Is Flexo Or Digital Printing Better For Roll Labels? 

Choosing the right method of printing your labels plays an important part in your branding and marketing. The debate of using flexographic printing or digital printing for roller labels have been going on for years now. Users seem to be divided.

Labels enhance a brand’s image and grab the attention of consumers and it influences their perception of the product. It also adds a distinguishing factor – a unique value, to the product and the brand itself. 

Let’s take a closer look at the key factors that make each one better from the other to help you decide the best option for your business.

Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing, also called flexo printing, is basically the modern version of the letterpress. It uses flexible printing plates usually made of plastic or rubber.

The image or text is slightly raised on the plate and is rotated on a cylinder and coated with quick-drying ink before it is applied to the substrate for the roll labels.

Is Flexo Or Digital Printing Better Roll Labels flexoAdvantages of Flexo Printing

  • It can print on any substrate especially those that are sensitive to heat like direct thermal materials and those that need to be printed on for a second time.
  • The prints last longer with flexo printing. It can withstand the heat and other weather conditions, and other damages outdoor that use can cause.
  • Faster production. Because it uses quick-drying inks, it is faster to add one colour after another. 
  • It is also convenient because die-cutting, laminating and other processes are integrated into the press line. This makes the process easy and fast.
  • Colours can be reproduced with precision. Flexo printing uses a standardised colour reproduction system called Pantone Colour System which helps in determining which exact coloured ink to use for the graphics.
  • Cheaper for large scale printing. Because it is fast and convenient, high-speed and high-volume production is affordable for flexo printing.


  • Expensive for small scale production. Printing plates are very expensive. The cost can be offset with large scale production but is too expensive for smaller production. Printing with images also increases the cost. Images need to be distorted to adjust it from the effects of being wrapped around a cylinder so they are not stretched and deformed. The cost of distorting images is high and will not work for small scale production.
  • Image registration is poor. Correlating and overlapping colours on an image are tricky so the finished product will not be as clean and smooth as the ones produced with digital printing.
  • It is more labour intensive. Because preparation requires a lot of work in setting up the plates and adjusting the cylinders, you need more people to work on the printing project. This will add to the cost.

Digital Printing

Digital printing has many applications. It works by printing from a digital-based image directly to a substrate. The toner does not permeate the substrate, as it forms a thin layer on the surface that is transferred using a heat process.

Is Flexo Or Digital Printing Better Roll Labels digitalAdvantages of Digital Printing

  • Quick turnaround. Because it does not use any plates, there is no setup time and no need to distort images on a cylinder, the preparation time is very minimal. Printing can be done instantly.
  • There are minimal labour requirements. 
  • It has better image quality compared to flexo printing. Digital printing does not need plates and eliminates the need to overlap colours. The image is printed one time. 
  • It is cheaper for small scale production. With no plates and image distortion, cost of printing for small scale production is cheaper. It can become expensive for mass printing though. 
  • Flexible printing. The image is prepared on the computer which makes it easy to change, edit, and add. You can make different variations of your labels even when you have started the printing process. In fact, you can print multiple versions in a batch without affecting the printing time and cost.


  • The prints are less durable. Images adhere to the surface of the substrate so they are easily removed or erased with the passing of time especially when exposed to the natural elements like rain and heat. 
  • It is expensive for large scale printing. You have a flat cost on each label, unlike flexo printing where your cost of the plates and cylinders is reduced or offset as the number of prints increase.
  • Less colour precision. While it can be close to the exact colour, it is still not as precise as flexo printing. Digital printing uses the four colour process using black, cyan, magenta and yellow which limits the range of colours.
  • Digital printing cannot print on heat-sensitive materials.
  • An additional process like lamination to reduce the colours fading means additional steps on the process which extends completion time and increases the cost.

Looking at the pros and cons, digital printing seems like an easy choice although the printing company may want to take a look at your business model and see what fits better for your marketing.

Because every business has different requirements and needs, you need to determine the following:

  1. How quickly do you need the roll labels?
  2. How frequently do you need to print?
  3. Do you need them in bulk or just a few?
  4. Is this a short run, one time, seasonal, or for long-term?

If you need help finding the right printing solutions for your roll labels, call us for a consultation. Our printing experts can help you find the right option for you.

Call Impact Digital today on 03 9387 0999 or reach us through our contact us page. 

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