Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

When you are in the market to get some printed marketing materials such as brochures, business cards, flyers etc., you know just how important the design is. From the layout to the graphics, a lot of hard work goes into the final design. With all that hard work, you want the final project to look the absolute best it can. But one aspect of designing for print projects often neglected by designers is how it is going to be printed. There's one more important decision to make when before your design is printed: choosing between offset vs digital printing.

What is Offset Printing

If you are new to the world of printing, offset printing is probably what comes to your head. Newspapers, catalogs, and magazines have been made for years using offset printing.

Originally called lithography, offset is the most common printing technique used for commercial jobs.

A newspaper being printed using the offset printing process.

Here's how it works: Offset printing technology uses plates, usually made from aluminum, which is used to transfer an image onto a rubber "blanket", and then rolling that image onto a sheet of paper.

Typically in an offset printing project, there are four colors used. Those colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (CMYK). These four colors can make any possible color you would need for your design. Offset printing can use wonderful Pantone colors as well.

An excellent visual representation of how offset printing works.

What are the Benefits of Offset?

  • Higher print quality: If you want your print project to be the highest possible quality, offset is the way to go.
  • Perfect color match: When using offset as your printing technique, the colors will be exact. Colors can be adjusted to match any color imaginable.
  • Cheaper for Larger quantities: If you are doing a large run of a project, offset printing will save you money. The price per piece is actually cheaper than digital.

What are the Cons of Offset?

  • Bigger up-front investment: Even though offset is way cheaper than digital in terms of price per sheet, the up-front cost is going to be higher due to the custom made plates
  • Longer turnaround time: With the process being more labor intensive, there is going to be a longer turnaround time for your project. There is plates being made and getting the colors to match exactly take a little more time than digital
  • Higher risk: Mistakes happen to everyone. If you catch a mistake on your offset printing job, the whole process has to start over. That means creating new plates with the correct version.

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is one of the newest printing techniques that is used in the industry.

As you just learned that offset printing is made by using plates, digital printing does not use plates. Instead, each piece is individually printed on the paper (or whatever you're printing on).

Digital files such as PDFs can be uploaded into the printer and that's it. Just think of it as your home printer but on steroids.

The digital printing process.

What are the Pros of Digital?

  • Faster turnaround time: Due to the less labor-intensive methods used in digital printing, this allows for much faster turnaround time.
  • Cost-effective short runs: The cost of getting a projected printed digitally is much cheaper than using offset. If you need to print only 20 pamphlets or 200 business cards, digital outshines offset.
  • Allows for variable data: Perhaps the greatest benefit of printing digitally is the allowance of variable data. It is much easier to change individual information throughout a digital print job. For example, if you are sending out a direct mail campaign with 250 different addresses, you are able to do so without any extra time or effort.

What are the Cons of Offset?

  • Slightly Lower Quality: There is a slight decrease in the quality of your project when printing on digital. The colors are much harder to match and the images aren't as crisp.
  • Higher Cost for Larger Runs: For small runs, digital printing is hands down the way to go. When you print a large run on digital, the price is going to increase.
  • Fewer Materials To Print On: You can print on just about anything using the offset printing technique but digital presses are designed mostly for paper.

Offset vs Digital Printing: Which Should I Choose?

There are multiple questions you should ask yourself before ultimately deciding on offset vs digital printing.

  1. How many pieces do I need to get printed?
  2. Am I in a rush?
  3. Does the quality matter?

If you are still unsure about what is best for your next print project. Fill out the form below to get in contact with our team.

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June 17, 2019

(4 min. read)