When it comes time to print that brochure, postcard or other marketing piece, you’ll likely be faced with choosing between two printing options: offset or digital.
Here we provide an overview of both.
What’s the difference?
Offset printing is the process of transferring an image from a plate to a rubber blanket that rolls the image onto a sheet of paper. With offset printing, four colors are used (cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK), but offset printing also enables custom color, such as metallics, fluorescents and Pantone. The color is layered on to get the final look, so your colors tend to be more accurate. Plus, offset printing can happen on a variety of materials with custom finishes.
With digital printing, the design is printed directly to the printing surface, either with liquid ink or powdered toner. It enables you to provide a unique code to projects so you can quickly print smaller batches as needed, which can be a big money saver.
When to use offset printing
- You are printing larger quantities (500+ copies). Typically, the more you print, the cost goes down. However, set up costs can be expensive, and printing small amounts is usually cost prohibitive for most businesses.
- You need customized colors, for example, to match a logo.
- You need superior image quality. You won’t have to worry about streaks or spots sometimes associated with digital printing.
- You want to print on different materials.
When to use digital printing
- You are printing lower quantities (less than 50 copies).
- Your budget is tight. Setup costs for digital printing is lower, and you can print only what you need.
- You want to see a proof before printing. A color proof for offset printing can be expensive.
- You are printing only in black and white—or perfect colors aren’t necessary.
- You need a short turnaround time. Offset printing tends to take longer because the plates must be created. Plus, if you have an error with offset printing, you must start over. Digital allows more room for error and can enable faster turnaround times.
In summary, offset printing is ideal for large-scale printing, where color fidelity is crucial, or you want the option to print on a variety of materials. Digital printing is ideal for lower quantities and quick turnarounds, where you have some wiggle room with the color. Which one you choose is largely contingent on your budget, with digital printing typically being the more cost-effective approach.