Offset and Digital Printing

offset and digital printing

You may have heard that printing is dead as the world has become more reliant on technology; however, it is a fact that people still want to have printed matter in their hands. It is important to get you informed about both methods in the printing industry (offset also known as lithography and digital), so that you can get to know the one best suitable for your projects, as nowadays, both are still relevant.

Some would argue that digital printing is better as we are in the technology age, but offset printing is still significant along with digital print techniques just for the fact that it can accommodate heavier weights of paper and is more cost effective in mass printing runs. It is therefore important to examine each one individually, as each has its own benefits depending on your project’s requirements.

How quickly is digital taking over offset?

Digital printing has become popular in this era due to the process of modernization and it is faster and more economical for short printing runs. As a result, offset printing has become less common. However, over the last five years, lithography machines have been developed that are very good in terms of quality, capacity, and speed and thus, for numerous reasons print shops still offer offset printing as an alternative to digital printing.

Digital printing is more economical when lower quantities are needed. For example, when you need to print only 20 greeting cards or only 50 flyers. Additionally, digital printing is more versatile and can handle special jobs, such as when each piece needs a unique code, name or address. Digital is the only way to do that as it would not be possible to such a project using offset printing.

Will offset printing decrease in favor of digital printing?
offset printing

Definitely not!  The reason is that the printing methods used by printers will be determined by the specific job, and offset printing is better suited for certain situations. Without doubt, offset printing is the best choice when working with large quantities, as it would be very demanding on a digital printer to print 5,000+ copies, thus making it very expensive to do so.

Additionally, if you need to match your colors consistently and perfectly, offset printing is the way to go, as you can use “Pantone” or other specific ink colors in your printing work.  This color will always be the same, on all of your printing projects.  This most used when companies produce branded printing pieces, as they would obviously want their brand’s colors to be an exact match.

On the other hand, when you have a smaller run to print (approximately 5,000 copies or less) digital printing might be your best option. Digital printing is a four-color process that uses electronic files and dots of color to produce an image using toner or ink. This printing formula could save money/time for smaller print runs, because there is less initial setup involved.

Thus, each of the two printing methods has certain situations in which it is advantageous over the other.

Pros and Cons of Offset printing and digital printing
offset printing

Whilst setup costs are lower for short runs in digital printing, in offset printing large quantities can be printed in an economic way. Digital printing allows you to print a small amount of copies if needed, but in offset printing you get more for your money if the run is large, as the amount of money to save is reciprocal with the number of pieces per print.

In digital printing, you can personalize your options, using a database which can allow each printed piece to have its own indvidual number, address, code, or other unique bits of information. In offset printing this option is not possible.

Offset printing is available for a wide range of surfaces including paper, card, and plastics. Thus, a large variety of paper types with custom finishes can be used, whilst in digital printing, some surfaces are unsuitable which can be somewhat limiting.

Offset printing supports a truly high quality and consistent image. On the other hand digital printing product quality could be inconsistent.

While improved technology has made digital printing better in terms of quality, offset printing can still do things that digital printing cannot, such as using Pantone ink colors or other specific ink colors. Some digital presses try to replicate “Pantone” colors, and can do it reasonably well.  However, it is not always perfect.

Overall, you need to take into account all these matters before making a decision.

Written by Jasdeep S and Patricia London of