When searching for a print company to help with your printing needs, you will most likely notice the terms “offset printer” and “digital printer” being used everywhere. What’s the difference and which one is the best for your jobs? Fortunately most print companies provide both services and can help you make that decision. To help you with your print buying process, we’ve compiled some important facts to help you along the way.
Offset printing is a process that uses a set of metal plates and rubber ink rollers to transfer an image to a medium passing through the machine. This method of printing results in the most crisp, precise, and clear images with stunning color reproduction. The metal plates and rubber rollers press the ink firmly into the surface you are printing on. This pressure firmly bonds the ink to the material creating clean lines.
If you have opted for spot color printing using PMS colors (Pantone Matching System), the color will be correctly reproduced by mixing your specific color blend before printing. The ink on each roller can be adjusted to correct any imbalance in color.
Due to the linear nature of offset presses, extra rollers can be added to create special printing effects that other printing methods cannot replicate. Offset printing generally handles finer details better than any other printing process.
The initial cost of offset printing is higher than digital printing because of the extra setup time and materials needed to create the printing plates, prepare the ink, and align the machine. Short run jobs and variable data projects are not cost effective because of this restraint. However, large volume printing jobs are much more cost effective on an offset process due to the high print speed once the setup is completed. Offset printing also requires more personnel to operate the complicated machinery (which also adds to the cost of using offset presses). Quick turn-around times are not usually available for offset printers due to the extra setup time and special attention needed during the printing process.
Digital printing is an entirely different animal. This process involves directly transferring a digital image to a medium via toner, ink jet, or laser activated ink. There is minimal setup needed and the machinery is less complicated to operate, making digital printing ideal for short print runs with fast turn-around requests. Though it may not rival offset presses for ultra-fine detail, digital printers are drastically improving every year in both quality and versatility. Due to the ease-of-use and quick setup, digital printers are also able to make concepts like variable data cost-effective. You can print the exact number of copies you need and target specific sections of a printed piece for each group of your clients.
Though incredible quality can now be achieved through digital printing, an offset press will still produce a superior level of quality. Color matching is also more challenging in a digital environment as color is strictly defined by a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK); pre-mixed Pantone inks are not used. And while digital printing is incredibly affordable for short and medium volume print runs, the per piece price is going to be higher than offset for very high volume print jobs.
If you’re still unsure of which process is best for your order, don’t worry! Your local print shop staff will be happy to help you through the decision. At United Reprographics, we help our clients pick the process that will get them the best quality, best price, and most efficient turn-around possible.