Posted on Fri Mar 8 ,2019

Offset Vs Digital: What’s the difference?

In this article, we aim to share with you the key differences between offset and digital printing and discuss the pros and cons of both printing methods; allowing print buyers to make the decision on which is best for the next big print project.

Offset printing has its name because the ink is not directly printed onto the paper; there is a process before it hits that stage. Offset printing technology uses plates to transfer an image on to a piece of rubber that resembles a blanket. Normally, the plates are made from aluminium. Then, the printer rolls that blanketed image onto a sheet of paper. Although this may seem like an odd additional step in the process, the end result is the ability to print huge volumes at tremendous speed, with accurate colour reproduction and a consistent, crisp and professional looking print.

Digital printing on the other hand is toner-based (like the laser printer you may have in your home or your office), or uses liquid ink in larger printers, but there are no plates in this technique like offset printing. Digital printing is more suitable when smaller quantities are needed, or smaller runs. So, for example, a batch of 50 flyers does not require the need for offset printing due to the setup time and cost. Also, with digital printing, you can add in any variable data so if each piece needs a different unique code, name or address, digital printing will allow you to do to this fairly easily.

Which should you choose?
As discussed, offset printing is ideal for larger quantities to be printed whilst remaining very cost effective – and this allows you to save money the more you print (each piece being cheaper the more you print). You can also use a whole variety of paper types and custom finishes and custom inks, whilst always having a high-quality finish. Although offset printing is the professional’s choice, always be cautious if you are trying to print small batches or having to include variable data for each piece; offset printing will not do this.

Digital printing on the other hand is ideal for short batches as the set-up costs are low in comparison. You only need to print what you need, when you need it. It can still be fairly inexpensive and will allow you to print variable data elements such as bar codes and names etc. The quality of the offset print has the edge, but for most marketing materials, digital is close contender and probably more likely to suit your needs.

So, is there a difference? Yes, but only in practicality. Offset is superior for large quantities and digital is superior for smaller runs with unique features on each print. Some people do struggle to tell the difference between the offset and digital end product, but offset does deliver a higher quality for sharp, colourful artistic pieces. However; it cannot match the flexibility of digital print when it comes to unique features per print.
When deciding between offset and digital, weigh up your requirements. Are you printing in hundreds or thousands? Do you need custom data on each print? Or is the image quality the highest importance for you? Order these priorities and discuss them with your printer or print buyer for your best results.
If you have a question on what to print or how to print it, we’d be delighted to try and help. Call 3 Print Prices on 0203 4758 333 and speak to one of our printing experts or visit our website