Designing Corrugated Packaging - When to Use Kraft or White

May 1, 2018 by Erin Behan

The good news about designing custom corrugated packaging on is that you've got a lot of options when it comes to making the box your own through design. But with many decisions can come indecision. What's the right color for my corrugated box? Why would I choose kraft over standard white?

Use this handy guide, which details the types of boxes available at Distinct Packaging, to answer these questions and get tips on why choosing kraft or white for your box might be best for your business.

The process
After you choose box shape and size on Distinct Packaging, you'll be taken into the Designer tool. There, the next option is print area, where you choose whether you'll be designing just the outside of your box or also the inside, and you need to choose material.

The material choices for mailer, shipping, and pizza boxes are kraft, standard white, white gloss, and premium white gloss. No matter what material you choose, rest assured that the box meets or exceeds industry standards. All materials are rated as 32 ECT, ensuring Distinct Packaging's corrugated boxes—mailer, shipping, and pizza—can take the rigors of shipping.

The Sweet Spot box
Packaging designed by Kayd Roy

Why choose kraft for your boxes?
Choose kraft corrugated for your mailer, shipping, and pizza boxes and kraft cardboard will be visible in both the inside and outside of your box. Kraft board is 100 percent recycled, making it a smart choice if you want your business to appeal to an environmentally conscious set or if you just want to be environmentally conscious—for more on that, see How Sustainable Is the Packaging Industry?

Beyond being environmentally sustainable, the brown paper look of kraft also communicates the idea of natural, handmade, or homespun—in essence it's a "crafty" look. In the above design for a The Sweet Spot bakery by Kayd Roy, kraft paper and use of earthy browns are the binding element for the bakery's cookie boxes that use pizza-sized boxes and brown paper bags. While communicating a homemade aesthetic, the box features a prominent logo with modern typography and subtle printed pattern that keeps the whole look decidedly up-to-date while still hinting at the cookies your mom (or grandmother) used to make.

A few design rules to keep in mind with kraft. Kraft is great for printing dark and bold colors, but the finished box will not necessarily have the same color intensity as the 3-D online preview. This is one reason why you often see black or another deep, rich color printed on kraft. When you design with lighter colors, you may see the natural brown cardboard color underneath your printing—consider this an asset and work it into your design.

Quirky Crate box
Photo via QuirkyCrate

Why choose standard white for your boxes?
Standard white (also referred to as mottled white) is the everyday white corrugated material used for packaging. Standard white has a slight variation in the whiteness as you can see some of the kraft pulp fibers show through if you look closely. This standard grade is No. 3 white on the outside and inside. Like kraft, all corrugated standard white boxes are rated 32 ECT.

Although not made 100 percent from recycled materials, standard white boxes, like all paper materials at Distinct Packaging, are from FSC or SFI certified suppliers in North America. Whenever possible, materials are sourced from local mills with the highest available recycled content. Upgraded versions of standard white include white gloss and premium white gloss, which deliver more of a sheen for a higher price tag.

The reason designers choose white for boxes is that printed colors really pop on a white background, with colors appearing brighter and more "true." Quirky Crate, a subscription box service of fun items like printed socks and unicorn pouches, just might have the corner on packaging with colors that pop with its super-bright, colorful designs printed on a white box. The rainbow of colors on its boxes reflect the colorful items within, too, which is a good way to judge successful packaging design: Does it hint at what's inside?

Of course, you can also print color on a standard white box, using the white base to showcase a logo or slogan. An example of this simple but effective design strategy is My Geek Box, a subscription service for people with an affinity for comics, computers, and other traditionally geeky pursuits. Its sky blue box gets your attention, but the design is kept simple, with the white background used to make the name stand out. It's a box that requires minimal design effort, further streamlining your ability to go from idea to custom box in minutes.

Note that at Distinct Packaging, whether you are using a kraft or white box, the printing process doesn't allow for white ink. Fonts or artwork that call for white will instead be printed as "clear," meaning the cardboard underneath—whether kraft brown or white—will show through.

To design a box today, head over to Distinct Packaging, where you'll find a variety of box types and sizes, ready to be customized for your business or personal project. Orders ship within 10 days of being placed, there's a low 10-box minimum, and the tool's 3-D preview means what you see onscreen is what you get.
Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


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