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Sometime today, you will either come in contact with a paperboard carton or, at the very least, use a product that came packaged in a paperboard carton, Although this may seem like a pretty broad generalization, it is actually an understatement rather than overstatement of our dependence on the folding carton.

The food we eat, clothes we wear, medicines we use … in fact nearly every product which makes our lives easier leaves the manufacturer packed in a carton of one kind or another. Like electricity and running water, this packaging plays such an essential role in our daily lives that we rarely even notice it. Yet is it difficult to imagine a product that isn’t packaged in paperboard somewhere in the distribution chain from manufacturer to consumer.

The Carton's Role in Merchandising

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the carton often becomes an integral part of the product, not only protecting the item but adding to its appeal.

Cartons have become a key element in our system of mass merchandising. Department stores, Supermarkets, discount houses, drug stores and a wide variety of specialty outlets rely heavily on packaging to sell products, thus reducing the need for sales personnel. This keeps the cost of selling to a minimum and in turn saves money for the customer.

Despite often intense competition from other very similar products, the carton must bear the primary burden of capturing a consumer’s attention and effectively communicating the manufacturer’s sales message. Even after the purchase, the carton must act as a silent reminder that the same product is worth reordering.

However, the carton does more than just provide a graphic image of brand and product identity. It functions as a protective container, guarding its contents against breakage, pilferage, spoilage, contamination, deterioration, and the many other hazards a product may encounter on its way to the consumer.

Since our system of production and distribution relies heavily on mechanization and automation, the carton must also be precisely engineered and constructed in order to facilitate machine assembly and filling.

By reducing the risk of damage and spoilage, eliminating the need for individualized sales personnel and keeping production and distribution costs down, paperboard packaging has been, and continues to be, a very important factor in the development of our economical system and resulting high standard of living.

The Early Years

Merchandising in the 1800’s would undoubtedly make today’s demanding consumer shudder. Sugar and crackers were scooped from open barrels.

Vinegar and molasses were drawn from kegs into cans, bottles or any other receptacle brought in by the customer. Food was stored in unprotected bins, barrels and sacks or piles on open shelves and unswept floors; and storekeepers were not overly concerned about rodents, dust or flies.

Down the street, the neighborhood pharmacist compounded doctor’s prescriptions and during slow periods concocted his own cough syrups, lotions, laxatives, toothache remedies, tonics, ointments and salves.

Early American industrial efforts were primarily concerned with producing enough products to meet the ready demand of the country’s largely rural population. With demand far exceeding supply, products were eagerly purchased with little regard given to quality, workmanship, sanitation or utility value. Until supply began to match and then exceed demand, adequate packaging was largely ignored by manufacturers and was not a factor which influenced consumer decisions.

Industry Development

However, once competition became a vital part of American commerce, packaging began to develop as a means of expanding beyond local markets and informing potential customers as to the identity of the manufacturer. In this way manufacturers were able to assure customers that the product had not been tampered with and that they would be receiving an honest measure.

By taking the problems of cleanliness and accurate measure out of the hands of the retailer, the manufacturer was able to build a widespread reputation and open vast new markets. In 1896 the newly formed National Biscuit Company did just that when it introduced UNEEDA, an improved type of soda cracker, protected by an inner-waxed paper wrap, a folding carton and a colorfully printed overwrap. The new product and packaging quickly won nationwide approval and gave the folding carton industry and enormous push forward.

Actually, the first folding paperboard package to gain widespread use came into existence around 1850. It was a crude, hand-formed box made of paperboard which was used to make market tacks. Known as a paper of tacks, the packages were tied with string and had a label pasted over one end to show size, weight and manufacturer’s name.

Paperboard boxes were being commercially produced on local level as early as 1839, when Aaron L. Dennison, a Boston jeweler, began making setup jewelry boxes for himself and other area jewelers.

By 1850, Dennison had expanded his line to include mailing boxes, display cards, price tags, and boxes for a wide assortment of small products including combs, keys, spectacles, pencils and hairpins. Within ten years, others noting Dennison’s success established their own box-making plants and began developing machinery to speed production and reduce costs.

During the next twenty years the box manufacturers introduced a wide variety of folding cartons which, unlike the earlier boxes produced by Dennison, could be shipped flat and easily set up by the user. Laminating machines were developed to allow the bonding of high-quality paper to cheaper paperboard. This in turn encouraged the printing of colorful design and advertising messages on the cartons.

In 1879, a mistake by a careless pressman in Robert Gair’s box plant paved the way to truly inexpensive, mass produced carton manufacturing.

The pressman, running an order of seed bags, failed to notice that the printing plates were neatly cutting through the paper as a result of poor make-ready. Fortunately, the ruined press run gave Gair a great idea. He developed special steel rules; locked them in a form; put them on a platen press; and, in a single operation, began cutting and creasing folding carton blanks.

Gair’s idea brought about the first really inexpensive, machine-made cartons and signaled the beginning of the industry as we now know it.

Packaging Today

Since the turn of the 20th century, the folding carton industry has grown at a tremendous rate. Recent estimates show that more than over three million tons of paperboard are converted into cartons annually. The industry’s sales volume has also increased steadily to the point where paperboard packaging is a $9.4 billion a year business, with more than 300 companies with 480 plants, employing over 55,000 people directly in the production of paperboard and folding cartons.

Paperboard packaging and its role in the marketing of consumer, business and industrial products is constantly changing and being improved. New methods and equipment along with new designs and requirements appear almost daily.


In most mass merchandising situations, good product plus good promotion plus good packaging add up to success. All three elements are extremely important, but packaging is often the key because is serves as the identifying link between the product and the promotional campaign. The carton is often used to provide the consumer with a mental image of the product and trigger the buying impulse.

Some mass merchandising regard packaging as such an important element in the total marketing plan that a variety of types and styles of cartons are tested in selected markets prior to nationwide release of a new product.

However, new products aren’t the only ones that can benefit from innovative packaging. There are numerous instances where a change in packaging launches a new upsurge in sales for previously declining products or dramatically increases sales of products which never sold particularly well before product improvements quite often call for a change in packaging.

The importance of packaging cannot be ignored and the planning that goes into developing the right package shouldn’t be minimized or taken lightly. Creating a successful package requires a great deal of close coordination among the buyer, designer and carton manufacturer.

Placing the Order

When placing an order for folding cartons, the buyer should always provide complete specifications, Carton manufacturers are not only anxious to produce exactly what the customer wants but are in a position to provide valuable advice about the kind of packaging that would be most suitable for the product and the best methods of getting the product into the carton.

In creating specifications, possible embarrassment and extra cost can be avoided if no production work is started until the following detailed information is developed, agreed upon and provided in writing.

  • Exact Product Name - This should completely identify the carton and eliminate any possible confusion with others of the same line.
  • Dimensions – Cartons should always be specified in sequence of length, width and depth. All measurements should be made from center of score to center of score or edge of blank. Length is always the larger dimension across the opening, width is the smaller dimension at the opening and depth is the remaining dimension.
  • Paperboard – The exact grade, finish and caliper (thickness) of paperboard should be specified.
  • Style – When the box is to be a standard style, it should be indicated. Some styles are indicated in the Basic Carton Style Section.
  • Colors – Inks should be specified in exacting detail by using a standard matching system such as the Pantone system (see our Links section)
  • Copy & Proof – The copy and typography should be presented exactly as desired along with detailed instructions for setting the type. Where illustrations are desired, the carton manufacturer should be consulted regarding feasibility and cost. Finished production art and proofs are the most desirable.
  • Universal Product Code – When application of the U.P.C. symbol is desired, the buyer should provide the carton manufacturer with an accurate, original film master along with appropriate information detailing usage requirements.
  • Engravings – Engraving costs may or may not be included in the price quotation and should be specified in advance to avoid confusion.
  • Quantity – the quantity needed must be carefully determined to avoid overproduction or underproduction.
  • Type of Printing – The process used to print the cartons has an important effect on the cost and quality of the finished box. Therefore, decisions should be based on careful analysis of budget requirements and degree of quality required.
  • Additional Operations – The manufacturer must know in advance if the boxes are to be varnished, waxed, beauty coated or receive other specialized treatments. If a cut-out or window is desired, its exact dimensions and location must be stated along the type and thickness of transparent film to be used when required.
  • Packaging Method – Unless the carton is to be set up, filled and sealed entirely by hand, the machines that will be used should be specified in detail.
  • Shipping – Such instructions should be include directions how the folded cartons are to be packed and marked to facilitate inventory control and handling. A required delivery date, destination and any special shipping instructions should be included.


To a product manufacturer the carton is an economical and easy-to-asseble container; a means of assuring that the product reaches the consumer in the same condition it left the factory; a medium for brand identification and promotional copy; and an attention getter.

The distributor and retailer view the carton as a device that makes shipping and storage easier; facilitates inventory control and stock handling; permits the product to sell itself; and provides space for pricing information.

Finally, the consumer regards the carton as a source of product information; an assurance that the product is in good condition; a means of identifying the manufacturer or brand; a device which makes the product easier to handle; a storage container; and a disposable convenience.

If properly designed, the folding carton can be all this and more. However, good carton design requires careful consideration of a multitude of variables.

In order to assure a satisfactory solution to any given packaging problem, both the designer and the user should have a clearly defined idea of just what a folding carton can be expected to do and the characteristics needed to meet these criteria in terms of a particular product.

Generally, a folding carton should fulfill the following requirements if it is to function with maximum efficiency.

It must be a container. The carton must be an appropriate size – large enough to easily accommodate the product, yet small enough to prevent excess movement. It must also be strong enough to hold the product and be closed in such a way that none of the contents are lost or dissipated.

It must be precisely made.
Modern, high-speed packaging equipment permits little variance in size or shape. Therefore, close tolerances must be maintained throughout the manufacturing process. A well –engineered carton must be capable of being easily and quickly assembled and filled either manually or by machine.

It must be a protective device.
No matter how long or elaborate the distribution chain, the carton must be capable of protecting the product form all hazards which are likely to be encountered between the manufacturer and final consumer. Adequate protective qualities can be incorporated into a carton if the designer is fully aware of possible hazards likely to damage or destroy the product.

It must attract attention.
In most retail outlets, products are expected to sell themselves. To do that, the carton must be able to attract the consumer’s attention and quickly communicate the manufacturer’s message. Competition for shelf space is intense so the carton must be designed to make a strong initial impact and quickly build consumer recognition.

The Right Package Design

Developing just the right carton for a particular product can never be considered a simple task; but it can be made a lot easier by learning everything there is to know about the product, the consumer is serves and the way it will be distributed. Before any actual design work begins, the designer and the product manufacturer’s representative should develop a comprehensive profile on each of these important factors.

Product Profile

This inventory of product benefits, the physical attributes, peculiarities and other pertinent information should include:

  • The exact dimensions of the product
  • Physical characteristics and makeup
  • Product uses and benefits
  • Competitive position
  • Susceptibility to spoilage, breakage and other hazards
  • Weight
  • Appearance
  • Manner in which the product is used
  • Shelf life or limitations
  • Should the carton serve as a product dispenser
  • Any product information which must appear on the package to meet legal requirements
  • Universal Product Code symbol
  • Product identity
  • Most important product advantage
  • Trade mark and brand name information

Distribution Profile

Distribution cycles vary greatly among products. Even products which directly compete with one another often have radically different distribution channels. It is very important to know exactly what problems and obstacles are likely to be encountered in the product distribution cycle, so the following information should be acquired and analyzed.

  • Will the carton be set up and filled mechanically, by hand or a combination of both?
  • How, when, where and in what quantities will the product be sold?
  • Is the product likely to be frozen or refrigerated anywhere in the distribution cycle?
  • How long and under what conditions will it be stored before reaching the consumer?
  • What hazards is the product likely to encounter in its distribution chain?
  • How many intermediaries are likely t handle the carton before it reaches the ultimate consumer?
  • What types of transportation will be used to ship it?
  • Will it be marketed in other countries?
  • Will the carton be required to continue protecting the product after it is initially opened?
  • Are there any unusual problems affecting disposal of the carton after it has served its purpose?

Consumer Profile

An understanding of the prospective consumer’s motivations, likes, dislikes, self-image and other factors which will affect the selection process is essential to an effective design solution. It is wise to accumulate as much data as possible on the following factors:

  • What demographic group is most likely to be the primary market for the product?
  • What is the age, sex and education of the target consumer?
  • Is the consumer already familiar with the product or is it new on the market?
  • What physical and/or psychological needs will the product satisfy?
  • What image is the manufacturer attempting to convey?
  • What product attribute is the target consumer most interested in: price, quality, safety or other?
  • What information is most likely to spark the decision to buy?
  • How intense is the competition and what does their packaging look like?
  • What supporting promotion is planned?
  • Are there any negative feelings about the product which must be overcome?
  • Is the consumer likely to be influenced by sales boosters built into carton such as cutouts, coupons, recipes?

  • These checklists are far from being all-inclusive but should provide a fairly accurate picture of the comprehensive planning and analysis that goes into the design and execution of a good packaging concept.

    Choosing A Caron That Works

    Once all factors which will have an effect on the product and its carton have been carefully analyzed, the designer is ready to begin the actual creative work.
    While the variety of styles used in constructing a folded carton are, to a great extent, limited only by human ingenuity, the designer does have a responsibility to accomplish the task in the most sensible and economic way possible. Therefore, the wide array of standard styles and types of cartons should be explored with an eye toward possible modification. Of course, if the product marketing plan requires a dramatic, new type of packaging, most carton manufacturers are well equipped to meet the challenge.

Types of Board

Although there are many special types and grades of paperboard, the following list includes those most widely used in the production of the folding cartons.

Chip Boards – These boards are produced only on combination or cylinder board machines. They are low in cost and are manufactured from primarily recycled fiber.

Bending Chip – Used for the production of many types of folding cartons such as laundry boxes and other throw-away containers. It is composed of mixed fibers and by definition must be able to withstand a single fold of 180° without breakage or separation of plies. It is generally gray or tan in appearance.

Bleached Manila – Used where good bending qualities and a surface well adopted to color printing is needed. It is made with a chip board base and is lined with a white manila vat liner.

Coated Boards – These multi-layer boards (six to nine plies) are manufactured on a cylinder or combination board machine. They are usually composed of primarily recycled fiber and are used for most better grades of folding cartons.

Patent-Coated Board – Patent-coated on one or both sides with white virgin pulp or white reclaimed fibers. It is produced in many combinations including patent-coated manila, newsboard and news centered-manila back. Cost, quality, or appearance requirements dictate which combination works best for a particular order.

Clay Coated Board
– Used in the production of folding cartons where brightness of color excellent printing surface and permanence of color are considered essential. It is a high grade paperboard coated with a clay finish.

Cast Coated Board – A high quality boxboard with a glossy finish obtained by pressing the surface against a highly polished surface during the drying process. Excellent where sparkling color is required

Laminated Board – This category of boxboard includes many specialty applications where foil, patterned paper, or any number of other materials are adhered to the paperboard with resin, starch, asphalt or other type of binder.

Sulfate or Kraft Board – These boards are usually manufactured on a Fourdrinier machine in a single layer and are composed entirely of virgin Kraft (sulphate) pulp. The are produced either as Bleached or unbleached board and often are clay coated to provide a white printing surface. There is also a Bogus Kraft which is an adulterated board colored brown to look like unbleached Kraft.


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Abrasion Damage caused to the surfaces of a carton by friction or the rubbing of adjacent objects such as other cartons or the walls of shipping containers; also referred to as rubbing and scuffing.

Absorption The penetration of one substance into another; for example certain printing inks into boxboard.

Adhesive Any viscous substance such as animal or vegetable glues, resins, dextrins or paste used in the manufacture and closure of folding cartons; or used to bond one material to another as in laminating.

Anti-oxidant Board Boxboard chemically treated to increase the shelf life of foods containing fats and oils by retarding rancidity of such products when packaged in cartons made of it. The treatment does not change the appearance of the board and is non-toxic and odorless.

Anti-tarnish Board Boxboard chemically treated to retard development of tarnish which may result from packaging non-ferrous items, such as brass and silver.

Aqueous (inks/coatings) Water based inks and coatings widely used in the industry, replacing solvent based materials to reduce or eliminate the use of volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) from the converting process.



Back Liner See “Bottom Liner.”

Band A strip of paper or board wrapped around the top, bottom, and sides or ends of a package or other object to cover them without being turned in.

Basis Weight The specification of boxboard as density of weight per unit area. In the U.S., it is measured as “pounds per thousand square feet” and in Europe, as “grams per square meter” (gsm). It ranges from a light weight of 60 pounds per thousand square feet to as heavy as 200 pounds per thousand square feet in a single ply; however, any one machine is ordinarily not capable of making this complete range.

Beater A large mixer in which stock is prepared. The fibers are mechanically treated in the beater while additional ingredients are mixed in.

Ben Day A shadowing effect in printing derived from engravings made by a mechanical shading machine.

Bending Board A descriptive term applied to any boxboard which, when properly scored, will sustain a single fold through 180 degrees without breaking the outer fibers or separating the plies.

Bending Chipboard The least expensive grade of boxboard used in the manufacture of folding cartons, composed principally of recycled fiber.

B-Flute A structure made from containerboard grades of paperboard. Corrugated consists of a medium, that has been fluted on a corrugator, to which one (single-face) or two sheets (double-face) of linerboard are attached to create the structure. A double-face corrugated container is referred to as a single-wall container. The height of the B-fluted material is 1/8"

Billboard (1) Term used to describe the front or face panel of a carton as it sits in the display rack. (2) The pop-up display panel of the typical counter display.

Bimetal Plate A lithographic plate used for long runs. The printing image basis is copper or brass while the non-printing area is aluminum, stainless steel, or chromium.

Blank A folding carton after cutting and creasing but before folding and gluing.

Blanket A rubber surfaced fabric used in offset lithography which is clamped around the cylinder and transfers the image from plate to paper.

Blister A plastic dome or bubble, usually transparent, attached to a piece of boxboard to form a package.

Bogus Papers and paperboards which are manufactured from inferior materials in imitation of higher quality grades.

Bottom Liner The surface of the boxboard which forms the interior of the carton, also called the “back-liner”.

Box (1) A term describing unit container made from (a) non-bending grades of paperboard, i.e., set-up box; or (b) shipping container containerboard grades of corrugated or solid fiber, i.e., corrugated or solid fiber boxes. (2) The term used to distinguish set-up, corrugated or solid fiber unit containers from cartons made from bending grades of paperboard.

Boxboard A term used to describe bending and non-bending grades of the fibrous material used in the manufacture of folding cartons, set-up boxes, fiber cans and the like. In the folding carton industry this term is used interchangeably with the terms “board,” “paperboard,” or “folding boxboard.” (See Paperboard)

Brightness The quality of white intensity as measured by the percent of reflectance of a boxboard surface compared to a standard block of magnesium oxide by means of an optical instrument and expressed in “points of brightness.” The recognized test procedure is TAPPI’s Standard T 452m.

Brush Finish A finish produced by running dried clay coated boxboard against rapidly revolving cylindrical brushes.

Bundle (1) The unit of boxboard containing sheets weighing 50 pounds. The quantity of sheets varies with their size, weight and caliper; but the weight of 50 pounds per bundle is fixed. (2) Bundle also refers to a quantity of finished cartons.



Calender A group or stack of rollers between which paperboard is passed under controlled conditions of speed, heat and pressure, in order to give the material thickness, coating or surface finish.

Caliper A dimensional term used interchangeably with the word “thickness” in connection with paperboard. It is expressed in units of thousandths of an inch and is usually written decimally but may be referred to as “points.”

Carded Packaging Packaging that consists of a stiff paperboard card onto which a product is held by a preformed plastic blister (blister card) or by a film vacuumed onto the product and card (skin or contour packaging). Blister cards are usually covered with a special coating that allows the blister to be heat sealed to the card.
Carton A unit container made from bending grades of boxboard. It is a shortened term for “folding carton,” the preferred designation for folding boxes, folding paper boxes and folding paperboard boxes. The word carton does not refer to set-up boxes, corrugated or solid fiber shipping containers.

Carrier Board A term referring to board, usually Kraft, used for beverage carriers. It is often specially treated to impart water resistance since beverage carriers encounter significant moisture. (See “wet strength”)

Cellulose Fiber Paperboard’s primary component. A carbohydrate constituent of the walls and skeletons of vegetable cells having the chemical composition of (C6H10O5)n.

Chase A metal frame in which plates are locked for diecutting and letterpress printing.

Chipboard A low quality, non-test paperboard made of waste paper for use where specified strength or quality are not necessary. May be bending or non-bending grades.

Clay-Coated Board A high grade bending boxboard, the top surface of which has been coated with a fine clay that provides an excellent printing surface.

Coating A substance applied in liquid form to the surface of boxboard to enhance and protect printing or impart special functional properties. Coatings include varnishes, water based, and energy curable coatings such as ultraviolet (UV) or infrared.

Color Transparency A full-color positive image on a transparent support and rendered in natural colors, used in the preparation of multicolor printing plates.

Color Control Measurements taken during the printing operation to insure that the inks match the approved progressive color proofs or other color standards for a carton; and to maintain uniformity of ink film thickness and color value during the production run.

Colored Boxboards Any grade of boxboard colored during manufacture by the addition of pigments or dyes to the liner pulp in the beaters.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) The use of a computer drafting software to design folding cartons. The CAD program also provides information for layout and manufacture of the dies that will be used to cut and crease the cartons (Computer Aided Manufacturing or CAM).

Computer-To-Plate (CTP) The use of an entirely digital workflow to design and transfer copy to the printing plate output device (plate setter) without the use of films.

Containerboard A general term applied to both solid fiberboard and corrugated fiberboard which are used in the manufacture of shipping containers. Containerboard grades include medium and linerboard.

Contour Packaging (a.k.a. skin packaging) The overwrapping or covering of an irregular-shaped object with a flexible film applied in connection with a paperboard base. The air surrounding the product is exhausted, thus causing the film to fit or cling closely to all parts of the packaged item.

Converter A manufacturer who fabricates folding cartons from boxboard and other packaging materials. In general can refer to any manufacturer who fabricates packaging materials from various unfinished, raw materials.

Corrugated Board A structure made from containerboard grades of paperboard. Corrugated consists of a medium, that has been fluted on a corrugator, to which one (single-face) or two sheets (double-face) of linerboard are attached to create the structure. A double-face corrugated container is referred to as a single-wall container. Corrugated is primarily used for shipping containers. The height of the fluted medium varies and is referred to by a letter. Common flute sizes are A, B, C, E, F, G and N.

Count The actual quantity of sheets of a given size, weight and caliper required to make a bundle of 50 pounds.

Creasing The production of the score or folding line in a sheet of boxboard made by pressing the board with a steel rule into a counter or female pattern on the metal surface of a platen or cylinder jacket of a cutting and creasing press.

Cut (1) The term properly applies to wood engravings and other surfaces manually engraved. It is frequently used inappropriately to mean photoengraving. (2) To pierce or shear completely through a sheet of paperboard; i.e., to cut carton blanks from a sheet of paperboard.

Cut Score Piercing partially through a sheet of paperboard.

Cut and Crease An alternative to a crease score wherein the fold line is made up of a series of alternating cuts and creases.

Cutting and Creasing Die Steel rule forms used on cutting and creasing presses to cut and score sheets of boxboard into folding carton blanks.

Cylinder Board Boxboard made on a papermaking machine characterized by the use of a series of cylinders or molds, each laying down a single layer (or ply) of fiber, which permits wide variation in the thickness or weight of the finished board as well as a variation in the furnish used in the different layers, or plies, of the sheet. There is a grain in the direction in which the web travels.

Cylinder Machine A paperboard making machine consisting of wire cylinders revolving in vats containing furnish of different types. Each cylinder deposits a layer of furnish on the moving web or blanket to form separate layers, the fibers of which are combined under pressure into a single sheet as the water is squeezed out.



Dampeners Cloth-covered or rubber rollers that distribute the dampening solution to the lithographic press plate.

Debossing Trade jargon for what can more precisely be described as negative embossing. Debossing is accomplished by using a male die (slug) to depress an image into the surface of paperboard usually as part of the diecutting process. In debossing a matching female die is not used.

Die A form used for shaping, cutting or stamping out parts and blanks. Usually made from hard metal but may be made of wood or other suitable material.

Diecutting The cutting of paperboard or paper by a die.

Die Stamping The process of reproducing a design, figures or lettering from engraved plates of copper, steel or other metal, usually on a die-stamping press.

Die Sheet An accurate imprint or transfer made on vinyl or oiled sheet from the die form so that the print image can be brought into exact register with the cutting and creasing rules. Also called a “strike” sheet.

Display A folding carton style designed to provide a point-of-purchase unit for holding a number of individual packages or products.

Doctor Blade (1) The part of an inking system on a gravure or flexographic press which scrapes off or removes the surplus ink from the printing cylinder before the image is transferred to the sheet or web of board or paper. (2) Also used on other machines to remove excess amounts of coatings, adhesives or other materials being applied to boxboard sheets.

Drier A substance added to ink and other material to accelerate its rate of drying.

Dust Flaps The narrow flaps extending from each side of a carton or from the sides of a top or cover that turn down into the carton before closure to keep foreign particles out.



E-Flute A structure made from containerboard grades of paperboard. Corrugated consists of a medium, that has been fluted on a corrugator, to which one (single-face) or two sheets (double-face) of linerboard are attached to create the structure. A double-face corrugated container is referred to as a single-wall container. The height of the E-fluted material is 1/16"

Electron Beam
An alternative protective coating curing technique to ultraviolet (UV) or more conventional heat drying of varnishes or lacquers.

Electrotypes Duplicate printing plates made by the electrical deposition of copper or nickel over molds pressed from original engravings or type. For maximum press life, electrotypes may be chrome plated. For economy, several small electrotypes may be molded or soldered together to make a pattern plate from which actual duplicate printing plates are in turn produced.

Embossing (1) Raising the letters or areas of a design above the flat surface of carton blanks or paper sheets by means of pressure applied through the action of male and female dies on cutting and creasing presses. (2) Embossing done by means of engraved rollers on sheet and web fed converting equipment.

Embossing, Blind The embossing of a design on unprinted paper or paperboard.

Engraving In the graphic arts and converting industries, this term is often used in referring to original photoengravings from which the actual printing plates are duplicated or produced.

Etching The process of making a design on a metal plate by a corrosive substance or by cutting it with a sharp tool.



Facing(s) A marketing term indicating the outwardly visible panel of a carton at retail display (facing panel) or the number of cartons displayed in a given set of vertical and horizontal dimensions; i.e., 8 facings in a 2’ x 2’ display rack.

Felt The porous belt which carries the newly formed paperboard through the papermaking machine until the sheet is stable enough to continue without support.

Fiber (1) A small thread-like cellulose unit of vegetable growth obtained from plants such as trees, sugar cane, cotton, jute, etc., from which paper and board are made. (2) In packaging, this designates converted paperboard products such as fiberboard, fiber boxes, fiber containers or fiber drums.

Fiberboard The general term indicating boxboard that contains center plies of a different furnish than used for the top and bottom liners.

Filler (1) The inner ply or plies of a multiple layer boxboard. (2) A loading material, such as clay, used in coating paper or board.

Film A flexible plastic material, generally transparent, used as windows in cartons; or for overwraps and laminates. It is extruded, cast or calendered.

Finish The term used to designate the density of boxboard and the change in smoothness incidental to change of weight. There are four standard finishes designated by numbers 1 to 4; the number 1 indicating the lowest density and number 4 the highest density.

Flap One of the closing members of a folding carton, an envelope or corrugated container.

Flexography A printing process by which fluid, quick drying ink is transferred by a relief-molded, flexible rubber plate to a fast-moving web through rotary action.

Flock Finely cut cloth fibers blown or shaken on adhesive-coated boxboard or cartons to produce a velour or suede finish.

Foil Thin gauged aluminum used in packaging as a laminate to board, or as an overwrap, to increase eye appeal and to provide functional properties such as resistance to heat, grease and water.

Foil Stamping The impressing of lettering or a design through foil upon a carton blank by means of a heated die or type. Also called “hot stamping.”

Folding Carton Generally accepted designation of containers made by bending grades of plain or printed boxboard, cut and creased in a variety of sizes and shapes; delivered to the user in a flat, or glued and collapsed form.

Forty-eight/Forty (48/40) Term referring to a pallet size of 48” by 40” which optimizes space utilization of trailers and most warehousing systems.

Fourdrinier Machine Paperboard making machine (usually makes solid board) using an endless traveling wire screen on which the furnish is deposited. The screen shakes as it travels, knotting the fibers into a homogeneous sheet. Some grain direction discernible.

Frame Structural description of the end and/or side wall components of a tray type of folding carton, diecut and scored to form a shoulder or enclosing border to protect and enhance the display of the contents.

Furnish The mixture of pulp, paper scrap, sizing, water, dyes, and other additives fed to the wet-end of a paper or board making machine from which paper or board is formed. The wet-end furnish is approx. 94% water; finished sheet ranges from 5% to 7% water.



Glassine A supercalendered, smooth, dense, transparent or semi-transparent paper manufactured primarily from chemical wood pulps. It is grease resistant and when waxed, lacquered or laminated is highly impervious to the transmission of moisture vapor. It is used extensively as a protective carton liner or inner bag for food and many other products.

Gloss The term used to express shine, sheen or luster of the surface of boxboard or cartons. It varies according to the nature of the board stock itself, or may be imparted to the board or carton blank by coating, printing, or laminating.

Glue A commonly used synonym for the word adhesive. The term should actually apply only to those gelatinous adhesives extracted from the bones, skin, etc., of animals and fish by hot water.
Gluing The operation of applying an adhesive substance to the surface of a material which causes it to bond or adhere to another.

Glue Flap Structural element of a folding carton blank used to adhesively secure one panel to another.

Grain The longitudinal arrangement of the fibers in paper or paperboard which results as they settle in the direction parallel with the travel of the paper or board machine. Direction of the grain is important in carton design because greater tearing strength exists across the grain, and greater tensile strength in grain direction. Grain is more pronounced in paperboard made on a cylinder machine than on paperboard made on a fourdrinier machine.

Gravure Printing (Rotogravure) An intaglio printing process using cylinders on which an image is etched in the form of a series of cells. These cells are filled with ink and the excess removed by means of a doctor blade. Ink from the wells is transferred by the rotary action of the press to the board in either sheet or web form.

Greaseproof Board Paperboard which has been treated or laminated to provide resistance to the penetration of greasy or oily substances. Treatment may include such coatings as casein, lacquer, hot melt polyvinyl, resin or silicate. Glassine and other greaseproof papers may be laminated to board to provide this quality.

Grippers The metal fingers that clamp onto the edge of the paperboard and control its flow through the press.



Halftone The printed reproduction of a photograph, painting or other art subject whose varying tone values are derived from different sized, closely spaced dots of ink transferred from engravings, plates or cylinders into which the original image has been made photographically through a fine mesh screen pattern. Such reproductions are generally made in conjunction with letterpress, offset and gravure printing, and to a lesser extent flexography.

Halftone Engraving A metal or plastic plate from which the tone values of halftone reproduction are obtained during the printing operation. While the term may be used alone it is usually prefaced by another word to indicate the material from which it is made; such as copper, zinc, magnesium or plastic.

Halftone Negative (or Positive) The exposed photographic film or glass onto which the tone values of a subject are converted through a halftone screen. The negative or positive image is transferred in the succeeding steps toward the preparation of a halftone film for plate/cylinder preparation.

Heat Seal The uniting of two or more surfaces by the fusion of coatings or base materials under controlled conditions of temperature, pressure and time.

Heat Seal Coatings Materials applied to board, in a liquid form, and dried which may be reactivated by heating to about 225° to 250° F.

Holography The method of producing a three dimensional image in foil or film utilizing interference patterns from a split laser beam.

Hot Stamping The impressing of lettering or a design through foil upon a carton blank by means of a heated die or type.



Impression Transferring an image to boxboard from a printing plate, blanket or cylinder by one of the printing processes. It may be a single color design or one in a series of multi-color patterns.

Imprint (1) The trade mark or legend reproduced on a carton during the process of printing to identify the manufacturer. (2) The subsequent printing of additional identifying information on a previously printed carton blank such as stock retail boxes.

Inhibitor A substance added to the furnish, coating or laminate of boxboard to retard or prevent deterioration of a carton or its contents by chemical reaction.

Ink A fluid or viscous substance consisting of pigments, dyes or other materials dispersed in a carrier or vehicle by means of which a printing press imparts the desired image on boxboard. Character of the ink varies according to the printing process and application.

Ink Receptivity The degree of penetration of printing inks on the surface of boxboard.

Insert A piece of paperboard which is not an integral part of a carton but is used in connection with one carton to perform a special function in separating, holding, or protecting the contents in position as a block, base, cushion, compartment or partition. Such inserts may serve as platforms, steps or frames for displaying the products within a carton.



Jordan A machine which mechanically bruises the pulp fibers, causing fibrillation and hydration, while serving to produce a more uniform mixture of water and other fibers.



Kraft Paper or paperboard made from virgin pulp produced by the sulfate process. Natural kraft is unbleached and has a characteristic light brown color; bleached kraft is a sheet having a higher brightness rating then natural kraft.

K.D.F. A term used by public carriers in referring to boxes (cartons) other than corrugated when Knocked Down Flat.



Lacquer A type of coating, applied in liquid form to boxboard, for protective or decorative purposes.

Laminated Board A combination of different kinds of boxboards, films, foils, papers or other materials bonded by adhesives in webs or sheets. May also be designated as “lined board.”

Letterpress Printing The printing process by which ink is transferred from the raised portions of printing plates or type to board.

Liner The outer or inner ply of a sheet of cylinder board.

Lithography A printing process using plates whose printing surfaces are partially water repellent and partially ink (oil) repellent. The plates are made of flexible sheets of metal, such as zinc or aluminum, or of two metals as in bimetal plates. These plates are photographically imposed, chemically etched and run on either sheet-fed or roll-fed presses. The term lithography is often shortened to “litho.”

Litho-laminating The process of laminating litho pre-printed sheets to a single-face corrugated structure, forming a complete double-face structure.



Make-Ready General preparatory operations prior to the actual production of printing, or cutting and creasing. It usually involves the adjustment of the impression by overlaying or underlaying the printing plates; the cutting of the female part of the die. Also used in connection with finishing machines such as gluer, waxer, windower.

Manila Board Boxboard made principally from mechanical ground wood pulp used largely for packaging foods. It has a light straw color and a suitable surface for printing.

Manufacturer’s Joint The mechanical connection between two panels to create a tube. In the classic four-panel tube, the manufacturer’s joint is comprised of a flap and an adhesively secured overlying panel.

Metallic Ink Bronze or aluminum powder suspended in an appropriate vehicle and applied as a printing ink to produce designs with a metallic luster on the surface being printed. In addition to the natural metals, lustrous tints of other colors may be produced by adding small amounts of transparent color to aluminum inks.

Mini-Flute A term used for corrugated boards with small flute heights. These boards can be printed and converted on folding carton equipment with minor modifications. Also referred to as small flute boards, mini-flute boards include E, F, G and N flute.

Mist Lined Chipboards Colored manila top liner boxboard containing some long black fibers to give a mist effect on bending chipboard.

Moisture Content The amount of water in boxboard expressed as a percent of factory paper weight of the test sample.

Moistureproof A coating, extrusion or laminated barrier which resists the passage of moisture through a package.



News Vat Lined Chipboard A combination boxboard made on a cylinder machine from chip and a news liner waste newspaper stock.



Offset Lithography The lithographic printing process by which a photographically made ink receptive image on flexible metal plates is transferred by means of a rubber blanket to boxboard or the material being printed.

Offset Powder A powder applied to the surface of a litho-printed sheet to prevent the ink from transferring (offsetting) to the surface of the adjacent sheet as the sheets are stacked off the delivery end of the printing press.

Overprint To print additional material, such as a varnish or another color, on a previously printed sheet.

Overwrap A plain or printed sheet of paper, foil or flexible film applied over a filled carton or tray for decorative or protective purposes.



Package A container that provides protection and identification, and promotes the sale and use of a product.

Pallet A low, portable platform of wood, metal, plastic, or fiberboard which facilitates the handling, storage, and transportation of materials as a unit.

Panel A face, side, top or bottom of a folding carton.

Paperboard A general term descriptive of a sheet of fibrous material usually made on a cylinder or fourdrinier machine from either virgin wood fiber (pulp), or recycled paper stock (old newspapers, old corrugated), or a combination of these fiber sources. Paperboard differs from paper in that it is heavier, thicker, and more rigid. The two general classifications of paperboard are containerboard, which is used principally in making corrugated and solid fiber boxes; and boxboard, the bending grades of which are used in the manufacture of folding cartons.

Patent Coated Boxboard A combination white vat lined board made on a cylinder machine. One or both sides of the board consists of bleached raw material and center plies are generally of less expensive grade.

Platen The flat mounting plates of a press to which the entire printing assembly is fastened.

Ply One of the layers of boxboard formed on a multi-cylinder paperboard making machine. Each cylinder adds one web or ply to others which are pressed together and dried to achieve the desired thickness.

Point A term used to designate the thickness of boxboard. One point is one thousandth of an inch. See “Caliper.”

Polymerization A chemical reaction in which the molecules of a monomer (simple chemical) are linked together to form large molecules whose weight is a multiple of that original substance.

Prepress Collective activities of preparing copy for printing. In an analog workflow, it includes color separation, production of films, analog proofs, using the film to make printing plates, and the make-ready of the press. In a digital workflow, this would include manipulating digital files for producing the printing plates, digital proofing, and make-ready of the press.

Proof A trial impression made in conjunction with a printing process to determine the need for corrections. Impressions must be taken singly from each colorplate of a set, showing each color alone, and in combination with each of the other colors in proper sequence. Proofs should be made on the board and with the inks to be used for actual production.

Pulp The basic cellulose fibers resulting from the disintegration of wood, rags or other vegetable matter by chemical and/or mechanical processes or combination from which all paper and paperboard are made.



Ragger A device which removes rags and similar contaminants from recycled material during the pulping operation. Normally installed on a beater machine.

Recycled Material (Fiber) Reclaimed material which, after repulping, is used as one of the two principal furnishes for paper or paperboard. This includes boxboard cuttings, over-issue newspaper, reclaimed corrugated containers, mixed paper, tabulating cards, envelope cuttings, kraft cuttings, etc.

Registration (or Register) Accuracy of imposition to secure correct alignment of the printed color-to-color areas of a multi-color design image and of the design-to-scores shown on a die sheet. Also, the correct placement of the design on the printed areas or items. Color-to-color is usually referred to as “printing register.” Design-to-scoring is called “cutting register.”

Regular Number The quantity of boxboard sheets, 25” x 40” (1,000 square inches) required to make a bundle of 50 pounds.

Reverse Plate A plate on which the reproduction of an original design is produced in negative form.

Rotary Die The die used in the rotary diecutting process.

Rotary Diecutting Cutting and creasing by means of arcuate metal dies mounted on a backup cylinder so as to permit continuous cutting and scoring of a paperboard sheet.

Rotary Press A press on which both the printing and impression surfaces are cylindrical.

Rotogravure An intaglio printing process using cylinders on which an image is etched in the form of a series of cells. These cells are filled with ink and the excess removed by means of a doctor blade. Ink from the wells is transferred by the rotary action of the press to the board in either sheet or web form. (See “Gravure”)



Score A crease along which the adjacent elements of a diecut carton blank are folded without cracking or breaking to form a carton.

Stock A term referring to the materials that go into a sheet of paperboard in the state in which they exist just prior to going through the papermaking machine.

Stock Box A carton which is manufactured in large quantities in advance of sale and sold in smaller quantities, usually to retailers.

Stripping Removal of the excess board around or in carton blanks after diecutting. This may be done either by hand or mechanically.

Styles Folding cartons are made in a great variety of constructions. There is no standard numerical classification of styles, as they are identified by descriptive names and the proprietary designations of their inventors or manufacturers. In the Federal Specification “Boxes, Folding Paperboard” (PPP-B-566a) styles are listed by Roman numerals with variations in construction referred to as “types” with Arabic numbers, and “classes” with lower case letters.



Taber Unit Unit of measurement used to determine the stiffness (resistance to bending) of a material such as paper or paperboard.

Tear Strip A perforated band made in a carton blank to facilitate opening the package after it has been filled and sealed. Also a narrow ribbon of film, cord, etc., usually incorporated mechanically in a wrapper, overwrap, or the carton itself.

Thumbhole A semi-circular or triangular cut made in the sides or ends of cartons to facilitate opening of the package. Also, semi-circular openings used on multi-packs for inserting fingers to carry the package.

Tray Style Carton A structure developed from a flat blank comprised of a base and at least three hinge-connected side or end panels, which in turn are connected at the corners by adhesive or mechanical means to form an open top carton.

Trim Size The maximum width that can be efficiently produced on a paperboard manufacturing machine, printing press or paperboard converting machine, minus an allowance for trimming off edges. The size of something after a trimming operation.

Tube Style Carton A structure developed from a flat blank comprised of a series of three or more hinge-connected panels, which have the free vertical edges of the outermost panels connected by adhesive or mechanical means to form a carton open at both ends.



U-Board A “U”-shaped boxboard configuration of a body and two ends or sides scored to provide rigidity and facilitate overwrapping of product with flexible packaging material.

Ultraviolet (UV) Inks Solventless printing inks which incorporate liquid photopolymers that release free radicals on exposure to large doses of ultraviolet light. The radicals cause the ends to polymerize into a dry resin, eliminating the need for drying time.

Ultraviolet (UV) Coatings UV coatings are cured, or dried, by exposing the coating to ultraviolet radiation. These coatings offer excellent gloss, chemical and rub resistance.

Universal Product Code (UPC) A computerized method of registering sales information on products identified by the system. Electronic scanners are used to read pre-designated product codes at the point of actual purchase. This information is instantly fed into a computer which provides pricing information and also accumulates inventory data and synthesizes sales analysis data.

UPC Symbol A pattern of bars and spaces (which can be electronically read by a scanner) applied to a product container for use in implementing the Universal Product Code system. The symbol contains a numeric code identifying both the manufacturer and product.

UV Printing Printing with ultraviolet inks.



Vat-Lined Board Cylinder boards which have one or both of the surface linings composed of furnish different from the inner plies. They may be colored.

Vertical Reciprocating Press Press in which both the form and impression cylinders move up and down in a reciprocating motion.

Virgin Material (Fiber) Fiber gleaned from organic materials such as wood chips which has not been previously used in the manufacture of another product.



Water Based (inks/coatings) See “Aqueous” (inks/coatings).

Waxing The application of paraffin to printed board or carton blanks as a preservative coating resulting in a high-gloss or impregnated finish.

Web A continuous sheet of boxboard or other flexible material coming from the machine which produces it. It may be slit and rewound into rolls or cut into sheets. Also refers to belt or blanket on which boxboard is conveyed through papermaking machines. Roll stock is used on some printing and converting equipment.

Wet Strength Board A specially treated board, usually kraft, that is resistant to moisture. Wet strength board is often used for beverage carriers, frozen foods, or in applications where the board will be exposed to excessive amounts of moisture, condensation, etc. (see Carrier Board)

Window A diecut opening in a carton blank which provides visibility of contents, usually covered with a transparent film. Sometimes referred to as an aperture.