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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: The Importance of Good Cartoning

What could be more boring than the cartoning of printed products? After all, the job is complete before this step, once it has been stitched, folded, and trimmed. But is this really true?

As a standee installer for five years now, I have seen brilliantly crafted, large format print standees, complete with intricate die cuts, that have been bent or crushed in the carton by not having been adequately secured for transit.

All that time. All that money. Plus the cost of shipping. And then the final product gets mashed or creased. What this does is reduce the marketing impact of the large format printed piece. And it could have been prevented with sensible cartoning.

The same is true for boxes of print books or brochures, or any other print product. What a loss.

What I Request From Book Printers

I just sent specifications for a case bound book to two printers for revised pricing. One line of the specification sheet reads as follows:

Books will be packed in 275# single-wall RSC cartons.

What this really means is that durable, corrugated cardboard boxes will be used to protect the shipment of books. Another option would be double-wall cartons, which would cost more but offer even more protection.

What makes corrugated board ideal for this kind of packaging is the combination of its light weight and durability. The fluting gives the corrugated board strength without adding bulk or heft.

Don’t Pack Too Many Books Into One Carton

One of my print brokering clients also includes the following line in her specification sheets:

Boxes must not exceed 40lbs.

Boxes that are too heavy will not only strain freight handler’s backs if any portion of the job must be broken down and moved by hand, but heavy boxes are more easily dropped, leading to damage of the contents.

Consider Bumper-end Mailers for Individual Books

Another creative approach to packaging I’ve seen and have since specified for some clients is the “bumper-end mailer.” This is ideal for those who need to send out books individually to their customers.

Once the corrugated boards have been cut into carton blanks, the carton walls can be folded up and glued in such a way that the boxes have extended ends (like bumpers on a car). These unused portions of the cartons stick out toward the front and back of the boxes and act as shock absorbers to prevent damage. If the carton (which holds only one print book) is dropped, the ends of the carton get banged up instead of the book it contains.

Thoughts on Cartoning the Standee Kits

I realize that perfect bound books neatly stacked in piles in corrugated cartons will always be more secure than irregular, die cut portions of a large format print standee sent to a movie theater in a corrugated carton weighing 50 to 100 pounds. And the weight of the box of unassembled standee components will always make it more liable to damage. However, perhaps something can be done. In five years of standee installation, I’ve seen a lot of damage that my fiancee and I have had to repair.

Here are some thoughts for packaging standees and other intricate printed pieces to ensure their integrity upon arrival:

    1. Pad the boxes. Additional cardboard supports can be used to wall off sections of a corrugated box to protect its contents. If some elements are of different weights (some heavy and some light, packed together), sectioning off the carton or adding foam inserts can protect the contents of the box.


    1. Use more than one box. Particularly in the case of large resin statues of movie characters, the film studios have recently been sending out unassembled components of statues and large format print standees in multiple boxes. In other cases, heavy items like electric motors have been separated in the larger cartons by first being inserted into smaller boxes.


    1. Keep the scrap pieces on the die cut figures intact. Let the installers remove the extra cardboard. Delicate items like arms and legs (or pirates’ swords) will arrive in more pristine condition if the extra corrugated board around these die cut elements has not been removed before cartoning.


  1. Consider strapping together pieces of a similar size within the main carton with plastic strapping wire. These grouped items could then be stabilized with paper filler or packaging peanuts.

What You Can Learn from This

I once had a client who printed a series of die cut keys, which were attached to a metal key ring. Marketing material was printed all over the keys. If packaging requirements had not been considered at an early stage, all of these items could have been damaged in transit, rendering the marketing initiative a waste. We even sent samples to ourselves in different kinds of envelopes to see what traveling through the mail would do to the job. We experimented. Moreover, we left time in the schedule for this experimentation.

Even if you never design anything as large as a movie standee, it still behooves you to consider the physical requirements of packaging printed products for shipping. This applies to any print job. Think about what will need to happen to ensure that the printed products your customers receive in the mail arrive in as pristine a condition as when they first rolled off the presses.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: The Importance of Good Cartoning”

  1. Jordan says:

    Excellent tips here. There’s a lot of the custom printing process people don’t think of – I think your story about the die cut keys is a great example.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you find these tips helpful, and I hope others do as well. There are so many things to consider in printing. Most of these I learned the hard way. Hopefully others will learn from my experience. Please keep reading the blog.


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