Where can I order a small run of custom printed boxes?
July 3, 2012 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Could anyone recommend a website where I can order a (very) small run of (relatively) inexpensive custom printed storage or portfolio boxes? Or, alternatively, could you help me concoct a long lasting, elegant, DIY alternative to custom printed boxes?

I'm working on a family history project that involves grouping a small number of prints, booklets, single sheets of paper, and assorted small 3-D items together, and I thought it would be neat to present them in boxes with custom printing on the cover -- ideally an image and text cover layout that I designed myself, but just text would be fine too. Nothing going inside the box would be larger than 8x10.

I need no more than 10 boxes, although I'd be happy to buy more than that if they aren't extremely expensive, and I don't really care what material they're made out of as long as they can withstand gentle handling.

The main problem I've run into is that local printing companies I've approached have either quoted me prices much higher than I'd like to pay ($100+ per box) or refused to do runs of less than 150-250 boxes. Similarly, the online retailers of custom gift, storage, and portfolio boxes that I've come across require high volume orders.

I checked out the suggestions from this question, but the places suggested only do high volume orders.

I've thought about printing onto a sticker and then sticking it on the cover of a plain box, but I'd really prefer a much cleaner, more professional look. Also, I'd love for the boxes to be long lasting, and I'm concerned about the longevity of stickers / ink exposed to the elements on the top of the box.

I'm open to any DIY suggestions; I'm fairly capable at executing DIY projects, but terrible at thinking them up myself.

Anyway, I absolutely understand that such a service may not exist, and my cost / volume requirements may be unreasonable, but I figured if anyone would be able to point me toward a good retailer or DIY (or even help me better articulate what I need to local printing companies) it would be a mefite. Thanks in advance, all!
posted by cimton to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: If it helps, here is an example of the type of box I'm thinking of, and likely the sort of box I'd be DIYing to meet my needs if I'm unable to do custom printing.
posted by cimton at 11:37 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I do think you're going to have a hard time finding a company that will print a run this small. The setup charges would be prohibitive. So let's set that aside.

If stickers are out, consider printing a label and attaching it in other ways: you could rivet your label to the cover, or stitch it on.

If the boxes are light colored, you could cut a linoleum block and print directly on the boxes. This would have more of a rough-hewn look.

There might be someone in your area with a laser cutter. They might be able to burn your design into the cover (laser cutters can be used to just burn off a tiny layer of material, rather than cut through), although the cutter might require that the cover be flat.
posted by adamrice at 11:42 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Not sure if this meets your needs, but: we label our archives boxes using these little polyester sleeves that adhere to the side of the box. They get handwritten labels until the collection is fully processed, and then it gets a nice printed one. It's not super quaint or particularly pretty, but it's neat and clean and lets you make changes.

BTW, Hollinger Metal Edge (linked above) is a fantastic resource for all kinds of archival boxes and whatnot.
posted by gyusan at 11:54 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: This might work better for a box with a separate lid (as opposed to clamshell style), but what about covering the lid with paper (something like this technique), and have that paper custom printed in advance? You can get short run posters in small quantity from lots of places (one of my favorites is PSPrint). In essence, you'd be custom printing wrapping paper for your boxes/lids.
posted by agentmitten at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I think you're going about this wrong. You're trying to make a manufactured-looking product, but your run is too short for manufacturing to make sense.

But mass-manufacturing emerged (and to an extent remains) the cheap and nasty way to do something when your run is too large to do something really nice. We associate it with quality because it makes more money than doing quality work. So instead of our range of experience being from amateur to mass-produced to master bespoke, our range is typically just from amateur to mass produced..

You don't mention your budget, but if your linked items are $16, you could be thinking about similar shaped/sized boxes in wood or metal instead of cardboard. And if you eschew off-the-shelf wood boxes+emblems, you could design your own run of laser-cut - and laser-engraved - boxes, via a place like Ponoko.

Or you could use off-the-shelf boxes, and just make your own engraved metal plaque for them, the same way. etc.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you got fabric boxes in white, you could go to a craft store and get printable fabric (they sell in rolls at JoAnne's Fabrics, I know) and a the larger-sized fuseable webbing that you iron hems and curtains with. You'd have to make sure you cut really precisely, but that could work.
posted by xingcat at 12:15 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Or use wooden or cardboard boxes, print the cover and mod podge it on.
posted by tilde at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2012

Response by poster: Man, and to think I was worried that no one would have any ideas. :)

You guys are all correct, particularly -harlequin-. I was going about this in the wrong way! (I forget what the etiquette about marking all answers as "best," but screw it, because all of the answers are great.)

I think I'm going to do some assortment of the above techniques -- I'm not sure which will end up looking the closest to my original vision, so I'll just try a few different ways.

I'll keep watching this question, so feel free to add additional suggestions!
posted by cimton at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2012

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