Chapter 5

Glossary of Terms

When you start comparing packaging quotes, and speaking to packaging reps, it can feel like you’re entering a whole new universe that you don’t fully understand. Like any complex industry, there are acronyms, terms, and practices that are well-established and can be daunting when you’re just starting out. One thing to remember — the shift of the packaging industry to online platforms is still relatively new — which means there’s a price that you pay for the convenience of shopping online. You can usually find the best deals when you email or call packaging representatives.

Here are a few key things to know if you start working directly with vendors on custom packaging:

Tooling Cost

  • Printing Plates - these are the physical things that print your packaging. There’s a whole lot of information on printing platesand some fascinating videos of the process — but the important thing to know is that most printing companies charge you a plate fee up front for anything custom. This is a one time fee, however, and once you’ve established a vendor, shouldn’t be charged again.

  • Die Cost - these are the physical things that shape your packaging. If you want a custom box size, for example, you’ll have to pay for the die that they’ll use to cut the corrugated cardboard to size. Like printing plates, this is often a one time fee at the outset of a new job and should not be charged again if you’re staying with the same vendor.

Digital Proof

This is usually a PDF of what the vendor is going to print. If they’re doing their job correctly, it should look the same as what you sent them. Do not ignore this — check, double check, and have someone else check the digital proof to make sure that information is presented clearly and there are no copy errors. This is the last chance you have before your packaging moves to a physical proof — and you’ve paid for plates & dies.

Physical Proof

Helpful, but usually not provided unless you ask for it. Often, vendors will charge you the cost of the plates & dies to get a physical proof, which can be prohibitively expensive, especially if you’re not entirely confident that your design is ready for production. One method if you’re doing a sleeve or sticker is to ask for a hand cut die and then physically tape a digital proof you print yourself onto it to make sure your design works. Kind of janky - but could save you $1,000!

These are the four terms that, if you’re new to packaging, can cost you money and time. If you want to know even more packaging terminology, consult this list.


Next Chapter

Packing Pricing

If you’re working with a vendor who doesn’t have their prices listed online, there are a few things you can include when you’re asking for a quote that will help expedite the quoting process (and save you precious time.)

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