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 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 be. 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 before your design is printed. You must choose 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. We have used the process of offset printing for over a century to print newspapers, catalogs, and magazines.

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

<div style="width: 100%; height: 0; padding-bottom: 73%; position: relative;"><iframe class="giphy-embed" style="position: absolute;" src="" alt = "Offset vs Digital Printing" width="100%" height="100%" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></div> <P align = "center"> A newspaper being printed using the offset printing process. </P>

Here’s how it works: Offset printing technology uses plates, usually made from aluminum. Aluminum will transfer an image onto a rubber “blanket” and then roll that image onto a sheet of paper.

Offset printers use four colors in every printing project. 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 utilizes wonderful Pantone colors as well.

Above is an excellent visual representation of how offset printing works.

What are the Benefits of Offset Printing?

  • Higher print quality: If you want your print project to be the highest possible quality, offset printing is the way to go.
  • Perfect color match: When using offset printing as your printing technique, the colors will be exact and matched.
  • 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 Printing?

  • Bigger up-front investment: Even though offset printing is way cheaper than digital printing 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 are plates being made, and getting the colors to match exactly takes a little more time than the digital process.
  • 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 we will have to create 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.

While offset printing uses plates for printing jobs, digital printing does not. Instead, the printer individually prints each piece onto the paper (or whatever you’re printing on).

We uploaded digital files such as PDFs into the printer, and that’s it. Just think of it as a much larger home printer.

<div style="width:100%;height:0;padding-bottom:56%;position:relative;"><iframe src="" alt="Offset vs Digital Printing" width="100%" height="100%" style="position:absolute" frameBorder="0" class="giphy-embed" allowFullScreen></iframe></div> <p align = "center"> The digital printing process. </p>

What are the Pros of Digital Printing?

  • Faster turnaround time: The less labor-intensive methods used in digital printing allow for a much faster turnaround time.
  • Cost-effective short runs: It is much cheaper to have a project printed digitally than to use offset printing. 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 Digital Printing?

  • Slightly Lower Quality: There is a slight decrease in the quality of your project when printing on a digital press. 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 a digital press, 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 need printing?
  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, get in contact with someone on our team!

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June 17, 2019

(4 min. read)