This article in our Printing Self Help Series will cover the key differences between offset and digital printing processes and explore some of the advantages of both.

Advantages of Offset Printing:

Offset printing has been a standard in the printing industry since Ira Washinton Rubel introduced his offset printing press for printing on paper in 1903. An earlier version, for printing on tin, was introduced in England by Robert Barclay in 1875. The name ‘offset’ refers to the process in which a plate makes and inked impression on a rubber roller, which in turn, transfers [or offsets] the text or image onto the paper.

To output full-color printed items using the offset printing, plates are created for each of four colors and the inks are layered over successive passes through a press to create the full color product.

From Wikipedia:

“The CMYK color model (process color, four color) is a subtractive color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key black.”

Without getting into a lot of technical details, offset printing has several advantages:

  • Produces consistent high quality, sharp images with vibrant color
  • Quick and easy production of printing plates has reduced printing turn around time
  • Greater variety of paper coatings available when using this process to create gloss, matte or other finishes
  • Cost: Offset printing is the cheapest method for producing high quality printing in commercial printing quantities – think thousands of copies

Because there is a cost associated with preparing plates for offset printing, you need to be vigilant about proofing your artwork prior to ‘going to the plate.’  If you find a typo or other error after the plate is prepared and thousands of copies are produced you can expect to be charged for the recreation of the plate with the correction and for the cost of the useless items produced.  So, proof carefully!

Advantages of Digital Printing

Digital printing is a method of printing using digital techniques in which the text and/or artwork is printed directly from a computer file to the paper.  If you have an inkjet or laser printer, you are using digital printing technology,

Here at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy we use a professional quality, digital printer that can accurately produce thousands of copies in short order at very high resolution; much higher than your office inkjet or laser printer.  There are some unique advantages to digital printing:

  • Speed – digital printers can produce your business cards, flyers, direct mail pieces very quickly
  • Variable Data Merging – having a computer connected to the printer allows us to merge data [like mailing lists or customer information] into your final product
  • Efficiency – multipage booklets or brochures can be quickly collated during the printing process
  • Because there is no need to produce a printing plate, digital printing is more affordable for short print runs where a thousand or less pieces are needed

Overall, offset printing will provide a more vibrant final product than digital printing does and is more cost effective on large print runs. Even so, our digital printer is capable of producing high resolution full color output and is a more economical choice for smaller print runs. It also makes quick work of jobs requiring sorting and collating.

As always, the team at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy stands ready to answer all your questions.  Feel free to call or email us. Call us also if you want a free quote for an upcoming job or complete our request a quote form.