Offset vs. Digital Printing: How to Decide Which is Best for Your Business
With the influx of new printing companies continually bursting onto the scene, it’s vital that you choose the right type of printing service to best serve your business. When it comes to printing, it’s not only your company’s money that is on the line—it’s also your reputation, the face of your business and your day to day operations. Choosing the wrong printing service—be it digital printing, offset printing or otherwise—will set your production and entire organization back in ways that successful businesses never encounter.
Here is a brief guide to help you choose between digital vs. offset printing for your business needs.
What is Offset Printing?
Also called lithography, offset printing is a high-volume commercial printing technique that is wildly popular. During lithography, the document you wish to print is either burned onto a plate or printed onto a film. This plate or film is then offset—which basically just means transferred—onto a rubber blanket. This rubber blanket is similar to a rubber stamp, and it is then transferred to the printing surface.
Each color that is used requires one plate, so a black and white print job only requires one plate. If you are printing in full color, the job requires four plates (CMYK). Any additional printing techniques also require a separate plate, so if you were printing in full color and you wanted a UV coating (a type of varnish), you would need an additional plate for a total of five.
There are a few downsides to offset printing, mainly arising from the high-use of the Internet for business applications. Pictures that are downloaded from online sources don’t work with offset printing because they are RGB, which means made for viewing on the computer screen. If you want to print from online sources, you first have to convert the file to a CMYK, something that can be done easily in Adobe Photoshop.
What is Digital Printing?
With digital printing, a lot of the steps from offset printing are removed, especially some of the more labor intensive ones such as using color proofs, making plates and using film. Digital printing is able to print from online sources and it is much faster than offset printing. There is also less waste and the final product is more uniform and accurate as a general rule.
Most online printing companies utilize digital printing as it is quicker, cleaner and in many cases, cheaper. Plus, you can adjust the printing process much more easily than with offset printing, where an adjustment means more plates need to be made. This makes digital printing easier to customize without slowing down the printing process. This means you can print personalized letters en masse without stopping to change the text manually—it is simply changed digitally and programmed in.
Of course, there are a few downsides to digital printing such as not being able to have a wide array of color shifts or paper stocks available. Digital printing often requires flimsier paper, which some people view as a lower-quality product. You are also limited to just four color and one varnish with digital printing.
Advantages of Digital Printing
- Faster turnaround time
- Each print is accurate and the exact same as the one before
- Counts are more accurate
- Lower waste, less variation
- Cheaper price for low volumes
- Easy to customize jobs
- Variable data printing
Advantages of Offset Printing
- Extremely high-quality image
- Can be printed on other surfaces aside from paper
- Cheaper price for high volumes
- New computer-to-plate technology advancements
- Less robotic feel to prints
Choosing the Best Printing Service for Your Business—Offset vs. Digital Printing
So which is better? Well, the answer to that is very cloudy and subjective. Each business has a different printing need and situation, requiring printing solutions that best address those needs. As you can see, both styles of printing have their benefits and their drawbacks. Choosing which form of printing is best for you company will come down to a few issues such as volume, budget, time frame, image source and image quality. Depending on these factors, you’ll best be able to decide between offset printing and digital printing.
Regardless of which you choose, it’s important that you find a company that you can trust with your printing jobs. A company that will fulfill all of your printing needs, be they digital or lithography.