Most commercial printing companies would offer two types of printing: Digital and Offset. Traditional offset printing involves a mechanical process of applying layers of ink onto paper or other medium using rollers. Digital printing, on the other hand, eliminates the mechanical process by applying ink in a single pass, quite similar to how inkjet printers work.
There are several things to consider in choosing which method would work well for your printing needs:
Offset printing is generally recommended for large quantities, while digital printing would be ideal for low volume print jobs. The reason behind this is that offset printing requires additional steps like creating films and plates for the ink rollers which would be a front-end cost, something you would not encounter with digital printing. However, with higher quantity, you can get a lower price per unit compared to digital printing.
Digital printing usually offers faster turnaround because there is no set up involved like in offset printing. When you have tight deadlines, digital printing would be ideal, as some companies like OnlinePrinting offer next day rush printing.
- PRINT QUALITY
Offset printing produces higher image quality because the plates used can be imaged to a higher resolution compared to digital printing, and certain limitations in digital printing may mean that image quality may not be 100 percent accurate. Furthermore, digital printer inks are not fully absorbed into paper – this means that the printed area may develop cracks when folded.
Both digital and offset printing use four-color process printing or CMYK, but offset printing can use the addition of Pantones or spot colors for very specific color needs resulting in superior color accuracy. Digital printers using four-color matching process cannot accurately reproduce Pantone colors, so color accuracy is less. Also, if printing in just one or two colors, offset printing may also be more cost effective than digital printing.
- PRINTING MEDIUM
Offset printing still offers the most flexibility when it comes to the range of printing surfaces that can be used. While digital printing can be done on paper with unusual size, surface, or finish, offset printing can be done on other medium like cloth, plastic, wood, leather, and even metal.
When it comes to customizing marketing materials, digital printing is the faster and more affordable way. Variable Data Printing is a form of digital printing that allows you to, for instance, print a different name or address on personalized letters. This allows you to change the images, colors, and text during the print process without stopping or slowing it down.
Samples can be created for both digital and offset prints, but proofs from digital printing are more cost effective, produced faster, and shows you exactly what will be created. Proofs for offset printing tend to be more expensive. The process, and usually the material used, in creating the proof is different from the actual process, so the proof is never exactly the same as the final output.
Digital and offset printing each have their own advantages. Carefully review these factors to help you decide on which commercial printing process to choose for your next project.