How to print on plastic cards: tips for creating your design

Packaging

After choosing the packaging material for your product, there are other important decisions to make to ensure the packaging is perfect and a cut above the rest, and guarantee it will attract the attention of the consumer. One of these is how best to print the packaging and personalise the product.

Let’s look at how we print on plastic cards and what aspects you have to bear in mind when creating your design.

PRINTING FEATURES FOR PLASTIC MATERIALS

The first thing you need to remember is that plastic has many advantages over other materials, but there are some characteristics you need to bear in mind to achieve the perfect printing. The quality, resistance, versatility and efficiency of plastic, as well as the fact it is easy to process, make it ideal for packaging many products. However, it is also important to remember that it does not absorb fluids, easily attracts static electricity, and that special inks are required for certain types of plastic.

PRINTING SYSTEMS FOR PLASTIC PACKAGING

Before learning about how to print on plastic cards, let’s look at the most innovative printing systems and the ones SP Group works with on a regular basis.

ROTOGRAVURE

This printing technique is suitable for plastic, and offers high quality graphics with images and blends that permit a high level of detail and complexity. It consists of printing the plastic film with cylinders that have the design finely laser-engraved onto them. It is ideal for long runs with designs containing a lot of blending and elaborate artwork. 

FLEXOGRAPHY

This printing system uses a plate with relief that provides the print area. It is a rotary technique that directly transfers the image onto the surface and allows any type of flexible material, such as plastic, to be printed. It is perfect for designs that require strong, bright colours in medium and long runs, although it is advisable to avoid blends as it is not the best technique for fine details.

OFFSET

Thanks to our new COMEXI OFFSET CI8,  SP Group’s offset system combines hybrid offset and flexographic printing making colours more opaque and providing incredible definition. It is ideal for short and medium runs with a high rotation of designs, or for combinations of designs in a single run. The inks it uses are also quick-drying and hard-setting.

DIGITAL

The digital printing system does not need any plates or other additional elements – it sends all the information from the computer to the card printer, using 7 colours of ink. The quality is very high, similar to offset and rotogravure systems. It is the perfect system for short and very short runs for specific campaigns and promotions.

HOW TO PRINT ON PLASTIC CARDS: STAGES OF THE PRINTING PROCESS

PRE-PRESS

Before the printing plates are created, there is an important stage prior to printing, called pre-press, which covers all the phases between design and printing. The aim is to achieve a result that is as close as possible to the original design. So, what does the pre-press process involve?

  • Digitisation of the material: the material provided, such as original photos, texts, images and digital archives have to be digitised.
  • Artwork rollout: the materials need to be adapted in terms of resolution, colour, size and format to the type of printing to be used with graphic design programs such as Photoshop or Indesign.
  • Print-ready file: this phase consists of creating a perfect composition of the page to generate a print-ready file, for example a PDF, which will be sent to print.
  • Proof: before the final printing, a proof has to be made. This is the phase when the design is checked for errors.

PRINTING

After the pre-press stage, the printing can begin. This process is the culmination of all the previous work and aims to achieve a perfect result. So how do you print on plastic cards? What do you need to bear in mind?

  • The behaviour of the material in the printing press. It must be checked to ensure it as quick and efficient as possible, as well as guaranteeing it is the best possible quality.
  • The surface tension of the film.
  • The type of anilox, line screen and printing blankets used.
  • The dampening solution. This helps cool the ink and the rollers, and must be monitored.
  • Use of varnishes or coatings.
  • Use of additives.
  • Drying process. In order to achieve a quick dry, it is important to avoid large amounts of ink.

If you would like to learn more about printing on plastic cards, visit our webpage for detailed information on all the printing systems SP Group offers. You can also contact us directly, we will be delighted to help!


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