Digital Versus Flexo Printing: How to Choose the Right Option for Your Labels

Digital vs Flexo Label Printing

There is no shortage of options when it comes to the way your labels are printed. Much like any other industry, label printing has seen major advances in the last decade. It seems like every day there is a new technique or a new type of varnish that you can use to make your labels pop.

As someone who’s been at the forefront of this industry for many years, we can say without a doubt that this is a good thing. But we also recognize how hard it can be for customers to choose between the myriad of options. 

Sometimes, the terms can be confusing too. Should you care how your label is printed or should you only care about the final result? Well, the way your labels are printed always influences the final result—and your budget. So, yes, you should care about the printing process.

You’ll learn new terms, like flexo printing and digital printing. But don’t worry—they’re not complicated concepts, they only sound like they are. Let’s shed some light on two styles of printing we use for our customers’ labels.

Digital and Flexo Printing: What’s the Difference?

First things first: both processes can create high-quality labels that stand out and look great. But the process used in each method is entirely different.

How Flexo Printing Works

Flexo printing is the older technology between the two, but this doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. Briefly put, flexo printing works just like stamping. The process involves the use of rubber printing plates that have certain elevations in order to form the image that has to be printed.

label flexo plates

The rubber plates are attached to cylinders that, in turn, are rolled over the surface to be printed. Needless to say, it’s quite an involved process.

Whenever you change something in your labels (even something small, like the net weight), you will need new plates, which of course, costs money. 

In other words, flexo printing is ideal if you have large batches of labels to print and if you are fairly certain that you won’t change anything to your labels for the foreseeable future. The more labels you print using the same plates, the more the plate cost is offset and the better your ROI and price per label.

However, flexo printing comes with the advantage of true color match for any Pantone color and a plethora of options for your labels. If you want to print your design on a specific surface or include foiling or lamination, flexographic printing is the way to bring that vision to life. 

label flexo printing

At Labeltronix, you have another way of minimizing your flexo printing costs. Our HD Flexo printing process uses digital plates, which considerably downsizes the setup process yet still delivers outstanding high resolution labels. Read more about HD Flexo printing here

How Does Digital Printing Work?

Digital printing doesn’t use plates. Instead, it prints your design on the label material by applying toner directly to it. This makes the setup process much faster and less costly. However, the printing itself takes more time. 

With digital printing, if you want to change something in your label design, you can simply do that in your digital files and send the new labels to print—with no major setup costs. 

label digital printing

On the other hand, if you want to add lamination or foiling, your labels will have to undergo a new process. 

Moreover, it’s often hard to print exact matches for your colors since digital printers use a mix of toners. If you have a precise Pantone color you want to print, flexo is much more reliable for this than digital. 

At Labeltronix, we use digital printing with sustainability and cost optimization in mind. Learn more about digital printing at Labeltronix

The Verdict: What Makes more Sense for Your Brand

As always, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Depending on what you need, either of the two printing processes could make more sense.

But there are some rules of thumb you can use as guidance.

For instance, flexo printing is the ideal choice if you:

  • Need longer runs of the same labels.
  • Have complex, layered designs 
  • Want additions like foiling or laminating
  • Require a fixed Pantone color

Digital printing is your safest bet if you:

  • Use complex graphics that are hard to replicate on flexo plates
  • Have more than one SKU of the same size—you can print them in the same order and save both money and time
  • Need variable printing for a promotion or a limited-time offer

Still not sure which is the best option for you? Don’t worry, you don’t have to make this choice alone. We are happy to advise you on which process is ideal for your budget and for the desired output. Get in touch with our label printing experts today and let’s find the ideal solution for your brand together!


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