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Offset Printing vs. Digital Printing

We often get the question - "What's better, offset or digital printing?" And our answer is always - "Well it depends!" So here is what it depends on, and here are the advantages and disadvantages of both.

First, some Print Definitions:

Offset Printing - An image is transferred, or "offset," from a plate, to a rubber blanket, to the sheet of paper where the ink is applied. Those inks can be a four color process (CMYK) or a combination of Pantone (SPOT) colors. The plate is created (using computer-to-plate technology) prior to printing and contains the printed image. Plates are created in separations for the colors being used. For example, if a 4 Color CMYK press is being used, four plates, one for each color is created. Because of set up, offset printing is intended for larger runs, with longer turnarounds.

Digital Printing - Images are digitally transferred to paper using lasers, positive and negative static charges and either dry toner or liquid suspended toner particles. No plates need to be created and varying images can be transferred to paper quickly and efficiently. Digital presses differ from standard laser printers in the tight tolerances they are kept in, technologies developed in the offset world, and the graphics arts software that controls them. They also offer sheet sizes up to 14"x26" and up the 350GSM in weight.

Benefits of Digital Printing:

  • Fast Turnaround to meet tight deadlines
  • Fast Set Up and no Plate Creation
  • Less waste
  • Variable Data (VDP) is available
  • Because there is no costly set up, digital printing is cheaper for shorter runs
  • On Demand Printing is available

Benefits of Offset Printing:

  • Slightly better image quality (although that is becoming more debatable as digital press technology advances)
  • Larger range of Media Handling (some offset presses can print on wood, plastic, cardboard, metal, and leather)
  • The higher the volume, the less expensive it is to print
  • Larger sheet size possible on larger presses

So how do you choose?

Here are our recommendations, and of course give us a call at 212-566-5540, or email us at info@qis-inc.com with any questions.

  • Quantity - If this is a long run print job with a very high quantity, than offset may be cheaper than digital. Small and medium runs may benefit from digital as there is no set up.
  • Turnaround - Digital will always be faster, and can help you meet deadlines. Offset printing will take longer, mainly because of press set up and plate creation.
  • Proofing - Because of setup an actual proof off an offset press is very expensive. With a digital press, a single sheet can be printed prior to the run, and then easily repeated once approved. If a proof is required, and the job can be run on a digital press, proofing would not be an issue.
  • Customization - VDP, On Demand and quick file changes are all possible using Digital Presses. These are either not available or as easy to accomplish on an offset press.
  • Color Matching - When using CMYK, Offset and Digital presses both produce similar results. When using pantone or SPOT colors, offset presses offer more accurate matching as the actual liquid color ink is used. However, digital presses can match a large number of Pantone colors by mixing CMYK. We offer color matching services to get an accurate match on a digital press. Documents designed using an RGB color space (such as office documents) will match better on a digital press as software controlling color matching accurately converts RGB to CMYK.
  • Paper Selection - Digital presses max out at 350GSM, while offset can go with heavier stock. Offset presses also offer larger sheet sizes and more substrates.
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Quality Imaging Services, Inc.
225 Broadway, Lower Level, NY, NY 10007
Shop: 212-566-5540  |  Fax: 212-566-5547  |  Email: info@qis-inc.com