Choosing the Right Printing Processes and Understanding Lead Time –

AnnJoy provides expertise in translating your brand image into a functional and beautiful package.  One of the first steps in determining how best to engineer your branded packaging is to evaluate your artwork and determine which of 3 basic printing processes – flexography, offset or gravure – best suits your needs.  If offset or gravure printing are needed to meet your  graphic requirements, your order will likely need to be produced overseas, adding several weeks to lead time.  To receive your holiday packaging by early October, your order should be placed no later than early May.


Plastic bags and most paper bags produced in the United States use flexographic printing, which is essentially a high speed stamp. Because of its high speed, this printing method is less expensive than its alternatives.  However, it is generally of lower quality due to the expansion of ink under pressure and not great for multi-color graphics, traps, or 4-color process printing where tight registration is required.


Offset printing, also known as “lithography”, offers much higher print quality and is often used to support the high end look of a premium shopping bag. Most paper shopping bags are produced using offset printing and, depending on the bag size, are made using one to two sheets of paper.  Colors can be trapped lightly together in a premium quality process based on utilizing four colors and a dot matrix. Offset priting is slower than flexography and is typically available only from overseas producers, adding significantly to product lead time.


Though less common, this method is often utilized to print stand-up bags, folding cartons, and pouches. The gravure method is a technique in which an image is engraved onto a metal cylinder. It is not better or worse than offset printing, just different. It is best suited for printing roll stock, when lamination is required, and for high-volume orders.   Like offset printing, gravure printing costs more than flexography and is typically available only overseas, requiring a longer lead time.

When to Place an Order: When AnnJoy takes your order, the first thing we do is evaluate your artwork to determine what type of printing process will be necessary to meet your requirements. Today’s graphic artists often come up with complex designs that do not work well with flexography, so typically we turn to overseas production.

We begin by sending the artwork to the factory to get a pre-production sample made.  That sample will be shipped back for AnnJoy’s inspection and then forwarded to you for approval – a process that takes about two weeks.  Often changes will need to be made, necessitating a second or third two-week approval process.  Once artwork is approved, production can begin and product is typically ready for shipment in about 60 days.  Due to the pandemic, shipping times have increased to at least 45 days, more than 50 percent from a year ago.  While experience varies, it is safest to plan on at least 4-1/2 months between order placement and order delivery.

Advice for Your Holiday Orders.  Most customers want to receive their holiday orders by early October. To meet this deadline, we will need your artwork by early May. This accounts for 2 rounds of pre-production sampling, 60 days of production, and at least 45 days for shipping. We encourage you to begin working with us now to allow maximum flexibility and ensure you’re your product reaches you in plenty of time for a successful holiday selling season.

AnnJoy’s expertise in printing and product engineering makes us the perfect partner to help you elevate your brand!

Visit our website, give us a call, or send an email to to discuss your company’s packaging needs.