How Does Digital Printing Compare to Offset Printing?

James Clark December 8, 2022

The next time you need brochures, posters, cards, or anything else to market your company, just make sure that your design includes the perfect theme, font, layout, and copy. You still have to make another very crucial choice after checking off all those boxes: whether to print digitally or offset.

In this post, we’ll look at both printing methods to see what they have to offer. As we discuss the best process for your project, we will discuss the factors that should guide your decision. We’ll also illustrate both digital and offset printing with some examples so you can see how they work.

Printing on Offset: A Throwback to The Past

A type of printing called offset, or lithography, is typically used for commercial print jobs of high volume. Did you ever watch a video of a newspaper rolling over a big roll? That is what offset printing is all about.

It works as follows: Metal plates, one for each color, are first burned onto the design. Most often, CMYK is used, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Custom ink colors are also possible with offset printing, such as using Pantone colors instead of standard ink colors.

Rubber rolls then serve to transfer the design from the plates. Paper is run between two rubber sheets after the ink comes in contact with them. A final image results from layering color onto the paper through all of the rolls.

Offset Printing Offers Many Benefits

  1. The quality of image is of superior quality and is reliable at the same time. If you want to print type or graphics without smudges, spots, or any other kind of flaws, you can depend on offset printing.
  2. The accuracy of the colors in a design depends on their accuracy as well as the balance they provide. Colors will naturally be spot-on in offset printing because each job varies with custom color inks.
  3. Almost any type of material works well with this.
  4. It is more cost-effective to hire someone who can handle large volumes of work. If you want to start an offset job, you must pay a lot of money. In order to create plates, you must invest money and time. The materials, however, are already ready once you invest your money. No matter how large the print job gets, you will actually spend less per piece with offset printing than with digital printing.

Printing Offset has Some Drawbacks

  1. The price for low-volume jobs is very high because of the high output volume.
  2. Due to the need to create plates, it is going to take a longer timetable.
  3. In the event of an error, there is a greater fallout. It’s much trickier to fix a typo once you’ve ruined a batch if you don’t catch it in time.

Printing Digitally: A Hot New Trend

In the early days of digital printing, there was plenty of work and mechanical steps needed in offset printing, so it said no to it. By using either liquid ink or powder toner, this technique does away with proofs, plates, and rubber beds.

Does your home computer have an inkjet or laser printer? Digital printers come in handy in that case. While there are big, fast, and precise printing systems available in big printing companies, the concept is the same.

Digital Printing Offers These Benefits

  1. It is possible to turn around the work faster.
  2. There is no variation between the prints. Due to the imbalance between water and ink, you are less likely to encounter odd variations.
  3. For jobs with low volumes, it will be cheaper to use this method. At some point, offset printing crosses over with digital printing due to the price per unit drop.
  4. Printing multiple copies of information at the same time. As an example, suppose you wanted to advertise a concert through postcards. It is possible to print two sets of cards by changing the dates and locations for part of the batch.

Digital Printing has These Drawbacks

  1. A limited range of materials to choose from.
  2. Since digital printing uses standard inks that cannot match all colors exactly, color fidelity is less than with other printing. There is always a better match for offset jobs since the inks are custom mixed. It might be better to use blended inks than a custom mix, but digital is improving and getting closer to blended inks.
  3. Jobs with a high volume cost more.
  4. Sharpness, crispness, and quality are slightly lower.

The Bottom Line

You can make smart decisions when selecting which printing method is best for your project based on the differences between digital and offset printing. You can gain a great deal of insight by working with a designer. Don’t hesitate to seek expert advice if you are unsure of what’s right for you.

James Clark

James is a senior editor, expert in the packaging industry. With a keen eye for detail and industry expertise, he crafts engaging narratives that explore the latest trends and innovations in packaging design and sustainability.


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