Digital vs offset printing


In the past, when someone wanted to have something printed, the decision was fairly straightforward. Offset printing was often the clear and natural choice for most printing jobs. In the past decade however, interest in and the rising availability of digital printing has started to make the choice more difficult. There has been an explosion of new digital printing companies on the internet which, while providing people with more printing options, has only added to the confusion. Many people do not actually understand the differences between these offset and digital printing and thus, they are often very confused when it comes time to print.

Here at, we sell logo templates, business card templates and stationery templates to our customers. After purchasing one of our logo templates, our clients often ask us if they should use offset printing or digital printing to print their logo design. Today, I want to help make this choice easier for everyone by explaining and outlining the advantages of both.

Offset printing and its advantages

Offset printingOffset printing was the standard printing method used up until about a decade ago. Today, offset printing is still used for over 40% of all print jobs. Offset printing is based on the principle that oil and water repel each other. Basically, an image is burnt onto a plate, transferred to a rubber blanket and then printed on the desired medium. In the processes, the areas of an image that are to be printed attract ink while the non-printing areas of an image attract water thus, the ink-free, non-printing areas of an image are not transferred to the printing medium.

Offset printing is the most common high volume commercial printing technology. In general, I would not even consider using offset printing unless your project is over for 5000 copies. Offset printing jobs have a high initial set up cost so it is not a good choice for small runs. If however, you have a larger run, offset printing is often cheaper than digital printing. Offset printing results in high quality images and it is great when you want to print on a diverse printing surfaces such as wood, cloth, leather, plastic or metal. Also, in terms of colours, offset printing is better than digital printing. Offset printers use Pantone inks to print their jobs and thus, you know exactly what colours you will get.

Digital printing and its advantages

Digital printing
Digital printing involves the use of lasers and it is the type of printers that most of us have in our homes. Digital printers are very quick and cheap for low volume printing jobs. Digital printers usually don’t impose a minimum order amount and every print turns out exactly the same. Digital printers simulate colours using CMYK therefore, the colours may turn out to be less accurate than if you were using offset printing or different from what you expected. With digital printing, you can quickly and easily get a proof of your job at little cost. This proof will be an exact replica of your final printing job. Accurate proofing can be very expensive for offset printing jobs.  Digital printing is also the most affordable way to customize marketing materials, printing addresses on postcards, etc.

In summary...

Offset printing is best for:
- high volume jobs
- jobs to be printed on different mediums
- jobs to be printed in Pantone colours or where the colours need to be exact

Digital printing is best for:
- low volume jobs
- jobs that need to be printed quickly
- jobs where you need to be able to easily customize marketing materials

Both offset and digital printing will continue to co-exist in the future so when you have your next printing job, you should carefully consider what factors are most important to you. Most often, the size of your printing job, your budget and your time line will be the deciding factors in which printing technique you decide to use.

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