Digital Printing vs. Offset Printing
This is a very common topic that typically comes up on a daily basis in our industry. Many people don’t know the difference between digital and offset printing and when they should be used. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your printing method:
These printers resemble the workings of your desktop laser printer, but on an extremely large scale and with color monitoring. They have the capabilities of producing hundreds of printouts in a matter of minutes. One of the benefits of printing digitally is that you can use unlimited amounts of color for the same price. These printers use your standard cartridges of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). A few other advantages include short turnaround times if you are in a hurry, low prices and upfront costs for low volume printing, and consistent printing with very little variation.
Limited paper choice – when it comes to your business and standing out amongst the competition, paper choice means everything. There are hundreds (really, thousands) to choose from, but unfortunately if you run on a digital printer, your choices drop down significantly because of size, texture, and weight.
Lower print quality – Your colors will also not be exact with CMYK (especially important to know when you have brand colors). Have you ever REALLY looked at your CMYK image closely? It’s just dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.
When to Use: Using the digital printing method makes sense when you need less than 500 pieces printed, have a limited budget, are creating something with a short shelf life, and when you need a quick turnaround time.
This method is done by using a plate to transfer ink from a rubber cylinder onto paper. It’s a huge process and most of your cost comes upfront through set up and producing plates. Advantages of using offset printing include lower prices for high volume printing compared to digital, superior image quality that is sharp and clean, the ability to print on virtually almost any paper or surface, and exact color match using the Pantone system.
Cost- you will pay more cost upfront when choosing this method of printing, so when you decide to go for the Rolls Royce of printing, make sure you choose a high quantity to get the most of your money.
Limited Color choices- in general, it’s more expensive the more colors you have on a press. Typically, most designers will recommend you using up to two pantone colors so only two plates need to be produced. You can still use the standard CMYK on an offset printer, but if you decide to do that, be prepared to put up a little more money for producing four plates.
Time- this method takes more time. Printers need to review files, set up the press, make plates, and send proofs before your print job is even started.
When to Use: Use offset printing when you know you need specific colors (ie… printing company business cards, letterhead, etc…), when you are printing items with longevity, and when you want to make a bold statement with different paper stocks and superior image quality.
Always talk to your designer about what method would be best for the goal you are trying to achieve with printing. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always good to print branded materials using offset printing with the Pantone color match system. Print flyers and postcards using digital with CMYK.