The Verdict on Digital Vs. Offset Printing

Abejuela Jennifer asked:

Before we go on to extol the virtues and to scrutinize the weakness of these two printing technologies, let us first take a look at their background and the process they undergo. Knowing just what offset printing and digital printing can offer can variably affect the results we want to see.

An Overview on Digital and Offset Printing

• The digital printing is a more recent technology and is said to be the successor of offset printing. It uses the computer technology that transforms data into electric signals the computers translate into understandable commands. The computer transfers these data electronically to the printer. The result is rich photographic quality prints without the use of plates.

• Offset, on the other hand, also involves digital technology but still involves a different process. It relies on the science that water and oil do not mix. This makes for accurate prints that are run through different rollers under different color towers.

• A number of plates are also used to produce the final colorful design on the flyers. All of these are not present in digital printing.

Speed

• Most of the things digital printing can do, an offset printing can likewise do. But one of the advantages of digital printing is speed. The ink is already dry as soon as the printer stops printing. This means, the print out can be cut and bound in a matter of a few minutes.

• Another important process is that it skips the process of plate-making, allowing a drastic reduction in printing time. This is important in urgent print jobs.

• In offset printing, the ink is given time to dry, or be coated before it proceeds to cutting, sorting, and binding. When printing large quantities however, the offset printing is faster than the digital print. Whereas digital printing prints per area at a time (per line) the offset just rolls the paper through very quickly.

Volume

• Offset printing usually requires large orders to be cost-effective. It has to recoup the cost of making the plates and the prepress process. When the cost is spread over thinly, the price per unit becomes too high. When the volume involves more than a few dozens, the cost of printing offset becomes more cost-effective than digital.

• The cost of individual prints in digital printing can be relatively expensive. Printing digital is most workable when printing short runs or small orders. It is also ideal for printing individual custom made pieces, such as installations, posters for trade shows, etc.

Quality

• It used to be consensus that offset printing has a far better quality than digital prints, but recently, digital printing is catching up. While it prints with the same vibrant colors and high contrast, it is now moving towards achieving an a more accurate color palette.

• However, review of the digital ink seems to show that the digital print cracks and flakes more easily when the paper is creased. Apart from that, the offset printer shows more consistent solid screen colors.

Digital and Offset printing have their own strengths and weakness that will help businesses and individuals on different occasions. They provide for different printing needs. Most printing companies now use both printing technologies. It is best to ask your printing company for quotes on both, and consult with them which is best for a particular print job.

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