Folding Carton Styles – The Standard Box Types Explained

Different types of folding cartons

Box manufacturing is a very creative industry. There are so many folding carton styles you can choose from. But if you’re new to the packaging world, you may have found the various types of boxes a bit confusing or complicated. There are straight tuck boxes, reverse tuck boxes, 1-2-3 auto-lock boxes, 5-panel boxes, just to name a few…

How do you know what box to order for your product, anyway? 

To make things easier for you, in this post we’re going to explain all folding carton styles and how you can best fit each feature to your product.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:
  • Straight Tuck Boxes
  • Reverse Tuck Boxes
  • Auto-lock Bottom Boxes
  • Crash Bottom Boxes
  • Two-piece Boxes
  • Tuck Top Boxes
  • Display Boxes
  • 5-panel Hanger Boxes
  • Boxes with Cutouts and Inserts

Plus, you’ll also discover the extensive level of customization you can add to any of these folding carton styles. In other words, you can get the perfect packaging that represents your brand, from the simplest to the most complex box.

To start, let’s define folding cartons.

1. Understanding Folding Cartons

Folding carton styles

From blank paper to a complete box – how do we create folding cartons? Well, it’s quite easier, as you’re about to learn.

But before we continue with the available types of boxes and their characteristics, let’s answer some of the most common questions regarding some specific terms in the industry.

What is a Folding Carton

Paperboard folding carton

The term “folding carton” may sound new to you but let me tell you it has been used since the late 19th century“Folding carton” refers to a box that is made of paperboard.

Paperboard is printed and sent through machines that cut, glue, and score it to create a folding carton. Folding cartons are shipped flat and when constructed, they create a container to protect and/or display products.

What is Paperboard

Paperboard, or cardstock, is a heavy or thick paper-based material. At YourBoxSolution we offer four different types of paperboards, including metallic paperboard, plus various extras you can choose from.

All paperboard (including kraft) can be cut and formed easily while still remaining stable in order to protect the contents of the folding carton.

What is Kraft Paperboard?

Kraft folding carton

Simply put, kraft paperboard (or chipboard) is a type of paperboard made from 100% post-consumer recycled material or reclaimed paper stock.

Kraft folding cartons are a great packaging solution for any product. All folding carton styles we create at YBS can be made out of kraft paperboard too, not only white paperboard.

What is a Cutting Die?

Cutting dies

A cutting die is a metal tool that cuts out the box shape from the paper it’s printed on, similar to a cookie cutter. 

Besides the 2000+ library of box dies and templates that you can use for free, custom dies can be created for you. You can design your box exactly as you’ve imagined it and rest assured that we can print it just like that.

2. What are the different types of folding cartons?

There are two types of folding cartons: paperboard folding cartons and corrugated folding cartons. Let’s see what’s the difference between them and where we can help you.

Paperboard folding cartons

Paperboard folding carton

Paperboard folding cartons are made of single-layered paperboard and are most commonly used for retail products. These are the boxes we specialize in at YourBoxSolution, and are also called paperboard boxes or cardstock boxes.

Corrugated folding cartons

Corrugated folding carton

Corrugated folding cartons are made of two layers of cardboard paper, with a third ridged inner layer in between them. The inner layer and the air columns create superior strength, making the boxes perfect for shipping.

3. Folding Carton Styles

What is a folding carton style? In short, boxes are different from one another when it comes to the closing type and the way the end user interacts with the box and with the contents inside. That is what we call a style.

Let’s see what the folding carton styles are.

Straight Tuck Box (ST)

Straight tuck boxes are one of the most common types of boxes that work for a variety of industries. The top and bottom closure panels are attached to the same main panel.

A straight tuck box folds from front to back in the same direction. Usually, a straight tuck end box has slit locks that secure the tucks in place.

Straight Tuck Box Features
  • Ideal for light weight and medium weight products
  • Zero assembly needed
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts without compromising integrity
  • Slit locks for secure closing
  • Cost per piece a bit higher than Reverse Tuck because they don’t “nest” on the paper sheet as well, and thus more paper is used.
Straight tuck box
Soap straight tuck folding carton
Straight tuck boxes for soap
Straight tuck boxes for soap

Reverse Tuck Box (RT)

Reverse tuck boxes are very similar to straight tuck boxes, except for the closing panels. One closing panel is attached to the back of the box, while the other closing panel is attached to the front. They fold in opposite directions.

Reverse tuck box
Reverse Tuck Box Features
  • Ideal for light weight and medium weight products
  • Zero assembly needed
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts without compromising integrity
  • Slit locks for secure closing
  • Cost per piece lower than straight tuck boxes - RT “nest” better, maximizing costs and efficiency on the printing sheet.
Reverse tuck boxes for vape
Reverse tuck boc for cosmetics

Lock Bottom Box (LB)

Also called 1-2-3 bottom boxes, lock bottom boxes are especially designed to hold heavier items. The bottom flaps push into each other, forming a very sturdy base that won’t open under the weight of the product inside.

For the top closure, they generally have a tuck top panel with either friction locks or slit locks. 

Assembling a lock bottom box is very easy and takes a few seconds. I explain it in this video.

Lock Bottom Box Features
  • Ideal for heavier products (candles, glass jars)
  • Usually with a tuck top closure
  • Easy three-step assembly
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts without compromising integrity
  • Items stack perfectly thanks to the flat bottom
Lock bottom box folding carton
Lock bottom box kraft paper
Lock bottom box cream

Crash Bottom Box (CB)

Crash bottom boxes, or auto-lock bottom, are another good choice to package heavier items that need extra bottom support. They are also referred to as auto-lock bottom boxes, or auto-bottom boxes.

Crash bottom box
Crash Bottom Box Features
  • The strongest option for heavy products
  • Pre-glued bottom for extra strength
  • Usually with a tuck top closure
  • Zero assembly needed, just "pop" them open
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
  • Items stack perfectly thanks to the flat bottom
Crash bottom box for candle
Crash bottom box for candles
Crash bottom box for cosmetics

One-piece Tuck Top Boxes (TT)

The tuck top box is a very strong and durable box type thanks to its double side walls. As a shape, it’s similar to a mailer box, but made out of paperboard. The double-wall tuck top box has one opening to the top, with two closing flaps that fold into the bottom of the box with a friction lock.

Tuck Top Box Features
  • Fits a wide range of products
  • Ideal for displaying multiple items in the same box
  • Extra design space on the tucking flaps
  • Double walls mean extra strength
  • Easy assembly
  • Snap locking tabs at the bottom and friction locks for the top closing
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
One piece Tuck top box
Tuck top box for soap
One piece tuck top box for cosmetics
One piece tuck top box for candy chocolates

Two-Piece Boxes (TP)

Also called Simplex Tray or Kwikset Tray, two-piece boxes are an elegant packaging solution that works for any kind of product, especially for luxury products, sweet assortments, or product kits with multiple items.

They are formed of a tray and a lid, and both components have a double-wall structure, which makes the box very strong and durable. Custom inserts that keep your products into place can also be added inside the box.

Two piece box with lid and tray
Two-Piece Box Features
  • Fits a wide range of products
  • Both tray and lid can be used in a display setting
  • Double walls (glued rollover walls)
  • Easy assembly
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Ideal in combination with a box sleeve

Holster Boxes (HOL)

A holster box, also called a half box, is a box where the top is completely open, without any closing tucks. They are ideal for soap bars or any item where you want the top part of your product to be visible. The box is closed at the bottom with a straight tuck or a lock bottom.

The top opening of the holster boxes can be customized in a special shape, so you don’t need to have a straight line. You can cut the opening in the form of your logo, add cutouts to other areas as well, and even have one of the panels higher or lower than the other.

Holster Box Features
  • Ideal for soap bars or any product where you want a part of it visible
  • Straight-tuck bottom or lock-bottom
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
  • Top opening can be cut in a custom shape (doesn't have to be a straight line)
Holster box or half box
Holster box for soap
Holster box for soap with hot foil stamping
Custom shape holster box for soap

Sleeve Packaging (SE)

A sleeve is a box with no ends that wraps around the product container, adding another level of customization and protection to all types of boxes.

Box sleeves can be customized with your specific information just like any other box, and you can order small quantity boxes if you’re looking to target your products to different audiences or sell them in seasonal batches or for different occasions. Sleeves boxes can also hold cutouts and special embellishments.

Sleeve box
Sleeve Box Features
  • Ideal for quickly upgrading a blank box to a custom box
  • Perfect for testing new products (more affordable than a full box)
  • Easily slide over the product or box
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
  • Can be made in custom shapes
  • Very cost-effective, uses less paper
Sleeve packaging for chocolates
Sleeve packaging for candy chocolates
Soap sleeve box

Counter Display Boxes

Display boxes, or pop-up boxes refer to a box or folding carton that has two purposes: to package the contents or display the contents inside.

When the lid of the folding carton is opened, it becomes the header, offering extra promotional space. If the box is closed, it protects and carries the items inside.

A display box can be situated to create a display that will easily fit on a counter or shelf. Depending on your needs, you can create a display box with removable perforations or just folding parts.

Counter Display Box Features
  • Two boxes in one: utilize your bulk packaging as a display box
  • Ideal for selling smaller items as “grab-and-go”
  • Dispenser-style available
  • Fully customizable for bigger visual impact
  • Easy assembly and opening
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
  • Can have premade perforations, scored panels or cutout areas
Counter display box
Counter display box with perforations
Counter display boxes for CBD and marijuana
Counter display boxes for lip balm

Five-panel Hanger Box

A five panel hanger box is a Reverse Tuck End box with a hanger panel that extends from the back panel. The hanger panel has a hole that helps you display or hang your products on display shelves or on hook panels for retail display.

Custom 5 panel hanger box
Five-Panel Hanger Box Features
  • Ideal for light weight products
  • Fully customizable
  • Easy assembly
  • Compact storage (boxes come in flat)
  • Can hold cutouts
  • Can have inserts
Custom five panel hanger box
Custom five panel hanger box

Boxes with Inserts

An insert is a piece of paperboard that is cut and sometimes glued to help secure the product(s) within the folding carton. For example, an insert can be found in a glass bottle box, to prevent the glass bottle from moving. Or it can be inside a lip balm display box or a multiple-piece makeup kit, in which case it can also act as a divider.

Inserts Features
  • Recommended for medium, light-weight or fragile products that need to stay in place
  • Useful to arrange multiple smaller items in the same box
  • Inserts add an extra level of protection to the product
  • Can be custom-made to fit exactly the shape and size of your product
  • Work with any box type
Boxes with inserts
Box inserts cosmetics cbd oil
Box inserts cosmetics
Box inserts cosmetics

Boxes with Custom Cutouts

A cutout or knockout in a folding carton refers to a design element where the paperboard is cut out of the design to show the contents inside the box. This cutout is created within the cut die.

We have a few standard boxes with cutouts in our free library, and you can also leverage the power of cutouts by creating a custom cutout that’s unique to your brand.

Box with custom cutout
Cutout Features
  • Work with any product or industry
  • Do not compromise the integrity of the box if designed correctly
  • Can be made in any shape
  • Anywhere on the box (including edges)
  • Free cutout box dies available
  • Custom cutouts require a custom die (one-time fee)
Soap boxes with cutout
Custom soap box with cutout
Lip balm box with cutout

Boxes with Thumb Tabs

Thumb tabs are circular cutouts made on the main panels of the box to facilitate an easy opening.

The thumb tabs can be placed at the top, at the bottom or at both sides of the box depending on your design and needs.
Boxes with thumb tabs
Thumb tab on cream box
Thumb tab on soap box
Thumb tab on soap box

Your Custom Folding Cartons

Custom cosmetic boxes in different folding carton styles

We know it’s not easy to find a box that has it all. Maybe you want a reverse tuck with a five-panel hanger, that also has a cutout AND an insert. And you want a coating, areas with metallic paper or gold foil…

The possibilities are endless, and chances are your box is a very specific request and you won’t be able to find it in our library with a simple search.

The good news? We are not limited to the folding carton styles you’ve just learned about. We can create a box from scratch just for you.

Our team of box experts is always available for support & consultation in creating your perfect box.

Grow your business with custom folding cartons. All you need to do is get in touch with us via phone or email and tell us what you’re imagining. You’ll discover there’s not much that hasn’t been done and you can get your folding cartons at fair prices, right here in the USA.