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    Sarcina Packaging ltd.
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    • Packaging and Print Design Experts

      Sarcina artwork setup – Litho and digital printing.

      1 Aug 2021, 8:45 AM

      Sarcina’s in-house team can provide the foundation of the entire carton manufacturing process. Artwork cannot be finalised until the template drawing (die-cutting guide) is complete.


      Not all clients require us to design their carton, but for those that do, best practice is to supply the contents or products that the carton will hold. As well as ensuring the end result will be fit-for-purpose, we may be able to advise on alternatives styles depending on how the packing will be used.

      If you have an existing design, we require the template drawing along with the specification. If you have had the product printed before, it is recommended to send us a previous example along with the template drawing.

      Design Specification
      This will include the dimensions, material to be used as well as the purpose of the carton. When considering a design, it is important that our team knows what happens to the product after it has been packed, as well as how it is packed.

      For example, is the product packed into the carton by machine and/or will it be sent directly to a consumer through the post?


      We will produce a white sample representation of the final product for every new design – including those that you may have previously ordered elsewhere. The sample must be approved before drawings are released and
      production commences.

      When you have placed your order, you can use our drawing to set your artwork design. See Working with Templates in this guide for more information.



      For new cartons, you will require our template drawing to finalise your print-ready PDF. This guide contains information on how to achieve the correct result first time and the diagram below is a brief outline of the steps undertaken at Sarcina when your PDF is received.

      Your artwork should be set to the size of the template drawing. The template is the key to how your carton will be produced and therefore understanding of the layout is crucial at this stage (as the drawing is flat it can often be disorientating). We recommend creating a 3D mock-up so
      you can understand the final position of each panel, and use your approved white sample as reference. For most products, we can provide a printed, CAD-cut prototype as part of the proofing process.

      This guide will help create your print-ready PDF, which upon submission, we shall check and verify against your order. Note: these checks are automated and does not involve proof-reading or evaluation of orientation,
      live matter or design content. Ensuring colour settings, overprint, margin infringements and overall appearance is the responsibility of the designer/client.


      We include a PDF proofing process as standard for all customers and shows you the artwork after we have processed it through our system. We can also send hardcopy proofs, such as contract colour proofs or printed prototypes for an additional cost.





      File format must be print-ready PDF (native files such as Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign may incur conversion costs). Colour profiles can be useful to help you understand how your design will look. We recommend your document colour settings are Euroscale Coated V2, or Coated Fogra 39.

      Colour mode must be CMYK or set as spot colour for Pantone colour work. RGB images must be converted prior to PDF submission. Spot colours not used must be converted to CMYK or removed.

      Your final print-ready PDF file should include crop marks, bleed areas, trim boxes and will also govern the quality of your images.

      PDF Specification

      • Format PDF/X-1a
      • Colour: CMYK (or Pantone colours as per ordered)
      • Images above 300dpi
      • Fonts embedded
      • Trim box specified
      • Overprint settings checked
      • Template included (see Working with Templates)

      Vector and Raster Images
      Prior to creating your PDF, it may be worth considering how you ensure your images will be at optimum quality. Many images are created using a series of dots/pixels which are called raster images – CMYK images should be set to at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). They do not scale up in size without a loss of quality, therefore we do not recommend using images above 100% of their size.

      When saving raster images (usually Photoshop), we recommend as little compression as possible such as maximum quality JPEG or TIFF formats.
      Vector images are different, as they are shapes and paths that can be mathematically scaled within the software. Typically, text, logos, borders etc are all vector format, and can be infinitely scaled without loss of quality.


      HELPFUL RESOURCES The site offers settings for the most common design applications as well as brief explanations of how to co-ordinate your workflow. There are many expert and up-to-date sources of information available online such as the Ghent Workgroup which is perhaps the best source of advice available in achieving a correct print-ready file.



      The advice in this section will help you get the best from your printed product. Your design is unique, but the following tips are often overlooked.

      Black Ink
      Often, for larger areas, ‘rich’ blacks are used with a combination of all four CMYK colours. This creates a much deeper colour, but should not be used for text, barcodes or small objects.

      The image below shows how using rich black can cause a fuzzy, sometimes blurred result.

      If your design contains large areas of black, it could result in a ‘washed-out’ effect. We recommend making the colour 50% Cyan and 100% Black to strengthen it. You should not create solid black areas made from all four
      CMYK colours (known as 400% or registration black) as it results in too much ink when printed. Note: our limit is 320% Total Area Coverage (TAC) – above this your files may be rejected.

      Neutral Colours
      Large areas, or solid backgrounds that are made up of more than two process colours can sometimes change due to print machine tolerances. This is due to the printing process which consists of small dots intersecting and overlapping to create coloured shapes and images.

      Fig.1 shows a magnified pattern formed by the four colour process print dots. Notice there are some white areas equal to the size of the pink (magenta) dots, which helps to achieve a neutral colour.

      The printing process has a degree of movement between the colours which can change the dot pattern. Fig.2 shows how a slight amount of movement to the magenta ink can affect the white areas. We therefore recommend that background colours are made up of two or three CMYK colours, which reduces the effect of print register tolerances.

      Mono Images
      For mono (black and white) images, we recommend that they are set to black only (greyscale). Due to the movement of the printed dot pattern (see Neutral Colours), mono images consisting of four process colours (CMYK) can sometimes appear with a green or pink colour cast, and may vary throughout the order.

      Text Size and Rule Weights
      If your design uses lines, rules or borders, they should be set to a minimum of 0.5pt and ideally be made from a maximum of two or three CMYK colours.

      Regular or bold typefaces should be set as a minimum size of 6pt if printed in colour, and 5pt if 100% black.

      Similarly, if you are using a light or fine typeface, it should not be below 10pt if in colour, or 8pt if 100% black.

      Reverse-out text should not be set in light or fine typefaces below 24pt, depending upon the background colour. Regular weight typefaces are likely to be affected by print register tolerances, so for reverse-out text should
      be as bold as possible, especially when the background is more than two colours.

      What is Bleed?
      Bleed refers to the area of printed board that is trimmed when making your finished product. Artwork must include bleed if your design extends to the edge of the printed product.

      If bleed is not allowed for, you are likely to see small white spaces at the edges of your finished product. We include a bleed guide within our template drawings, and a visual guide on page 11 of this document.

      What is Overprint and Knockout?
      Within your design software, you will find settings such as ‘overprint’ or ‘knockout’ – typically under Attributes. This setting determines how an object interacts with another and how it appears when printed.

      The  image above shows how three shapes appear when set to knockout or overprint – note the white shape has disappeared. As a rule, white areas should knockout and black areas should overprint.

      Please also see guidance on special finishes and white ink for more overprint advice.



      Print-ready artwork for die-cut products must include a template for cutting and creasing. The guidance in this section will help you to work with drawings supplied by Sarcina, and how to include them in your final print-ready PDF.

      If Sarcina have designed your product a PDF file or an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file will be sent to you when you have placed your order. The file contains the drawing’s dimensions, crease/perforation lines, as well as bleed and print-free areas.

      Before placing over your artwork, please ensure the correct template reference and version match the sample you have approved. When your artwork is received we shall use the references to ensure it relates to your order.

      Using the Template File
      To use the fi le effectively, it should remain as a vector file as it will need to be converted to a spot colour and set to overprint. Once complete it can be imported into your InDesign document or used as a layer within Illustrator.

      To do this we recommend opening the PDF or .ai from within Illustrator – DO NOT place into the document as you will not be able to edit the objects.

      Step 1 Create spot colour swatch to differentiate the drawing when finalising your design. In this example, we have used a bright pink, and called it ‘CUTTER’.

      A spot colour is necessary as our workflow will separate the drawing from the artwork that is to print onto your product.

      Step 2 Many of the objects will appear as an editable black stroke. To change the colour, simply select any one of the black lines, then go
      to Illustrator’s helpful ‘Select’ menu, go to Same, and the Stroke colour. Now ALL black stroke elements are selected. Note: you may wish to group them together to easily reselect them.

      Step 3 Now you can change the colour to the new CUTTER swatch. You must then ensure the objects are set to overprint in the Attributes window, otherwise the drawing will leave white areas across your artwork.

      Once complete, either move the entire template to a new Layer within Illustrator or you may wish to import as a vector image into other applications.

      One of the most common issues when processing artwork files is incorrect or unspecified trim boxes, and if your artboard or document size matches to flat size of the carton it is automatically set when creating your print-ready PDF. If your design is set within a larger area, you MUST add
      appropriate trim marks or crop marks for our software to detect the printed items.

      Adding Crop Marks in Adobe InDesign
      Adding Crop Marks in InDesign works in a similar way to Illustrator but involves a few more steps.

      Step 1 Draw an object with no fill or stroke to the size of the flat carton – for our example it is 437.5mm wide and 306mm high.

      Step 2 Position the object to the edges of the flat carton – take care not to position it to the bleed area.

      Step 3 You will need a Script to produce the crop marks, in the Window menu Utilities and select the Scripts window. With the object selected, find the Crop Marks script and double-click to create them.

      Step 4 When prompted, we recommend you do not change the default Crop
      Marks options, however you should uncheck the Registration Marks option.

      Click OK.

      You will now have eight trim marks surrounding the corners of your carton.

      Note: InDesign has now created rules for each crop mark, and also built a
      new layer for them called ‘myCropMarks’.



      Step 1 Draw an object with no fi ll or stroke to the size of the flat carton – for our example it is 437.5mm wide and 306mm high.

      Step 2 Position the object to the edges of the flat carton – take care not to position it to the bleed area.

      Step 3 With the object selected, go to the Object menu and select Create Trim Marks.

      You will now have eight trim marks surrounding the corners of your carton.

      TIP: For those using layers (as described elsewhere in this guide) we recommend you move the crop marks or trim marks to the same layer as the template. Note: the object used to create them still remains, but can be deleted if you wish.


      Printed packaging can benefit from additional processes such as foiling, spot varnishes, embossing and debossing. These common special finishes are great ways to accentuate aspects of the print, and here are some tips that should be considered when creating your artwork.

      Hot or cold foil blocking is the process of ‘stamping’ foil onto the surface of the print. Though there are many colours of foils available, they are usually metallic and add a degree of luxury to the design. To stamp the foil, a metal
      block is cast from your artwork, but there are limitations to what can be achieved.

      Intricate details such as small type or raster images cannot be foiled due to the stamping process. For best results, send your design to us for review before you create your final print-ready PDF.

      Embossing is the process of pressing an area into the reverse side of the substrate creating a ‘3D’ image on the front side. Debossing is pressed into the surface, making the image appear to be on lower level.

      Embossing and Debossing
      As with foil, a cast is made of the graphic and though there are limitations, they vary depending on the type and thickness of material. Small text and other fine details will not be visible, as the thickness of the material
      prevents the pressing of the die. We recommend that the details embossed are at least three times as thick as the substrate, but considerably more for rigid stocks.

      This graphic illustrates how the print and special finishes are applied to the material. It may be useful to emulate these layers when preparing your artwork.

      Spot Varnishes
      As well as ‘overall’ varnishes, which add a sheen or light coating to the printed surface, we can also apply a higher density varnish to highlight areas of your design.

      The most common is Spot Gloss UV varnish, which works well in contrast with matt or solid backgrounds.

      The printers term for applying a layer of plastic film to the surface of the sheet is laminating. The films are most commonly gloss or matt, and are applied after printing and create a waterproof surface.

      Many more laminations are available such as soft-touch, textured, holographic and anti-scuff , which is a recommended alternative to matt for high-end products.



      Your print-ready PDF must separate the objects that require the special finish. In most cases, they will be a vector image and MUST be set to overprint as an additional spot colour, see our below guide on how to achieve this within your artwork file.

      To start, let’s describe what we’re trying to achieve. This design is to be printed four colour process (CMYK), is gold foiled, spot UVed and embossed.

      In this example, the template drawing has been changed as described in the section ‘Working with Templates’ of this guide. We now want to make the foiling area a layer of its own. Note: we are using Adobe Illustrator.

      Step 1 The foil artwork is set as a gold spot colour (5th colour) and set to overprint. We have called it ‘GOLD FOIL’.

      Step 2 Create a layer for the foil, separate from the rest of the design. While this is not essential, it can help you view the design and ensure the objects are set correctly.

       Step 3 The foil objects must now be set to overprint so that it does not affect the rest of the design. Overprinting with foil is standard as they are opaque. Your design may require an exception to allow other elements to knockout the foil, however it is not recommended due to register tolerances.

      TIP: Use vector artwork where possible, not bitmap files. Gradients, tints, and rasterized images cannot be used for special finishes. Fine details such as small type, reverse fine images should be avoided due to registration tolerances.

      Now that the foil objects have been separated, you are able to view the printed elements by turning off the layer.
      Notice how the items beneath the foil are simple shapes, only part of which will be revealed by the foil.

      The foil elements are now complete and are ready to supply for print. Once approved, we shall use the foil colour to create the block for production.

      These steps should be repeated for embossing, debossing and spot UV. Using different colours for each finish is helpful, though it may not look like the final result, it will help you to check the objects and layers are correct.

      As with all artwork, we recommend checking your file with Overprint Preview – (go to View > Overprint Preview).



      If printing onto coloured or foiled board, white ink is an effective way to draw attention to areas of the design. Conventional designs rely on the substrate to remain white through the lack of ink. If the material is coloured, the print-ready fi le must include a white channel to print onto it.

      TIP: white ink is often essential if printing photos and barcodes onto coloured or foiled board.

      Implementing a White Ink Design
      White-ink areas must be supplied in the print-ready PDF in a similar way to the spot-colours for special finishes previously described in this guide. The exception is that vector and raster image can be printed in white.

      Note: overprint and knockout settings are crucial to the result so please check your overprint preview prior to creating your PDF.

      For this walk-through, we shall use artwork created in Adobe Illustrator. This ‘Crusher’ carton prints four colour process (CMYK) and White onto a silver foil board. The gold areas are yellow hues printed directly onto the
      board, and other areas are either white ink, or have white ink UNDER the coloured areas.

      Step 1 Create a new spot colour swatch called ‘WHITE’. The actual colour can be white if you wish – here we have used a green for distinction on screen.

      Step 2 For those using layers, we recommend creating a separate WHITE layer to aid this process.

      Step 3 Now simply change the objects that appear as white to the new colour swatch. Note: if these items are set to knockout in Attributes, they will appear white and will not underpin other inks.

      If you need to underpin a white object, ensure it is set to overprint as in step 4.

      Step 4 If white object is required to mask the coloured board and ‘underpin’ the CMYK print (such as a barcode), it will need to be set to overprint in the Attributes window.

      When complete, it’s essential to check your settings with Overprint Preview turned on.



      This summary page is useful for a final check before submitting your print-ready PDF.


      Get Familiar: You can download this dummy artwork in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign for free from our website


      Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or wish to speak to a member of our team for free advice. We endeavour to respond to all emails within 24 hours.

      Prefer a consultation over the phone? Call us now on 01243 573982

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