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What’s the difference between digital & offset printing?

What’s the difference between digital & offset printing?

In layman’s terms, offset printing uses wet ink and printing plates whilst digital printing uses toners on a press similar to a giant office printer.

Digital printing is more suitable for shorter runs, while offset or litho printing is suited for longer runs.

The type of printing process that you end up choosing or being advised on, depends on what you specifically want to print and the quantity. If you’re looking for a printing a small run of something (around 100-250), then your best bet would be to pick digital print.

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is a method of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. During this process, the printing sheet will only pass through the ink jets/toner cartridges once to produce the desired image.

Digital printing is a modern method of printing involving devices such as toner and inkjet printers that print small run projects that are in the format of computer files. It is often used for small run projects, due to the fact that a digital press will accept quantities under 1000. Some other benefits of digital printing are faster turnaround times, pricing, accurate prints and variable data.

What is Offset Printing?

On the other hand, offset printing is a process that uses three cylinders in order to transfer images from a plate onto a rubber blanket, then eventually to the printing surface. If you require a larger print run (1000+), then you’d benefit more from offset.

It is a method of printing where images on metal plates are transferred (offset) to rubber blankets or rollers and then to the print media. During this process, the number of times the sheet passes through the ink jets is dependent on how many colours are being printed to achieve the final desired image.

Offset printing will reproduce tints, gradients and large solid areas of colour better than digital printing, at the same time personalised mail outs with names and addresses can only be achieved using the digital process. It is very cost effective for small print runs because there is less initial setup involved. There’s the quick turnaround as the job is produced in its finished format with no additional drying time required.

What are the Pros and Cons?

One of the key advantages of digital printing is the accuracy of the proofing it allows. Extremely detailed samples can be made of your print job quickly and cost-effectively, enabling you to hold a sample in your hands which will be exactly recreated in the final print run.

To recap digital and offset, and whether or not using one is better than the other, there are some things to consider before you choose. Both processes of printing are beneficial, the one you end up choosing depends on the requirements of your print job.

Go with offset if your print project is going to have large runs and colour consistency is paramount, go digital if it’s a small run.
Your choice of commercial printing process will depend on your quality and volume demands, budget and time schedule. Carefully list what you require before following the above guidelines and making your final decision.

Remember! Commercial printers are there to help, so always contact them for further advice on your project. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 02 4952 7599 if you have any further questions or need further assistance.