Digital Print Vs Offset Printing Pt1

Digital vs. Offset Printing: Advantages of Each and How to Decide which is Right for Your Project.

The growth of digital printing technology has brought technical advancements, more options, and exciting new features to today’s commercial printing. It’s also brought some confusion. An understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing and how those compare to traditional offset lithography is critical in making the right choice for your next project.  At we offer both options to our customers and help guide them in the direction that most meets there needs.

Lets have a look at these 2 printing types.

Offset lithography is the most common high volume commercial printing technology. In offset printing, the desired print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, which is then transferred to the printing surface. The lithographic process is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image to be printed gets ink from ink rollers, while the non printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non printing areas ink-free.

Digital printing eliminates many of the mechanical steps required for conventional printing, including making films/plates and colour proofs, manually stripping the pieces together and making plates, which in turn speeds up the process and lowers the initial setup costs.

So …  The Question everyone has is …Which is Better for me? Well, it all depends on what you are looking for and your timelines to achieve it.

The Most Common Advantages of Digital Printing:

  • Shorter turnaround as setups are minimal.
  • Every print is the same. More accurate counts, less waste and fewer variations, due to not having to balance ink and water during press run.  Print and Go.
  • Cheaper for low volume printing. While the unit cost of each piece may be higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs.
  • Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Using information from a database or external file, 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. Variable data printing is used primarily for direct marketing, customer relationship development and advertising. (This requires proper setup)

The Most common Advantages of Offset

  • High image quality.
  • Works on a wide range of printing surfaces including thicker paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic.  (this varies from printing press).
  • The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
  • Better Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs.
  • Many modern offset presses use computer-to-plate systems as opposed to the older computer-to-film work flows, further increasing quality.

Which Option is Better For You:

Use this checklist to help you decide

Quantity – Offset printing has a front-end cost load due to setups that are involved. Short runs may have a high unit cost, but as quantities increase, the unit cost goes down with offset printing. Very short runs can be much more cost effective with digital printing; while larger quantities are likely to have a lower unit cost with offset printing. Determining your quantity will help you figure out which option is best.

Printing medium – Do you need or want a special paper, finish or unusual printing surface, or unique size? The options are increasing continually for digital, but offset printing still offers the most flexibility. Most digital machines have the capability of printing 12×18 media sizes.  At we have the capabilities to print up to 13×26 which helps with those projects that once needed to be done offset.

Colour – Digital presses use four-colour process printing. If you need only black ink or one or two ink colours, offset printing may offer a more cost-effective solution. If you need four-colour printing, digital may offer advantages in lower up-front costs.

More on colour – If you’re planning to print using the Pantone® Matching System(specific colours to keep your branding looking consistent), offset printing will give you the best match, since it uses actual Pantone® ink. Digital printing simulates the colour using a four-colour matching process, so some digital printers may offer less accurate colour matching on projects.  With the addition of Pantone colours comes additional cost.

Turnaround – If you need it fast, digital usually offers quicker delivery time.

Proofing – Digital offers accurate proofs since you see an actual sample of the printed piece. Accurate colour proofing for offset printing can be a little more expensive.

Customization – Digital printing offers the most affordable way to customize marketing materials, direct mail pieces, letters, etc.

You can use the above checklist to help you decide or feel free to to consult with our team at   We are here to assist you with your questions and would be happy to offer our expert advice on preparing files properly for the option you choose.

In closing, while today’s digital presses are close to the cost/benefit ratio of offset for high quality work, they are not yet able to compete with the volume an offset press can produce.

Until next time… stay creative