Digital vs. Offset Printing

Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our culture from communications to healthcare to business and more…nothing has escaped technological advancement, not even printing. Today’s printing is done in one of two ways: either digitally or the old-fashioned way, known  as offset printing. Printing Solutions, a Scottsdale print company, wants to make sure that you know the difference between the two.

The biggest difference between digital printing and offset printing is time. Digital printing, as you probably expected, is much faster than offset printing. However, there is a noticeable difference in quality when compared to offset printing. That’s due to the way in which it’s produced.

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With digital printing, files of an image or artwork are uploaded to the machine, which then reads them and starts outputting printed material based on the images.Whereas with offset printing, the images are burned onto metal plates and then transferred to a rubber “blanket” and rolled out onto the printing surface. A total of four metal plates are used in offset printing, each representing the main colors in the printing process: cyan, magenta, yellow and black, also known as CMYK. As a sheet of paper gets passed through each of these plates, ink is transferred onto it, which builds layers of colors, resulting in finished images and text on a page. In some cases, Pantone colors may be used instead for materials that need a color-specific design.

Related: CMYK Vs. Pantone

The difference between digital printing and offset printing is not only due to the way in which each is produced, but also due to the materials used in the printing process, mainly the fact that offset printing uses ink whereas digital printing uses toner ink. Contrary to what people think, toner ink does not absorb into the paper as well as regular ink. Instead, it sits on top of the paper, creating a natural glossy finish. Thus, digital printing does not allow for a flat, regular matte finish. It will always have a natural sheen to it.

Aside from these differences, there are also other differences between digital printing and offset printing when it comes to cost, run size, etc. To help you determine which type of printing option is best for you, we’ve list some of the advantages to each.

Advantages of Digital Printing

  • Faster print time
  • Lower minimum quantities
  • Setup costs are lower for short runs

Advantages of Offset Printing

  • Highest possible print quality
  • Large print jobs can be printed cost effectively
  • Special custom inks such as Pantone colors are available

Here at your Scottsdale printing company, we like to run everything offset, but we understand that customers may need a particular product right away. That’s why we offer digital printing as well. With Printing Solutions, you’re never limited in options. Call us at 480-596-6300 or visit us in person to see all of the different print options we can offer you.

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Andrew Pinch

Andrew Pinch

Andrew has been working in the print industry since 2003, working in prepress, management, and ultimately owner of print shops, including Printing Solutions of Tempe, Arizona. See Andrew's LinkedIn Profile here.