Digital Printing on Mottled White Vs. Kemi White Board—A Cost and Graphics Comparison

Digital Printing on Mottled White Vs. Kemi White Board—A Cost and Graphics Comparison

The digital printing world is much like that of any other technology-based and dependent industry, it is constantly evolving/changing and in many ways, improving. Capabilities in terms of what is possible may change from one day to the next as new advancements are discovered. This can make it very difficult for you the customer to know what to expect when you decide to go digital. We are new enough to the digital game to admit we don’t have all of the answers, but we’ve learned a lot in a small amount of time.

One of the topics that is a point of focus for nearly every potential digital customer, is that of board and ink finish—or, phrased differently—how glossy will the box look after printing? It wasn’t long before we realized there was no one single answer to this question, and that the level of gloss is largely determined by a number of factors (ink type, board grade, graphics, and equipment to name a few). We also learned that every customer has their own expectations, and their own specific idea of what “high gloss” “medium gloss” or “low gloss” means to them. Thankfully, unlike flexographic printing, digital printing does allow for physical samples to be made and approved by the customer before production. This eliminates a lot of the guesswork.

We had a recent project in the works that allowed us to see the same graphics printed on two different types of board (Kemi white and Mottled white), resulting in two very distinct looks. What we learned is detailed below.


Mottled White Board

Mottled White is typically a common board used in flexographic printing, resulting in a flat or “no gloss” finish. For digital printing, it can be said that printing on mottled white will almost always result in a similar, low or no gloss, or flat look to the graphics. This can be appealing for a variety of reasons if a customer is looking for that specific vintage or rustic look consistent with a brand or product that speaks to classy and toned down, rather than flashy and new. Simply stated, there are certain graphics and designs that will look amazing on mottled white, and many that won’t. It’s largely a matter of preference.

In terms of pricing, Mottled White is almost always less expensive than Kemi board, and usually more readily available, resulting occasionally in shorter lead times and sometimes lower minimums.


Clay Coated (Kemi) White Board

We often use the terms “clay coated” and “Kemi” board interchangeably, as many in the industry would. In reality, Kemi is a brand of white-top board, much like Band-Aid is a brand of bandages. Clay coated, or Kemi White Board has been previously described as “deluxe white” in our past blog post about various board options. The fact is, Kemi board is nothing new or groundbreaking. Kemi has always been a great alternative option to litho labels and we’ve discussed it in blogs like this one for years. But, it has a unique and distinct advantage for digital printing when compared to mottled white, in that it is a bright, smooth surface with a finish that offers a slight sheen, allowing for graphics to be printed with a higher level of gloss than mottled white and other board types. Additionally, inks are less likely to sink into the board, so the colors will pop and be more vibrant.

Again, Kemi board is typically higher in cost, and will sometimes require higher minimums and longer lead times, but for many designs it is truly the best option.

You can see below a side by side comparison of the same graphics printed on Kemi and mottled white board. Graphics on a computer screen are never a fair substitute for up-close in-person viewing, but you can see the general idea of how different the finishes appear on each.

If you have more questions about board types, digital printing, or any other packaging-related inquiries, we’re here to help! Please find us via the contact us links below.


Kemi White

Mottled White

Mottled White

Kemi White










Please Contact Us Today

Have more questions about digital printing? We’re happy to walk you through an initial consultation and find a custom packaging solution that works for you. As always, if you have any questions, one of our branded packaging advisors is standing by to assist, with decades of experience behind them. Want to know more about custom packaging? Please call us today at 630-551-1700 or contact us via email at


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