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Paper Handle Bags Printing Guidelines

In-line Flexo Printing Guidelines

  • It is not an error that height of the bag is shorter than the bag's height dimension on In-line templates. The height must be designed shorter for flexographic plate making and printing. It will print the full height.
  • The top and bottom bleed areas are always .25".
  • The left bleed area is always .375".
  • The right bleed area is always .125".
  • Design elements in a panel that should not be cut off at the top, or folded into the bottom, should be cut back at least .25" from the cut off and/or fold line.
  • Design elements that print to a side-to-side fold line must be extended at least .0625" beyond fold line, except at left gusset fold, .375", which folds under the seam on back side of bag.
  • Design elements that should not appear in an adjacent panel must be cut back from the fold line at least .0625".
  • Design elements should not end exactly on fold lines or top cutoff - they should bleed or be cut back as indicated above.
  • These notes, the templates and the below guidelines at this site should allow any artist to start a new shopping bag right away.

The following are not “correctly prepared art”:
• Business cards, letterheads, photocopies, faxes, etc. 
• B&W or scanned art requiring more than 50% enlargement. 
• Previously printed paper bags or other packages. 
• Overall designs not positioned on one of our bag templates. 
• Films and/or plates not to our specifications. 
• Multi-color designs with tight register and trapping requirements not prepared to in-line flexo specifications. 
• Designs with halftones (photos) and/or flat screens requiring adjustment for in-line flexographic printing. 
• Images saved as Illustrator files

This is not to say it is impossible to complete a project with these materials - only that it may cost more and take more time.

Supplied artwork formats that work best
• Adobe Illustrator or high resolution PDF (600dpi or higher) files preferred.
• Original vector art with fonts outlined and high quality images embedded.
• With digital art please send all fonts and image source files and confirming PDF or hard copy indicating correct output.
• All supplied production materials subject to review for quality and suitability in our process. Supplied plates and/or dies must be accompanied by film negatives.

Introduction for the graphic artist
Most artists and designers have a background in offset lithography, not flexography. If there is some flexo experience, it is in narrow web for labels, not the wide web used for paper packaging. These Art Guidelines are intended as a basic “how to” for designers and artists working on new flexographically printed shopping bag projects. The Guidelines should help to get the art done correctly the first time, minimizing prep expenses and prep time. If anything is unclear please ask.

In-line flexographic printing & bag making
Flexography is a relief printing process using photopolymer plates that are .112 thick. In many respects flexo is like printing with rubber stamps. Our printing is done in-line with the bag making. Rolls of paper are unwound into the bag machine, printed up to three colors, handles applied, side folds formed and seam glued, individual bag cut away from web of paper, bottom folded and pasted, and the finished bag is packaged for shipment. Click hereto view pictures of this process.

Ink color matching and proofing
• We use Pantone colors specified, or can custom match submitted materials. Please specify colors from the solid uncoated Pantone book, with the exception of colors listed on pages 1.3-1.5.
• There is no charge for color matching. GCMI colors may be used.
• PMS ink color standards and formulations are per our ink supplier’s current PMS swatch book. Please specify the PMSU shade that best matches color(s) previously printed on coated paper. May be a different PMS #. There are PMSC colors that can not be matched on uncoated papers.
• Ink drawdowns for PMS colors on TULSAKRAFT™ VERSA (white side) and White Kraft sent only when requested on P.O., or when there are traps or overprints that should be approved prior to production. We send ink drawdowns for all PMS matches on Natural Kraft and TULSAKRAFT™ VERSA (natural side), as well as for custom matches to colors other than PMS. Approval is needed before bags can be produced.

Design templates, logo positioning and bag proofing
Unless the design is no more than a spot print, the designer should have a template before starting artwork. Each bag size has its own template. Click here for templates. Orders for spot imprints not on a template must include logo size and positioning instructions on the P.O., e.g., “Enlarge to 6” wide, position center left to right, 3” up from bottom.” An art fee will be applied when art is not sent on templates.

All bags are proofed, usually as a hand-folded color bag printed with an inkjet printer on the actual paper type. The hand-folded bag is to be viewed for logo size & positioning only. Colors on the proof are an approximation, the ink drawdowns will show the true ink colors used on press. The proofs do not show actual screens. When there are screens, a conventional dylux blueline will be burned from a negative for approval of the screens. Alternative proofs may be furnished when tight register and/or complicated trapping of multiple colors are involved. Bag proof approval is needed before production.

Line width and type size
• Minimum positive printing line width: Two (2) point
• Minimum reverse printing line width: Three (3) point
• Minimum positive printing type size: smallest letter should measure .10" in height
• Minimum reverse printing type size: smallest letter should measure .12" in height

These guidelines are subject to review with serif type faces, and with designs including areas of broad solid coverage along with small type in the same color. In these situations, type/line may need to be larger and/or bolder. Think big for visual merchandising. Promote the brand to everyone who sees the bag, not just the person holding it. Bags are Walking Billboards.

Register tolerance and trap
Wherever two colors meet, a minimum 4.5 point - 1/16” - is required to trap the colors. Where two colors are adjacent and not to touch, there should be a minimum 4.5 points of space between them. As a general rule this register tolerance precludes the use of two overprinting colors to create a third color, whether with solids or screens. If attempted this would need a third color such as black to outline the shape.

Screens and halftones In-line Flexo only
• The line screen used in our process ranges between 45 and 55. The coarse screen is not apparent from typical viewing distance and insures cleanest possible dot reproduction. Due to the differences between how wide web flexo and offset litho reproduce screens and halftones, we request the opportunity to review the design elements to provide specific production art direction as early in the planning process as possible.
• Halftones must have strong contrast, as must steps between manually selected screen values of the same color. Subtle tone variations will not reproduce. Please have the artist contact us before going very far with a design using