Digital Printer vs. Offset Printer

Whereas the need to print has always been an integral part of almost every business, the media craze of recent times has seen a significant surge in printing demands. Printing demands for postcards, business cards and color flyers are some of the more common examples of the factors behind the surge. As printing jobs vary in requirements and needs, printers also come in a wide range of specifications, sizes and printing methods.

The printing methods of interest here are digital and offset printing. Not only do the costs for either method differ, there are also stark differences in the series of actions required to complete a print job, for both offset and digital printing methods. Take for instance, a printing job that requires multi colored flyers, this can be accomplished using either method, but the time taken to do the job differs. Offset will require slightly more time to complete the printing than digital printing. Generally, for any printing job that will employ the use of multiple colors, offset printing will take more time to complete.

Digital printing is enhanced, and therefore is more efficient, with the ability to do jobs which require a smaller number of printed copies at a lower cost, and at excellent speeds. Offset printing will require a basic minimum number of copies per order to start a job. It will offer better quality color prints at slightly lower costs, requiring you to wait a little longer than you would for digital prints. Companies offering printing services, though, are flexible enough to offer both methods.

Printing methodology

For offset printing, Full color (CMYK) and Pantone spot color (PMS) is used. In this process, an image is transferred to paper using ink and plates. It will result in very high quality and cost effective prints for longer print runs. A minimum of 1000 copies is required for a single page A4 brochure to achieve cost effectiveness.

For digital printing, either CMYK or RGB may be used, but occurrences of color shifts may happen with RGB content. Typically, short print runs of 1000 or fewer copies are common with digital printing jobs. It takes a shorter time to set up a file to print, since there are no printing plates used. Thus, a completed file can be proofed, and the required quantity run within a shorter period of time. For accurate color checking, proofs can be printed on final stock choice.


Offset printing uses plates when transferring images, while digital printing does not use plates.
Offset printing is typically used for longer print runs (minimum 1000 copies), while digital is mainly for shorter print runs of 1000 copies or less.
Offset printing offers the ability to specify PMS color, while digital does not use PMS color selection.
Offset gives a better final printed effect of the solid areas of color, than digital.

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