Important Differences Between Offset and Digital Printing

Mon Nov , 2019

Brochures, banners, flyers and business cards can be printed using either offset or digital technology. Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. That’s why before you print any advertising material you should explore each mode of printing. This will make your job easier and prevent you from taking unnecessary losses. Keep reading to discover the differences between offset and digital printing to help you make the best choice for your next project.

Differences Between Offset and Digital Printing

Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

What Is Offset Printing?

Also known as lithography, offset printing is commonly used for print jobs done in bulk, like newspapers, magazines, flyers and brochures. To understand it, let’s look at how it works. It uses etched metal plates that apply ink onto a paper sheet; one plate is used for each colour. Four colours are usually used: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key) – abbreviated CMYK. But it can also use other custom ink colours like Pantone. The design is then transferred from the plates onto rubber rollers that print ink onto paper. Thereafter, the press runs for a few minutes on ‘scrap’ paper sheets unless the plates are properly inked. Once the inks are ready, paper sheets run through the rubber rollers which imprint the design on them.

What Are the Advantages?

With offset printing, you enjoy the following perks:

  • It offers superior image quality, with high-grade detail and colour fidelity, to ensure clean, distinct and professional-looking flyers, brochures, newspapers and magazines.
  • It is suitable for bulk jobs as the price per piece drops the more you print.
  • It uses a wide variety of paper types with custom finishes which makes it versatile.
  • Apart from the four main colours, it can handle custom inks like metallic and Pantone.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Offset printing does have its disadvantages:

  • It is inadvisable for low volume jobs as it will incur heavy production costs.
  • It is time consuming because the plates must be created first.
  • If there is an error on the plate, the entire process must be repeated from scratch.

What Is Digital Printing?

This is printing from a digital image file using a high-speed ink jet or laser printer. Unlike offset printing, digital printing does not use plates. Instead, it uses toner like the kind seen in laser printers or larger printers compatible with liquid ink. It is suitable for low volume jobs (think 20-30 greetings cards or 100-150 flyers). In fact, with this kind of printing, you can run off jobs with varied data sets. For instance, if you require 10 greetings cards, each with a unique name or address, digital makes it possible as it can print something different on each sheet of paper.

What Are the Advantages?

The following are benefits of digital printing:

  • It is faster than offset.
  • The setup costs are lower.
  • It is suitable for low volume jobs.
  • It produces only the amount you need.
  • It can print different sheets with unique names, addresses, colours and numbers.
  • It makes black and white printing cost effective.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Though it requires less time, there are a few disadvantages:

  • It offers fewer material options to print on.
  • It uses standard inks that cannot match all colours which is why there is less colour fidelity.
  • It is expensive for bulk productions.
  • It may not offer top quality printing.

What Are the Major Differences Between Offset and Digital Printing?

To prevent confusion, here are the major differences:

Offset Printing Digital Printing
·         It is time consuming. ·         It takes less time.
·         It is appropriate for bulk jobs. ·         It is best for low volume jobs.
·         It is cost effective for large volume jobs. ·         It is cost effective for small print runs.
·         It offers high-quality printing with high colour fidelity. ·         It offers relatively low-quality printing with less colour fidelity.
·         It can incur a heavy loss if there is an error on the plate. ·         It offers variable data capability, thus providing flexibility at low cost.

Which Is Best?

Digital and offset printing each have unique characteristics. If you have a big job, offset printing is the right choice. But make sure you check the metal plates once they are designed to ensure there are no errors, otherwise the whole production can go to waste. Digital is best if you are in a hurry and require customization. However, the quality of the printing may not be as good. Determine what you want, understand your requirements and choose the printing method that best suits them.