Offset and Digital presses aren’t perfect. Paper moves slightly in the printing process, and post -press processes, such as folding and trimming amplify this problem. In fact, each successive operation in the printing process can make flaws a little more obvious. This is useful information for you if you’re designing precise folds within a brochure, expecting everything to line up from panel to panel when the brochure is trimmed and folded. This would be nice, but it doesn’t always happen and a prudent designer will avoid the “need” for perfect alignment, whenever possible.

Digital Vs. Offset

The growth of digital printing technology has brought technical advancements and more options to today’s commercial printing, but it has also brought some confusion. We have client’s that ask us what is the reason to have something printed digitally versus printed offset, so we thought it would be helpful to explain the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing and how those compare to offset printing.

Advantages of Digital:

  • Shorter turnaround.
  • Every sheet prints exactly the same.
  • Lower unit costs for very small print runs.
  • Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Text and graphics can be changed on each piece without stopping or slowing down the press. For example, personalized letters can be printed with a different name and address on each letter.

Advantages of Offset:

  • High image quality.
  • Works on a wide range of printing surfaces.
  • The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
  • Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs.

Still Not Sure Which is Right?

  • Quantity. Offset printing has a front-end cost load. Short runs may have a high unit cost. But as quantites increase, the unit cost goes down. Very short runs can be much more cost effective with digital printing.
  • Printing medium. If you need or want special paper, finish, unusual printing surface or a unique size, offset printing offers the most flexibility.
  • Color. Digital presses use 4-color process printing. If you need only black ink or one or two colors, offset printing may offer a more cost effective solution. If you need 4-color printing, digital may offer advantages in lower up-front costs.
  • More on color. If you’re planning to print using PMS colors, offset printing will give you the best match. Digital printing simulates the color using a 4-color matching process, so some digital printers may offer less accurate color matching on projects.
  • Turnaround. If you need it fast, digital is the way to go.
  • Proofing. Digital offers accurate proofs since you see an actual sample of the printed piece. Accurate color proofing for offset printing can be expensive.
  • Customization. Digital printing offers the most affordable way to customize marketing materials, direct mail pieces, letters, etc.

In Summary

It really depends on the kind of print job as to which technology is best suited not only from a cost standpoint but also from a quality standpoint. Both digital and offset printing have their advantages and disadvantages and that is where having experienced printing consultants such as EFI Printers Alliance can help decide the best way to produce your printed products.