Welcome back to everyone’s favorite Owner’s blog: From the Desk of Mike Donnelly! Today, Mike goes into detail about the benefits of both digital printing as well as offset printing, when to use which, and how to get the most bang for your buck. Enjoy!
When should you use Digital Printing? – When should you use Offset Printing?
We have found that many of our customers like to be involved when it comes to determining how their projects will be produced. At AlphaGraphics, our customers use our digital and offset printing capabilities for all types of printed communications. An understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing and how those compare to traditional offset printing is critical in making the right choice.
Offset lithography is the most common high volume commercial printing technology. In offset printing, the desired print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface. Digital printing eliminates many of the mechanical steps required for conventional printing.
So … Which is Better?
Well, it seems that depends.
Advantages of Digital
- Shorter turnaround.
- Every print is the same. More accurate counts, less waste and fewer variations, due to not having to balance ink and water during press run.
- Cheaper low volume printing. While the unit cost of each piece may be higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs.
- Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Using information from a database or external file, text and graphics can be changed on each piece without stopping or slowing down the press. For example, personalized letters can be printed with a different name and address on each letter. Variable data printing is used primarily for direct marketing, customer relationship development and advertising.
Advantages of Offset
- High image quality.
- Works on a wide range of printing surfaces including paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic.
- The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
- Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs. While today’s digital presses are close to the cost/benefit ratio of offset for high quality work, they are not yet able to compete with the volume an offset press can produce.
- Many modern offset presses use computer-to-plate systems as opposed to the older computer-to-film work flows, further increasing quality.
Still Not Sure Which is Right Choice for You?
That’s okay! That’s where we come in. At AlphaGraphics, our full-service capabilities and resources in digital and offset printing enable us to focus on what success looks like for you and your print requirements, your budget, and your timeline – not the equipment. Still like to make your own decisions? – Here are some things to consider when you are planning your next print communications project:
- Quantity. Offset printing has a front-end cost load. Short runs may have a high unit cost. But as quantities increase, the unit cost goes down with offset printing. Very short runs can be much more cost effective with digital printing; while larger quantities are likely to have a lower unit cost with offset printing.
- Printing medium. Do you need or want a special paper, finish or unusual printing surface, or unique size? The options are increasing continually for digital, but offset printing still offers the most flexibility.
- Color. Digital presses use four-color process printing. If you need only black ink or one or two ink colors, offset printing may offer a more cost-effective solution. If you need four-color printing, digital may offer advantages in lower up-front costs.
- More on color. If you’re planning to print using the Pantone® Matching System, offset printing will give you the best match, since it uses actual Pantone® ink. Digital printing simulates the color using a four-color matching process, so some digital printers may offer less accurate color matching on projects.
- Turnaround. If you need it fast, digital usually offers quicker delivery.
- Proofing. Digital offers accurate proofs since you see an actual sample of the printed piece. Accurate color proofing for offset printing can be expensive.
- Customization. Without question, digital printing offers the most affordable way to customize marketing materials, direct mail pieces, letters, etc.
Use the above checklist to help you to begin determining what is important to you on your next project, and talk to us at AlphaGraphics before submitting your job for advice. At AlphaGraphics, our full-service capabilities and resources in digital and offset printing enable us to focus on what success looks like for you and your print requirements, your budget, and your timeline.