With advances in printing technology, traditional offset printing has been replaced by digital printing. Anybody who’s in a business that regularly prints out brochures, posters, business cards, or any other type of promotional/marketing material will be well aware of the importance of design, color, and layout of all materials. But beyond all these factors, there’s another important business decision: whether to opt for the traditional offset printing or the newer digital printing.
Let us look at both types of printing, their features, and the advantages and disadvantages of both types of printing. Knowing how the two types of printing works and their potential benefits and disadvantages will help you make the right decision om the best printing that works for your business.
Offset printing: This traditional type of printing press employs printing plates with wet ink. Since wet ink is used, the products must be dried before they’re ready and the printing procedure is extended as it takes a longer time for setup. For the efforts, this printing method produces top quality prints with excellent control over the colors and effects. Also, this is economical compared to digital printing for large volumes, considering the number of prints that can be taken from just a few original materials.
Digital printing: Though it’s simply called “copying”, digital printing is technically much more than that. Back in those days, an original hard copy was required for making copies from. Today, though, copies are directly taken from digital media files. Digital printing is capable of making several copies in a short time and better advancements means that the quality of digital prints is closely similar to what is offered by offset printing. However, if hard copies are the only material available for taking prints, offset printing is clearly a better choice.
Digital printing technology
Instead of plates, digital printer technology employs toners, similar to the ones used in laser printers. Digital printing prints by directly imprinting the material onto the media of choice through toner powder or liquid ink.
PDFs or image files are directly sent to the digital printing press to make the copies. It is best for printing on paper, canvas, photo paper, or fabric material.
Benefits of digital printing
- Quick turnaround time
- The prints are identical and virtually no odd variations in the batch
- More cost-effective for low volume printing needs
- Easy to spot and fix errors or customize material for two different needs
Disadvantages of digital printing
- Quality and image sharpness slightly lower than offset printing
- Only standard inks can be used. No option for customizing inks for special printing needs
- Cost is higher for large volume of printing
- Cannot be printed on a wide variety of materials
Offset printing technology
Offset printing requires plates for its printing needs. The plates are usually made of aluminum and used for transferring an image onto rollers or blanket, made of rubber, and then rolling the image onto a paper. The image to be printed is burnt onto the plates in each standard color (cyan, blue, yellow, and black). It’s also possible to use custom colors instead of the standard combination.
The reason why it’s called “offset” is because the ink does not get directly transferred to paper. Once set up, offset printing runs smoothly and is suitable for large scale cost-effective printing. The color reproduction and output quality is excellent with this type of printing. Also referred to as “lithography” sometimes, this is the preferred method for large volume commercial printing like bunches of posters or newspapers.
Benefits of offset printing
- Reliable and excellent image quality without streaks or spots
- Better accuracy of colors and design balance
- Can be printed onto any type of material
- The best choice for large-scale printing needs
Disadvantages of offset printing
- Higher investment on plates
- Time-consuming procedure of creating plates
- Higher cost even for low volume of printing
- Errors on plate can ruin a complete batch and not easy to spot or fix
Factors for deciding which works best
Time: Digital printing saves time and can churn out copies in a matter of time, and especially useful for urgent or last-minute printing.
Custom colors and material: If you’re looking for printing using custom colors and on unique materials, like plastic, metal, or canvas, offset printing will work perfectly.
Custom printing needs: Are you looking for customized and unique prints, digital printing is the cheapest and effective option.
Attractive finish: If you are looking for crisp, sharp, and attractive print outputs, choose offset printing. It uses Pantone® ink to achieve exact match to the material to be printed. Even for two-colour or black and white printing, this is the preferred printing.
Requirement of proofs: Consider whether you need proofs first before you go ahead with a larger scale of printing. For this, digital printing works best, because after the plates and ink get ready in offset printing, it’s expensive and time-consuming to order changes.
Print volume: If you’re looking for large volume of printing, for instance 500 or more copies, offset printing is a better choice.
Generally, the rule is that for short runs, digital printing method works well. This is because it does not involve extensive setup. However, offset printing, though it may take up a lot of time and efforts to get the plates, rollers, and ink ready, begins printing out in large volumes rapidly, becoming more cost-effective in the long run.
Make the choice based on whether the number of printed copies ranges from 500 to 100o or above (offset printing) or less than 100 (digital printing).
No matter which printing method you choose, remember to do thorough research to learn more and also hear from others who choose one or the other type of printing. It is also true that your printing needs might not always be the same. Equipped with the basic knowledge of both printing methods, you can easily make the decision regarding which printing method you need to choose for your business’s print needs. Keep the quality, volume, budget, time frame, and customization needs in mind before choosing any type of printing.