What is the difference between digital and offset printing?

Posted on | February 16, 2018 | Comments Off on What is the difference between digital and offset printing?

One of the most frequent we are asked. Here are some of the difference and benefits between these two ways of putting an image on paper.

Digital printing is completed on 4-colour digital press that uses a heat-based transfer of toner to the page. It is the preferred option when the quantities are small or the turnaround times are short. Because of reduced setup times and requirements, the price per unit is lower on small jobs. It’s also the only way in which to offer variable data printing VDP where aspects of the job change such as addresses printed on postcards.

Digital printing now offers equivalent colour accuracy and image resolution as offset presses. Digital presses can emulate a variety of offset presses and dynamically apply a wide range of colour profiles offering tremendous flexibility in the look of the final job. The RIP devices (computers) that drive these machines include sophisticated layout and processing software reducing job setup times and allow for on-the-fly conversion of non-CMYK (RGB) files to CMYK standards.

Best for:

  • Short print runs < 1,000
  • Quick turnaround times
  • Less stringent artwork requirements
  • When on-the-fly adjustments are required
  • Variable data is being used

Offset printing technology uses plates, usually made from aluminum, which are used to transfer an image onto a rubber “blanket”, and then rolling that image onto a sheet of paper. It’s called offset because the ink is not transferred directly onto the paper. It is still the preferred way to print larger jobs for its output quality and wide variety of paper types, weights and finishes.

Although the setup requirements are more complex and the standards for artwork higher, the initial costs are offset by a lower per-unit cost on longer runs – the more you print the cheaper it gets.

Best for:

  • Longer print runs > 1,000
  • Heavier weight papers, textured and coloured stocks
  • Custom finishes such as AQ and UV are required
  • Special inks and spot colours are required
  • Highest possible print quality is required



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