps and packaging where regionalization and special effects aren’t priorities
  • Allows for high-color detailing
  • Is widely available

When to Go the Flexo Printing Route

One of the most significant advantages of using flexo printing is that it works on a wide range of substrates — non-flat media included. Flexographic printing is an ideal choice when you’re dealing with a minimalistic design with bright, solid colors. Other reasons to choose flexo over litho printing follow:

  • Unlike litho printing, flexographic plates can be used more than once.
  • Flexo printing involves a more economical production process — manufacturers can print and cut the boxes in a single run.
  • This option is ideal for printing a large number of boxes that do not require color detailing.
  • Flexographic printing can accommodate slight variations in print or easier changeovers for short print runs.
  • This solution offers a more affordable, more straightforward setup process for special printing effects.
  • It can handle coated papers, cardboard and other unusual substrates.
  • It’s compatible with both water-based and oil-based inks.
  • Flexo printing can be used on any non-absorbent material.
  • You won’t have to manage wear and tear.

Litho and Flexo Printing at Bolt Boxes

As the fastest custom box manufacturer in the world, Bolt Boxes is committed to meeting the needs of our customers in every possible way. Because we do everything in-house — designing, printing, manufacturing and delivery — you’ll receive real-time support from initial inquiry to final product shipping.

We offer litho, flexo and digital printing capabilities as well as custom printing options for a variety of mailing packages, such as RSC shipping boxes, C-series mailer boxes and end-loading custom boxes. Other reasons to create your own custom box with us include the following:

  • We have over 99% on-time product delivery.
  • We’ll provide our pre-press expertise, as we’re G7 Master Certified members of the Fiber Box Association
  • We maintain ISO certification.
  • Our extensive structural design experience will ensure top quality.
  • Our products contain nothing but 100% recyclable materials.

Design a Custom Printed Box From Bolt Boxes

Whether you desire digital, flexo or litho printing to market your brand, Bolt Boxes has you covered. If you already work hard to market your brand, it only makes sense to take that further step with flexo, litho or digital printing. Ready to get started? Create custom printed mailing boxes with our online configurator, or reach out to our team to learn how we can take your boxes from plain to branded.