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Difference Between Flexo and Gravure Printing

Updated: Mar 13

The printing technology has significantly evolved, offering diverse printing methods for meeting various printing needs. Flexographic and gravure printing stand out as two distinct methods, each with its own advantages and applications. So, what is the difference between flexo and gravure printing?

If you are contemplating which printing method is the right one for your print project, keep reading. As leaders in commercial printing services, we will explore characteristics, benefits, and applications to help you make informed decisions.

Before we dive into the difference between flexo gravure and rotogravure printing methods, let’s briefly discuss their characteristics. 

Difference Between Flexo and Gravure Printing
Source: / Photo Contributor: sspopov

Understanding Flexographic Printing (Flexo)

Brief overview

Flexographic printing is a relief printing method that involves ink being applied to a raised image on a flexographic printing plate and then impressed onto a substrate. It involves transferring ink through an anilox roller. 

The method requires elastomer or polymer image carriers such as sleeves, cylinders, and plates. Often referred to as flexo, this printing method is referred to as a modern version of letterpress printing. 


Flexo printing is renowned for its capability to deliver precise image reproduction. By choosing the best commercial printer for flexographic printing, you can create exceptional print quality.

It is a versatile printing option, able to handle various ink types, including water-based, and suitable for a wide range of materials. It has the capability to print on diverse substrates, including paper, plastic, and even metallic surfaces. 

It runs at extremely high press speeds and is suitable for long print runs. The printing method is also known for its high production capabilities and cost-effectiveness as it uses low-cost equipment that requires little maintenance.


The Flexo printing method is a preferred choice for various applications. The most common ones include:

  • Newspapers and print media

  • Self-adhesive labels

  • Flexible packaging

  • Food packaging

  • Medical packaging

  • Brown corrugated boxes 

Understanding Gravure Printing

Brief overview

Gravure printing, known as rotogravure, is a sophisticated method that relies on engraved cylinders to create quality printed materials. It relies on engraved cylinders to apply ink to the printing surface.

This plate is commonly made of copper or chrome. This method gives the prints its distinct appearance. It excels in long print runs and is commonly used for high-quality projects. 


The gravure printing technique is an intaglio printing method that produces excellent image reproduction and consistency. It excels in producing fine details and a wide color gamut, delivering high-quality prints.

The method is capable of producing high-quality prints with excellent detail, sharpness, and color saturation. It is well-suited for long print runs where quality is a priority. It can print continuous-tone images, which is known as the vignette effect


  • Magazines and catalogs

  • Decoration materials 

  • Flexible packaging

  • Labels and stickers

  • Security printing 

Understanding Gravure Printing
Source: / Photo Contributor: lowpower225

The Difference Between Flexo and Gravure Printing

Flexo and gravure printings stand out as popular methods in the realm of printing technologies. While they both can provide incredible results, they differ slightly in terms of the process, end results, and applications. So, what is the difference between Flexo and gravure printing? Let’s break it down into sections. 

Printing plates

One notable difference between the two printing methods lies in the printing plates. The flexo printing method uses flexible polymer plates that are relatively easy and cost-effective to produce. 

Gravure printing, on the other hand, relies on engraved cylinders to apply ink to the printing surface. The engraving process is meticulous, which results in a more intricate and involved plate-making process. 

Print quality

Gravure printing excels in print quality. The technique is capable of reproducing fine details, continuous tones, and vibrant print colors. Hence, this method is preferable to continuous printing as it will not lose color or print intensity. Many printers prefer it for applications where high-resolution imagery is paramount.

While it doesn’t achieve the same color intensity and is less detailed than gravure, flexo offers excellent print quality. This printing technique is favored for its speed and efficiency in short to medium print runs. 

Printing speed and production

Flexography printing boasts incredible speed and efficiency. The quick plate production and minimal setup times make it a cost-effective choice for high-volume print jobs. 

The lead time of gravure printing is three to four times more than that of flexo. As a result, it is suitable for long print runs that focus on image quality. Yet, setup times can be longer due to cylinder engraving. 

Substrates and ink

Flexography printing excels in high adaptability. It commonly excels in printing on uneven surfaces. Flexo is capable of printing on both porous and non-porous substrates. This method is also compatible with a broad range of ink sets

Gravure is also a versatile printing technique and can handle a wide range of substrates. However, it is better suited for porous substrates, which makes it suitable for highly detailed printing. It only allows specific inks with lesser color variation.

Gravure vs flexo cost

Flexographic printing offers advantages regarding costs, especially for shorter print runs and projects where rapid turnaround is essential. Moreover, the affordability of polymer plates contributes to the cost-effectiveness of this printing method.

In comparison, gravure printing involves higher initial setup costs due to the production of engraved cylinders. Also, the image carriers are typically more expensive than the flexo ones. 

That said, flexo is more costly for long-term printing. Conversely, gravure can be cost-effective for long print runs where the exceptional print quality justifies the investment.

Flexo vs Gravure Printing - Which One to Choose?

Whether to choose flexo or gravure printing depends on your specific project requirements. If you prioritize cost-effectiveness, versatility, and speed for short to medium print runs, flexo printing may be more suitable. 

On the other hand, if your project demands high-quality image reproduction consistency, gravure printing might be the preferred choice. Consider factors such as material, budget, print volume, and desired print quality.

At CityPress, we provide a variety of commercial printing services, such as digital printing, offset lithography printing, and flexography printing. We offer a combination of expertise, cutting-edge technology, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Our skilled professionals have extensive expertise in flexographic printing. Equipped with the latest flexo printing technology, we aim to deliver high-quality prints with vibrant colors and sharp details. 

Flexo vs Gravure Printing
Source: / Photo Contributor: geppe


In this post, we have distinguished the difference between flexo and gravure printing methods. Which option to go for depends on various factors, such as the nature of the project, required print quality, and budget constraints.

While flexo shines in its versatility and cost-effectiveness, gravure excels in delivering impeccable image reproduction, particularly in long print runs where quality is paramount. Understanding these nuances can empower you to choose the suitable technique based on your printing needs.


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