Even though we offer a free design service, many customers like to have their own graphic designers produce the layout for their custom printed paper cups. Some even like to design their own themselves

My name’s Adam Kiszka and I work on the design team here at CupPrint.

Here’s my top tips for you or your designers to prepare artwork for your printed cup project:

Software for cup designs:

Illustrator is the way to go. The best software to prepare cup design with is, without doubt, Adobe Illustrator (AI).

It gives the biggest flexibility for adjusting the design to cup template.

You can also work with InDesign and Photoshop, but AI is my recommendation.

Paper Cup Printing Color Model

Work in the CMYK workspace. Avoid RGB or spot colors when not needed.

Our main printing process used for printing cups is high resolution full color process CMYK.

This process is great for accurate representation of photos and graphics.

If you have specific Pantone references for your brand, no problem. We convert all Pantone references to the CMYK version of this reference using up-to-date Pantone Color Bridges Books.

For the most part this is very accurate. But there are some colors to watch out for.

The colors with the most discrepancies to be aware of are bright oranges – such as PMS 021.

Please be aware that some spot colors cannot include our usual food safe inks.

Pastel and neon color palettes are a couple more examples. Always please enquire first.


Vector vs. Raster graphics for Cup Designs

Rasterised logos are a common issue we encounter.

I recommend vector all the way as it gives more flexibility in color corrections. Plus, print quality is generally better.

Black needs to be black

Black mixes using all 4 Process Colors are not recommended as they might print as dark brown due to high ink coverage.

To print black we advise using K100% only. Additionally, to achieve deep black, cyan boost between 40-60% can be used.


Small text sizes and tiny elements

Text 6pt and below might not be legible.

Please take care with small imprints and symbols like: © ® and ™.

If it’s not readable when you print it on your printer, it won’t be on the cup.

Line thicknesses below 0.5pt might differ from screen appearance, especially on matt finish cups with dark backgrounds and bright graphic elements.

This is due to uncoated paper which soaks in some of the ink.


Follow the grid

Use our gridlines to adjust elements using warping effect in Illustrator to make elements appear straight on the cup.

Ideally elements need to be arched so envelope distortion matches horizontal and vertical lines of the grid.

Finally, the text must feature the same curvature as the provided grid pattern to ensure that the printing results appear optically correct and linear.

This approach is also used when positioning images.

In this case, we also recommend creating a new image layer and adjusting the edges of the image to fit the pattern.

There are some exceptions like vertical text or circular elements, where warping might affect general proportions of the elements.

Geometrical shapes

A paper coffee cup is 3D object, which can be very challenging when you want to depict shapes like circles or squares. (Our cup cloud let’s you see your design in 3D!)

Of course a cup itself isn’t cylindrical. It’s tapered towards the bottom making the actual design template to appear curved.

Generally, the bigger the shape the more awkward it will appear on the cup.

I have my own rule to not make circles or squares wider than 80% of the base diameter.

Seamless designs on cups

A cool idea – but sometimes hard to execute. Please be aware any bands and patterns running around the cup may not join correctly at the seam due to movement when the cup is formed.

Please allow for 1mm movement up and down.

Bleed it out

One of the common mistakes is forgetting about bleed.

Bleed is an extra print area added beyond the cutting line giving that extra safety when cups are die cut.

Without bleed we can get white lines visible at the edges of the seam- something nobody wants to see when cup is supposed to be a solid color all around.

Paper Coffee Cup Design Templates

We aim to produce design templates later and post them here. For now you can edit or adjust stock cup designs by using our interactive, online cup designer tool if you click ‘Design your own‘ on individual products in the products section.

When you’re ready you can click here to UPLOAD YOUR ARTWORK

Coffee Sleeve Dimensions

If you want to know about cup sleeve dimensions please contact us and we’ll walk you through.

If you have any further questions it’s best to ask us when you get YOUR FREE QUOTE.