Difference Between Digital Printing and Offset Printing?

By | April 14, 2015

Offset Printing

Although offset printing may sound old-fashioned in this day and age, it still has its place. Offset printing is performed by using a plate that transfers ink onto a rubber sheet which in turn transfers the ink to paper. An offset printer uses CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) and Pantone to create all the different colours you see in a colour print. Pantone uses 14 basic colours. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) allows for lifelike colour that is more effective that the colours a digital printer can produce.

Offset printing, a process that is over 100 years old, is still considered to be the highest quality form of printing, but it’s definitely not the most cost-effective unless you’re looking to do a large print run. Because of the time needed to make plates, it also takes longer from the time you place your order to the time you receive your printed material. The cost of making plates is what makes offset printing less cost-effective for smaller print runs.

To sum up, Offset printing:

  • Produces better colour quality
  • Allows for more cost effective printing of batches of 1,000 or more
  • Gives greater control in colour specifications.
  • Uses plates in the printing process

Digital Printing

Strides have been made in colour digital printing and unless you’re an expert, you probably won’t be able to see the difference between an item that was printed by an offset printing process or one that was produced digitally. Digital printers use CMYK and RGB (Red, Green, Blue). One of the disadvantages of digital printing is that large fields of one solid colour do not look as effective as they do when an offset printing process is used.

Digitally printed material is most cost-effective for smaller print runs (under 1,000 copies) and has the advantage of a quick, easy transition from basic artwork to proof and print run. The actual printing is done with industrial laser or inkjet printers. Smaller businesses often favour digital printing because their print requirements are not large and they want quick delivery. Modern digital printers are able to print onto a wide variety of substrates making digital printing a highly versatile option.

Digital printing:

  • Is more cost effective for small print runs
  • Does not use plates and so allows for quicker delivery.

Which should you use?

Obviously, your choice will depend on your needs. In general, you’ll go with the slightly more complicated offset printing for larger print runs while digital printing makes more sense if you just need a few items printed. However, depending on the project, there are always exceptions to the rule.

If you consult a printer, there might be a bias to the information he gives you. You could get several quotes from different Gold Coast printing companies for different types of printing, or you could outsource the task to a print broker who already has a good understanding of the industry and who can secure the benefit of trade discounts.