Design tips

Designing custom product packaging

Perception is everything in selling. The packaging you choose for your product, and the message you impart, will play a large part in how successful your product is. And that success depends largely on how you control the message — the words and images you use, and how you use them, allow you to influence the consumer’s perception of your product.

Designing custom box packaging isn’t difficult — and will be quite effective — if you design your box from the consumer’s point of view. A well designed custom printed box also allows you to define your product the way you want consumers to see it. If you’re competing in a retail environment, you should be designing your box with the 2.6 second rule in mind. This is the average length of time your package has to persuade a consumer to pick your product up from a retail shelf.

So, with a sea of competitors out there, a lot is riding on your packaging. Here are a few ideas to consider in creating the perfect product packaging solution:

design tips info graphic

Box design elements

  • Spending time up front defining the look and feel of your product box on paper will pay dividends down the road.
  • Resist the temptation to “create the box on the fly” — this usually results in mediocre packaging.
  • Less is more. The most elegant, appealing custom box designs are usually quite minimalist.
  • Come up with a list of product benefits — how does this product help your potential buyer? Don’t confuse a benefit with a feature! A feature describes an attribute of your product, where a benefit tells a buyer what it will do for them. An old business adage says “features tell but benefits sell”!
  • Keep pictures and graphics to a minimum. They should demonstrate what the product does in a very clear manner.
  • Short, concise points make for the most effective product presentation. Rework sentences and points until they flow well with very few words.
  • Make sure your graphics and pictures support your points.


  • Balance your design, mix of colors, text and pictures until it all flows well.
  • Get feedback from colleagues — they can be your best critics, and can give you ideas you hadn’t even thought of.
  • Refine, refine, refine until you get just the right mix of design, colors and benefits (that customers care about!) that will be irresistible to consumers walking down the aisle.
  • Look at the boxes on our site — these are actual custom boxes. There’s a lot of creative, and clever, custom box design ideas demonstrating good packaging design.

Creating the box: How to pull all the packaging design elements together

Now that you’ve invested ample time defining and developing the design components for your new product package, it’s time to pull all of these components together and create a custom printed box that will make your product really stand out! Crisp graphics, concise copy detailing benefits and attributes, coupled with plenty of attention to detail will make your custom printed box really pop.

Make sure you have the correct size box: Click here to see how to measure for a custom folding carton box. If your product will be fitting the box tightly, make sure it isn’t too tight. A good rule of thumb is to leave 1/16″ in all dimensions. If we are printing your box we will provide you with a custom template. Just send us your product and we’ll create a custom design template for you to build on.

Don’t forget about paper thickness! Make sure you are using a paper stiff enough for your boxes. Your custom boxes have to survive being stacked, shipped, and handled without looking tired and worn. Paper thickness for boxes is measured in thousandths of an inch –or, in printer speak, points (pt.), and typically range from 0.024” (24pt. – credit card thickness, a good, heavy paperboard stock) to 0.010″ (10 pt. – business card thickness, very light, not good for boxes). Most custom folding carton boxes are printed on paper that is between 18pt. and 24pt. thick. Anything less than that, unless your product is very small, is asking for trouble. If in doubt, ask for box samples.

Colors: All colors must be converted to CMYK. This is four color process printing (also known as “CMYK”, or full color print). Pantone spot colors from the “Pantone Formula Guide SOLID COATED” may also be used. Note: there is a setup fee for each Pantone spot color used. If you want to print with Pantone colors, please call for a custom quote.

Bleed: A “bleed” is needed when ink will be printed to the edge of a box. Because boxes can move up to 1/32″ when being cut, you need to extend the ink 1/8” past the perimeter of the box. This will guard against a white line being unintentionally added to your printed box.

Text: Convert all text to outlines/paths when sending to us. This avoids font issues.

Safety area: Leave at least 1/4″ between graphics/pictures/text and the folds or edges of panels. You don’t want the graphics to become part of the panel fold, or cut off at the edge of the box. Remember, the paper can move up to 1/32″ as it’s being cut into a box after printing.

Pictures and graphics: Images need to be 300 dots per inch (dpi). This gives good, crisp graphics. Anything less shows poor picture quality. Images taken from the internet won’t work as they are generally 72 dpi. If you’re using a digital camera for your pictures, make sure the pictures are 300 dpi. Click here to find out the largest image size a digital camera can output at 300 dpi. Make sure linked images are embedded, or included when uploading.

Screen vs. printed colors: Don’t trust the colors you see on your screen or printer. A commercial printing press, which is what prints your box, uses a different system to print colors than what your screen or printer shows. Consequently, the colors will be slightly different. Use them as a guide at best. What looks good on the screen may not translate as well when printed on the box. For a true match of colors, consult a Pantone Matching System (PMS) book, this is the printer’s bible.

Resolution: Zoom in on critical panels. Don’t be afraid to magnify crucial areas in your artwork to make sure things are where you intend them to be. You’ll be surprised to find they aren’t as close as you thought.

Symmetry: Maintain symmetry in your design. A subtle, yet critical design consideration, symmetry registers in the mind subconsciously. Design elements that aren’t displayed in a symmetrical fashion look out of balance and detract from the final product.

Grammar: Watch for typos and spelling! This indicates sloppy work and inattention to detail. Customers will connect this to your product.