Digital vs. Offset Commercial Printing

Posted by Melanie Ledbetter-Remy - October 10, 2013 - Blog

How can a business decide which type of printing is right for a particular job? There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both digital and offset printing, and the fact is that each of these types of printing has its place in commercial printing. How can businesses decide which type of printing suits their needs?

Offset Printing

Offset printing is more likely to be the default for a printing company that specializes in commercial printing. This type of printing is ideal for high-volume jobs. A plate with the image that is to be printed is used to offset the image from the plate to a rubber surface. The image is then transferred from the rubber to the final printing surface.

The images to be transferred to the printing surface are inked during the printing process, and surfaces that should not contain ink are coated with a thin film of water to ensure that the ink is not printed on these areas.

The advantages of offset printing include:

  • Exceptional image quality
  • Printing can be done on many different types of paper
  • High-volume jobs are more cost effective per printed item

Digital Printing

Digital printing is less complex than offset printing. The image that is to be printed to the surface of the finished product does not have to be transferred to plates or other surfaces prior to being printed. Digital printing allows images to be printed directly to the finished product.

The advantages of digital printing include:

  • Less time from order placement to finished product
  • Small jobs are cheaper than offset
  • Each print can be digitally customized for large-volume jobs. For example, corporate letters can have individual client information printed on each separate copy.

Digital or Offset?

Businesses can go through the list below to decide which type of printing should be used.

  • How many items will be printed? Offset printing is far more affordable for large-scale printing jobs, but digital printing tends to be budget-friendly for small jobs.
  • What material will the printing be done on? Offset printing is currently the best choice on a much wider variety of materials.
  • Is there a tight schedule that must be followed? Digital printing jobs are much quicker to run than offset jobs.
  • Does the company need to see a proof prior to printing? Businesses can see an accurate digital proof for digital printing jobs and offset printing proofs take time and may be more expensive to produce for viewing before printing is started.
  • Is customization of individual pieces necessary? Digital printing is the way to go if each printed piece needs to be customized to include specific information.
  • How colorful is the project? Digital printing uses four ink colors. Offset printing can use more than four colors for a more customized look.

Picking the right type of printing method for commercial printing jobs can be confusing. Answering the questions listed above can help you get the best results at the best price.

Most commercial printing companies also offer promotional products. These items are a great way to advertise a new business, announce a giveaway or encourage potential clients to remember the company name. Gifts printed with the company logo or business name can even be used for employee recognition. These products include but are not limited to pens, hats, t-shirts, golf shirts, desk items, computer accessories and more. Your local area printer will have a catalog of the many different promotional products to choose from.