Printing Paperboard for mock-ups

So our mock-up guy and I have been looking for a place to post this question and now we have one!!! We have been looking for a substrate that we can print on using a regular HP large format printer to make paperboard carton mock-up. We are looking to get a decent gloss finish without having to do a lamination. Currently we either print on glossy paper laminate that to paper board and then cut it out on a CAD table, or we print on uncoated paperboard, put a clear lamination on it and cut that out as well.

My problems with these methods are that printing on glossy paper causes the substrate to be a lot thicker than the real thing. This means you have to change you mechanical to fit the mock-up. With printing on uncoated board and then laminating a clear laminate over it still does not give me a production look. It looks very amateurish to me.

There has to be a way to do this. I have heard of reverse print laminations that act as a transfer sheet but I cannot seem to find the material. If anyone has any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.

Tough one, on one hand a UV printer will print on anything except water, however you’ll still have to coat it. We’ve had limited success clear-coating UV prints to protect the finish, this could be one option.

Another might be Dye-sublimation printing, or heat transfer printing. Your media options are more limited with this process, but there might be stocks that work well for this.

Are there heat transfer sheets you can print on an HP, aside from those home iron on things, I have no idea.

You can print on thin 1.5 to 3 mil gloss vinyl and laminate that to the appropriate thickness of SBS to get close to the final thickness of board. The great thing about the vinyl is that it stretches nicely at the folds. There are many suppliers of vinyl – 3M, Avery, MacTac, etc. HP and Epson have their own vinyl but I find it a bit too thick. Roland now has a printer that will print a gloss varnish (with multiple passes a clear texture – very cool)

We’ve had similar challenges. The more pressing issue is that with any lamination sample it doesn’t reproduce the feel and functionality of the carton features (handles, opening features). To handle the thickness issue you should down caliper the board to make up for the difference of the laminate. So if you spec’d out 18pt board, use 16pt. Also remember to cut away your non varnish areas as well.

Earlier this year we got a nice fancy Mimaki to print directly on our substrate. It ended up being a significant cost savings over the lamintation materials and setup time.

We will have to check this out. Anything is better than what we are doing now.


We have tried the lower caliper of the board but like you said it still does not reproduce the functionality of the carton. We have noticed that your Altivity folks can do it. do you know how they do this? I think they have a reverse print film that they laminate on the board. I am not sure though.

AFIK, We print the artwork on the HP, then run that paper through a laminator which applies the gloss film over the print and adhesive on the backing.

I haven’t actually seen one of their samples in person so I wouldn’t know. If you get any direct print stuff, then that’s from our office.

Thanks for the help everyone. I will pass this on to our Comp guy.