Digital and Offset Printing Explained

Digitally printed graphics

If you’re looking at having some printing done for your business, you’ll find that you have two basic options: digital and offset printing. Both digital and offset printing are well-established techniques, but one is sometimes a better choice depending on what, exactly, you’re looking for. Your printer can tell you more about digital and offset printing, but to get you started, here’s a brief overview of how digital and offset printing work:

The Digital Printing Process

Digital printing should be relatively easy to understand for anyone who has worked with a home or office printer. Essentially, digital printing is defined as such because the information used to create the print is sent directly from a digital file to the printer, which applies ink directly to the substrate (the paper or other material being printed on). Digital printing allows for a high level of customization, since only a computer file needs to be modified in order to make slight adjustments to each piece. Digital printing has also gained popularity in recent years because it provides an affordable entry point to professional-level printing for small businesses and even individual consumers.

The Offset Printing Process

Offset printing is a much more complicated printing process than digital printing. Offset techniques work by transferring the ink from a custom-created plate to the substrate via a rubber roller called a “blanket.” Colors are created through a CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) process, meaning that a plate is used for each of those four colors and the layering produces a wide range of hues. Offset is actually the most common type of commercial printing, used for creating the vast majority of magazines, catalogues and similar products. This is largely because it becomes much more affordable when large quantities are needed; the initial setup for offset printing can be expensive, but the price per print is relatively low once the plates and blankets have been created.

Choosing a Printing Process

Which of these printing processes is better? The answer depends on your individual business needs as well as the details of the project at hand. Both digital and offset printing offer high print qualities and customization options, though those will vary slightly depending on the digital and offset printing presses offered by any given printing company. In general, it’s a good idea to choose a print company that offers both digital and offset printing so that you’ll be able to choose on a by-project basis which is the better value.

Do you have any questions about digital and offset printing, or any experience with digital and offset printing that you’d like to share? Join the discussion in the comments.

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