Box Basics: Pricing for Custom-Printed Boxes

Welcome to part one in a five-part series around box basics thanks to our friends at BoxUp! 

Why was the price higher?

On the surface, everything seemed pretty much the same versus a previous experience ordering a custom box. Same art. Same quantity. Same parcel delivery setup. But the price differed. It was higher.

This was not a complaint, but rather a search for answers. And this search turned out to be an education on the factors that go into the cost of custom corrugated boxes. In this customer’s situation, the answer turned out to be somewhat simple. They had switched box companies, and in the process of doing so, had kept the box the same – except for one thing – the length of the new box was an inch greater than the previous box and a half inch taller and deeper than the previous box. To the naked eye, they looked the same, but

Two boxes that, from a distance look very similar. One is 7” x 5” x 3”. The other is 8” x 6” x 3”. In the first, the area of printing is roughly 105 inches. In the second, 144 inches. That’s an extra 39 square inches. At a quantity of 200, 300 or 500, you can bet you’ll see a price difference. 

…in reality, the boxes were quite different. As an order of several hundred in quantity, an extra square inch on one side or another adds up to hundreds of additional square feet in raw material. Hearing this story led us to ask, can we arm Cratejoy sellers with the knowledge they need to feel comfortable buying custom corrugated boxes?

What else should I think about when ordering custom printed corrugated boxes?

Without getting a PhD in corrugated packaging, learning some at-a-glance essentials that can make you a smart shopper. We’ve teamed up with Cratejoy partner BoxUp in our boxing basics series. In the coming weeks we’ll share in-depth content about each of these areas.

Material Matters:
With fluting, that grooved middle-liner material that gives a corrugated box its structure, you’ll balance out the thickness of the fluting (or lack of in the case of folded cartons) with the finish of the ink application. Weighing the brand impact of kraft versus white? While there is a cost difference, white can best deliver the brand look and feel most customers want and need. And finally, there are different weights of the paper that make up corrugated cardboard.

Sizing your box:
As in the example above, an inch here and there can make a big difference. Printers base their pricing on the square feet of the flat box. So, what seems a minor difference when folded, can have a big overall impact to pricing of the finished piece. Does your supplier focus on a smaller subset of sizes or offer everything? Additionally, depending on your shipping provider, cubic feet can factor into the shipping cost to the consumer.

Ink Coverage:
Litho versus digital ink – when you need to understand the difference between water based litho and digitally applied CMYK color basics, click here. If you’re trying to figure out the difference between coated versus cured, you’ll want to consider the look you are going for versus the cost of the special coatings. Coatings give you a glossy sheen, curing provides an ink set and a slight sheen, but not glossy. Masking, the method by which the print area is established, affects how much ink is applied to the paper. You can go standard and most efficient for the printer or you can go beyond the standard mask, printing inside the box for example. You’ll want to consider the impact of additional ink coverage and how it affects the overall brand experience.

The Fear of or Joy of Missing Out? Do you love graphic design and consider yourself a design wiz? Great! What if you’re not proficient in graphic design? You can hire a professional designer. Or, you can look for DIY help. Don’t let a lack of design proficiency force you to miss out. With the right tools, you can get a great design and save some money. Speaking of bottom line – learn to manage the balance between your cash flow and the square footage of your workplace – high minimum order quantities can save you money- but you might lose your garage in the process. Stamps, stickers and other decorations are inexpensive – but you discount the value your time! In you’re in your start-up phase it can be easy to discount the value of your time, but remember, your business only grows when you spend your time on the most important things and only you can decide what those are. One more! From how far away are those finished boxes coming from? Factor in distance and the cost to ship in your overall expense – especially if you are shipping to a fulfillment center. It doesn’t take long for those fees to add up.

Did you know – Cratejoy members receive 5% off standard BoxUp pricing for custom printed corrugate boxes? Go to to get started.

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