Does the following product to aid designing/making product packaging exist?
September 1, 2010 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Does this product to aid d.i.y designing and making of product packaging exist? Also, a few other questions about designing and producing box packaging.

I make tea that I want to sell in boxes with dimensions roughly similar to this or this.

I'm all set on the tea but I need help regarding the packaging, specifically the box that encloses the tea. I have time, visual design chops, and no money so I want to experiment on my own as much as possible before I give up and pay a professional to do this. Professionals also prefer high production runs and demand for my product will not be high enough for awhile.

First question:
Do any companies sell glossy, pre-scored (i.e., ready to be folded) cardstock-grade paper such that I can design the box artwork in photoshop, print my box art onto this paper on my high quality home printer, and then cut and fold the paper myself to make a respectable-looking box? After extensive googling I can't find anything but I doubt I'm using the correct terminology.

Second question:
If the aforementioned product does not exist, what creative, clever, and cost-effective ways can you think of to solve this packaging problem? How does one procure low-volume, high-quality, boxes for 10-15 tea bags when one has barely any money to spend on it?

Third question::
Does anyone know if photoshop (or anything else) templates exist for designing boxes similar in size to those linked above? I can't find any for the life of me and I think it would help the speed and quality of the results of the design process.
posted by acehigh to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Republic of Tea sells their teabags in cans/tins. It would be really easy to print labels on a printer and then glue them onto cans. Have you thought about finding a cheap source for blank cans of this type? Or does it have to be a box?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2010

Does anyone know if photoshop (or anything else) templates exist for designing boxes similar in size to those linked above? I can't find any for the life of me and I think it would help the speed and quality of the results of the design process.

Buy a box you like, unfold it carefully pulling the glued seams apart, then put it on a flatbed scanner. Trace the outline and seams from the scanned image.
posted by Mike1024 at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2010

No, there aren't scored blanks like you describe. The boxes that you want aren't in any standardized size. Neither are there any readily-available templates, probably for the very same reason. You could easily make your own template, simply by measuring an existing box.

Places like Hobby Lobby might sell small gift boxes that might work for your needs. But, you'd have to print either stickers or a paper sleeve to fit on the box in order to put your brand on it. You might also think about finding a source for those small Chinese restaurant take-out containers. You might be able to procure a small supply of unprinted blanks. Just a thought.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2010

While I can't answer this, I know where you can get an answer. Go to the Forums at Etsy. You will find that tons of help in the community->forums from home artists, soap makers and such. They have locations they can suggest to you. Being an avid supporter of, I know this community to be abundantly generous with time and advice.
posted by eatdonuts at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2010

Some craft stores will stock plastic templates with lines for easy scoring and cutting. For that matter, they may even have die-cut machines for rent/in store use with paper you purchase there.

You might be interested in a book like this, which comes with a CD with package designs. With a vector editing program (like illustrator) you can scale them to suit your needs (and an a4 sheet), add your logo/whatever, then print. It'll take lots of patience and practice to get something professional looking. Get a folding bone, rulers, self healing cutting mat, lots of blades for your xacto. Expect hand cramps.

If you had access to a laser cutter you'd be able to churn these out in no time.

BTW, the reason high production runs are preferred is that these will cost you easily 10 times more per unit (not counting your own time) than a larger production run.
posted by fontophilic at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

@rabbitrabbit: great suggestion. Definitely doesn't have to be a box. I'm totally open to creative solutions like this as long as I can maintain the look and feel of a quality product.
@Mike: I like the idea, but I think (perhaps naively) that the scoring is what makes the folds look clean, professional, and easier to do.
@eatdonuts: That didn't occur to me but Etsy probably would have good suggestions. Thanks!
posted by acehigh at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: @fontophilic: can you clue me in on what "high" means in terms of a production run? I know that is the exact phrasing I used in my question but I don't have ideas of what that means in terms of a figure. Do you know the minimum amounts that printers (or packaging companies?) would want? Apologies for the ignorance here, this is unfamiliar territory.
posted by acehigh at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2010

Rishi Tea, until recently, sold their tea in white boxes that had the labels added as stickers. I think they had one sticker on the front (picture, net weight, etc.) and one on the back that may or may not have been the same.

How about these? Here are some white ones and brown ones available in different sizes.
posted by Madamina at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: Lots of factors will go into this here. First would be determining if you want a custom die cut cast, or if you can use a premade die that the printers have or can rent for you.

If you have a custom die cast, the cost per unit will drop with increased volume as the die is a one time expense and you'll own the die afterwards. (Fun fact: you can then rent that die or sell it afterwards and recoup some costs.) Eg. the die might cost $500, but $500 over 5,000 boxes will cost less than over 500 boxes.

Likely there will be a die you can use for a one time rental fee, or a per unit fee. If it's a per unit fee, volume of your order won't matter. Each print house will do this differently.

And finally, theres digital vs offset printing. With offset printing you have a large sliding economy of scale, as setting up the press, plates, and inks is a per job expense. It won't make sense to set up a whole offset press to print 50 boxes. Digital presses don't have as much set up costs, and their cost is strictly per unit which can be more expensive than offset. Digital is a good choice for low volume runs. Offset is generally higher quality, but digital is good.

Each job will have its own digital vs. offset "break point" where it will become cheaper to do an offset run as volume of units increases.

A 50 unit offset run might cost $2/unit. A 500 unit run might be $0.25
A 50 unit digital run might cost $1.50/unit. A 500 unit run might be $1.25/unit

With digital, there doesn't need to be a minimum. Plus most print shops are hurting so much right now, I doubt they'd refuse a job as too small.

So, call around, ask print shops if they have die cut capabilities and a digital press. Spec out your job, (what kind of card stock, how many colors, how many sides to be printed), and ask for quotes with a per unit breakdown in 3 or 4 ranges.

It'll be an investment for sure. Of course as a graphic designer I'd like to tell you that investment will pay off with increased brand confidence and recognition, yada yada.

If we're talking like, you might need 6 boxes for the next few months, make them your self. If you're doing 10 boxes a month, a 120 unit run will be cheaper than the wrist tendonitis physical therapy bills.
posted by fontophilic at 1:17 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't have to come out of the gate with a perfectly packaged - designed to a t- tea.

If you have a great tea, people will drink it no matter what. My favourite tea (nicknamed "crack" tea where I first came upon it) comes in plain white foil-lined bags with the company's sticker. The other major tea shop around the corner also puts their tea in ziplock foil bags. (the shops sell it loose or by the bag) (like so).

If you had to pay yourself to go to as much trouble to hand-make boxes to suit your vision as you're describing, the cost of your tea would have to be astronomical. Further, you have an ingestible product, so likely it would need to be a food-safe set-up, and handmaking boxes may not pass codes.

So, maybe keep it simple, and focus on selling your tea, not on playing store - a simple bakery box from a retail supply store and quality stickers will get you going until your business can pay for its own fancy box design. Or, one of the coffee bags. But the cardboard boxes you showed have either cello wrapping in supermarkets, or factory-sealed bags inside to keep the tea fresh, and that's the important part.

But, you might also want to take a look at a book called Craft Inc. Little businesses like that are fun, and I know because this is something I'm good at after years in retail and selling and working for a business that supported many such "indiepreneurs" - but ultimately the goal is to be profitable, and you need to pay yourself. Sure, your dream is probably the whole package - but the product is the product no matter what's on the outside and that's what will ultimately sell. And if you ever find someone to buy your product to produce it on a larger scale, the package design may need to change anyway. Make it easy on yourself, get going with the actual selling part, and the rest will come in time.
posted by peagood at 4:31 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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