How to Print on Cardboard Boxes

Knowing how to print reliably on cardboard boxes with high-quality codes every time is essential. It could mean the difference between long periods of productivity and periodic workflow stoppages. To meet regulations and ensure the traceability of your products, the labels must be well-placed for clear legibility. Depending on your industry, type of products, and other factors, you may need to outfit your cardboard boxes with the following information:

  • Expiration/manufacturing dates
  • Product title/description
  • Batch numbers/lot codes
  • Barcodes/QR codes
  • Storage temperature
  • Country of origin
  • Net weight
  • Regulatory symbols
  • Company logos
  • Contact information

To maximize uptime, read on to learn how to avoid some of the common complications that can arise during the process and how to print on cardboard boxes efficiently.

Challenges of Printing on Cardboard Boxes

As with any printing task, you must consider the unique properties of the base material to make the best operations and hardware choices. As a porous, brown surface, cardboard is susceptible to the following printing challenges:

Extra-Absorbent Surface

Cardboard is more porous than other materials like plastic or glass. Due to this increased absorbency, ink tends to sink deeper into the surface than with other materials. Accordingly, printing A-grade-level codes directly onto cardboard is nearly impossible. However, if correctly tested and verified, a reliable printer can still print legible codes that meet ISO/IEC standards.

Reduced Scannability

Compared to white label printing, the contrast between brown cardboard and applied black ink tops out at a significantly lower rate: 600 dpi for the former versus 200 dpi for the latter. To overcome this contrast deficit, plant managers need to use the ideal printer to apply a clean, clearly marked lot code. This crisp labeling will accentuate the difference between the material's light background and the ink's darkness, effectively neutralizing the dpi difference.

Print Mark Inconsistency

While not unique to cardboard printing, poor ink distribution can compound with a dpi deficiency, creating major readability issues on cardboard packaging. The key to avoiding this problem is ensuring your printer applies consistent pressure on the material surface. A high-quality, well-adjusted printer will ensure evenly applied characters on an ongoing basis, helping you avoid delays and shutdowns.

Don’t let your $10,000 printer shut down your multi-million dollar production line.

InkJet’s Cardboard Box Printing Solutions

To tackle the challenges outlined above, InkJet, Inc. has a range of products that are perfect for cardboard printing: thermal inkjet printers, high-resolution case coders, laser systems, and print-and-apply label machines.

Each solution has distinct application specialties, specifications, and cost factors. This table lists our various hardware options and notes their specifications. Additional information on each machine can be located further below on the page. Click the title in the table’s leftmost column to jump to a specific solution.

InkJet, Inc.’s Cardboard Printing Systems

Coding Technology

Operating Method

System Options

Maximum Resolution and Print Height

Maximum Marking Speed

Cost Factors

Thermal Inkjet Printer

Uses heat to pressurize and eject ink droplets toward the substrate

Anser A1

600 x 600 DPI at 1” height (2” height with stitched print heights)

300 m/min with HP cartridges, 150 m/min with IUT cartridges

Moderate unit cost, moderate consumable cost

Anser X1

600 x 600 DPI at 1” height (2” height with stitched print heights)

300 m/min

Moderate unit cost, moderate consumable cost

Hi-Res Case Coder

Propels oil-based ink droplets to create stark codes

Precision Series 18 mm & 72 mm

180 DPI at

18 mm height or 72 mm height

Low to moderate speed

Moderate unit cost, low consumable cost

Laser Marking Solution

Creates a concentrated light beam to mark or engrave the substrate

F8100F Fiber, F8100C CO2, LDR 7100, & F8100U UV Laser Marking Systems

Lenses up to 300 mm x 

300 mm 

2,000 characters per second

High unit cost, little to no consumables

Print-and-Apply Label Machine

Auto-prints and applies labels to passing materials


300 DPI (height varies by printer model)

60 m/min

High unit cost, moderate consumable cost

Thermal Inkjet Printers: Anser X1 and A1 Models

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are compact, cost-effective machines with impressive coding specifications. TIJs like the Anser X1 and A1 can create 600 x 600 DPI codes up to 2” tall with stitched printheads. These qualities enable TIJ operators to complete product-marking tasks and case-coding applications.

TIJ printers also offer:

  • Simple Installation. TIJ printers are compact and lightweight, enabling easy and quick line integration.
  • Zero-Maintenance Operation. Thermal inkjet printers do not require printhead cleanings, ink system maintenance, or professional servicing. Users can maintain proper TIJ operation for years by performing simple cleaning tasks and following basic usage guidelines. 

TIJ printers are often designed for slower speed lines and intermittent coding tasks, but some TIJ models offer high-speed capabilities. InkJet, Inc. carries TIJ printers of varying specialties and price points.

The Anser A1 Thermal Inkjet Printer: The first all-in-one TIJ that offers 2” printing and mid-message DPI adjustments, the Anser A1 is both powerful and affordable. Built with two cartridge slots, the A1 can create 2” tall markings with varying DPI elements (e.g., 300 DPI QR code with 150 DPI text). These qualities make the A1 an excellent case-coding printer. Users control the A1 through a large touchscreen interface.

The Anser X1 Thermal Inkjet PrinterEven though the Anser X1 is a thermal inkjet printer, you wouldn’t know that from its spec sheet. With printing speeds up to 300 m/min, the Anser X1 is one of the most powerful TIJs on the market today. Beyond industrial speed marking, the Anser X1 offers a 600 DPI max resolution, a 2” max print height (with stitched printheads), IP66 protection, and the ability to simultaneously control two production lines.

See the chart below for a closer look into how our TIJ options compare to one another:

InkJet, Inc.’s Thermal Inkjet Printer Options


Anser A1

Anser X1

Max Printheads




5-inch Color LCD Capacitive Touchscreen 480 x 800 (portrait)

7-inch Color LCD Capacitive Touchscreen (800 x 480 px)

Print Height

1” with single printhead, 2” with stitched printheads

1” with single printhead, 2” with stitched printheads

Print Resolution

300 DPI

600 x 600 DPI

Print Speed

121 m/min

300 m/min

Print Distance

0.25” (6mm)

0.25” (6mm)

Operating Temp.

5°C – 40°C (41°F – 104°F)

5°C – 40°C (41°F – 104°F)

IP Rating



Dimensions & Weight

(L/W/H) 6.7” x 5.4” x 4.9”


1.8 kg (3.97 lb) w/o guide plate


(L/W/H) 11.5” x 5.6” x 2”

2.7 kg (6 lb)



Compatible Materials

Porous, semi-porous, and non-porous materials

Porous, semi-porous, and non-porous materials

 High-Resolution Case Coders: Precision Series 18mm & 72mm

High-resolution case coders (hi-res) excel at placing high-quality images and codes on cardboard boxes. InkJet, Inc.’s Precision Series 18mm and Precision Series 72mm are ideal for secondary and tertiary packaging tasks. 

 High-resolution case coders use powerful piezoelectric printheads to create large messages, intricate graphics, and stark images. Hi-res ink is oil-based and thicker than TIJ ink, making hi-res codes more durable and visually appealing. For some cardboard boxes, hi-res ink is better suited to achieve barcode scan ability and contrast at the most economical ink price. As case-coding solutions, Precision Series systems enable users to replace physical shipping labels with printed codes, text, and images by directly printing on the box. 


Direct printing offers numerous benefits over manual labeling, including:

  • Faster coding times
  • Fewer material costs
  • Lower risk of coding errors
  • Better code durability
  • Improved print quality

In addition to these factors, Precision Series case coders provide users with these unique features:

  • Internal Barcode Generation. Precision Series case coders can operate as completely standalone machines. Equipped with label design software and internal memory, Precision Series case coders allow users to create and store designs without an external computer.
  • Seamless System Integration. Precision Series case coders are compatible with NiceLabel and Windows systems, enabling easy integration with external networks.
  • Dual-Head Functionality. Precision Series printers can be equipped with two printheads, allowing operators to print on two box sides simultaneously, whether for repeat images or independent codes. Users can stack heads to increase image size as well.

See the chart below for a closer look into the Precision Series’ specifications:


Precision Series 18mm & 72mm Hi-Res Case Coder

Dimensions and Weight (Including Bracket)

  • (L/W/H) 322 x 183 x 480 mm / 12.7” x 7.2” x 18.9”
  • 3.35 kg / 7.38 lbs

Line Speed

Up to 200/min

Print Area

53.7 mm x 500 mm per print head

Print Speed

0 - 60 m/min

Print Head

180 DPI

Operating Environment

  • Temperature: 5-38°C / (41-100.4°F)  
  • Humidity: 10% – 90% (non-condensing)

Internal Memory

42 MB for fonts, images, and labels. The number of labels depends on the size.

Barcode Options

EAN8, EAN13, CODE 39, CODE128, ITF, and QR with adjustable height and module width. Multiple barcodes are possible in one label.

Automatic Shift Codes

Up to 25 shift codes, definable over a maximum of 7 days. Multiple shift codes are possible in one label.

Laser Marking Solutions: Fiber, CO2, and UV Laser Models

Laser marking systems are perfect for companies that require high-coding speeds, reliable accuracy, and exceptional code appearance. High-output operations frequently use laser systems to meet demanding quotas, minimize coding errors, and enhance their products’ visual appeal. As laser marking machines have become more affordable, they have become increasingly popular with smaller-scale companies.



Laser systems are more expensive than printers but do not use any consumables. Moreover, they have minimal maintenance needs and do not require annual servicing. Depending on your output needs, these factors can make laser marking more cost-effective than printing.

InkJet, Inc.’s F8100C CO2 Laser Marking Machine is compatible with cardboard materials and offers the following benefits:

  • Marking speeds up to 2000 characters/sec.
  • 24/7 uninterrupted coding
  • Reliable ingress protections
  • Long laser tube life
  • Enhanced high-resolution mark quality
  • Plug-and-play laser module for easy line replacement
  • User-friendly control panel via computer or smartphone app

See the chart below for a closer look into our laser systems’ most important specifications.


F8100C Laser System

Marking Speed

Up to 2,000 characters/second

Line Speed

Up to 200 m/min

Wave Lengths

  • Fiber: 1,055 - 1,070nm
  • CO2: 10.6um, 10.2um, and 9.3um
  • LDR: 10.6um, 10.3um, and 9.3um
  • UV: 355nm

Marking Formats

  • Standard industrial fonts (Windows TrueType®) and single-line font  
  • Machine-readable codes (OCR, 2D matrix, etc.) 
  • Bar codes: code 128a, code 128B, code 128c, code39, code93, QR Code, Data Matrix, Aztec-Code, Han Xin-Cod
  • Graphics, logos, symbols, etc. 
  • Linear, circular, angular, reverse, rotate sequential, and batch numbering  
  • Automatic date, layer and time code, real-time clock 

Laser Tube

  • Fiber: Ytterbium (YT) pulsed fiber laser
  • CO2: Sealed CO2 laser
  • LDR: Sealed CO2 laser
  • UV: Solid-state UV laser

Beam Deflection

Steers beam with digital high-speed galvanometer scanners

User Interface

Personalized touch control screen with an easy-to-learn interface


  • UDP, TCP/IP, and RS232
  • Inputs for encoder and product detector triggers
  • 4 inputs/4 outputs for start/stop signals, machine/operator interlocks, and alarm outputs (in addition to safety circuits)
  • Customer-specific solutions are available


Flexible beam delivery options (beam extension unit/beam turning unit) 

Cooling System


Operating Environment

  • Temperature: 5-40°C (41-104°F)  
  • Humidity: 0%-90%, no condensing
  • Inputs for encoder and product detector triggers

IP Rating

Cabinet: IP54 standard


Approx. 40 kg 

Print-and-Apply Label Machine: Evolabel Systems

Print-and-apply labeling machines (PALM) streamline the labeling process by continuously creating and applying labels to passing products or shipping cartons. Predominantly 

used to label shipping cartons, PALM systems can complete primary, secondary, and tertiary applications with the right equipment. 

Users can customize their print-and-apply labelers to complete specific tasks. PALM systems consist of multiple components, with two of the most important being:

  1. The printer module prints labels on-demand.
  2. The label applicator dispenses and applies each label to a product, carton, or pallet.

By selecting the ideal printer/applicator combo, you can use a PALM system to label your cardboard boxes quickly, accurately, and efficiently.

The Evolabel Print-and-Apply Labeler is InkJet, Inc.’s PALM option. Evolabel systems are compatible with three different printer modules:

We offer numerous applicators to fulfill diverse packaging requirements. Available applicators include

By investing in an Evolabel system, you can simplify your case package labeling process, reduce risk of error, and maximize packaging efficiency.   

High-Quality Inks for Different Packaging Requirements

InkJet, Inc. has produced high-quality inks for over 30 years. Our comprehensive catalog contains numerous formulas to better meet the needs of diverse companies. 

We offer many formulas with special properties, including:

  • Superior substrate adhesion
  • Ultra-quick dry times
  • Sunlight resistance
  • Fade resistance
  • Rub resistance
  • Soft/hard pigmentation

We also carry aftermarket formulas for today’s most popular printer systems. Our aftermarket options are more affordable than their OEM counterparts but perform just as well, if not better. InkJet, Inc. carries aftermarket options for printers made by the following companies:

  • Videojet
  • Domino, including Bitjet and Jet Array
  • Markem-Imaje
  • Marsh 
  • Linx
  • Diagraph
  • Willett
  • Leibinger

We also offer custom ink services for unique applications and situations.

InkJet, Inc. Simplifies Printing on Cardboard Boxes

To keep your industrial operations running smoothly, you must be armed with both the right information and the right tools for the job. At InkJet, Inc., we pride ourselves on our in-depth customer service and ability to pinpoint the best machine for your unique needs. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure you find the perfect printer and ink combination that is correctly calibrated to maximize your line’s uptime.

For more information about printing on cardboard boxes, contact InkJet, Inc. online or by phone at 1-(800) 280-3245.