Offset Printing vs. Digital Printing…Who Wins?

Here at LRI, we work with a variety of production printers and we see a variety of machines. In the past, offset printing dominated the production print arena, but with the advancement of technology, digital printing is now taking a larger stake in the market. So, what’s the best solution for your needs? We’re here to help!

The Difference

Offset printing is based on the law of opposites: oil and water. A desired image is set onto a plate and then offset to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface. The printed image gets its ink from rollers. The “blank” or white area builds up a thin layer of water that keeps ink out of these areas. Digital printing doesn’t require many of these steps, including making films and proofs, and manually making plates of images.

Digital Rules When…

The cost per unit of digital printing is much less when you are running smaller print jobs. Because there isn’t the set-up cost that is associated with offset printing, digital printing will be cheaper and also have a quicker turnaround time with small to medium-sized jobs. Digital printing also allows you to print variable data (such as addresses or names) that you can’t do with offset printing’s image plates. Digital printing produces less waste and less variation, because you don’t have to monitor the mix of ink and water throughout the job. Digital is can be more cost-effective if you are printing multi-colored documents, and it will offer the most customizable options for mailers and marketing pieces.

Offset Rules When…

If you have a large print job of the same document or image, offset printing is still king. An image plate can reproduce the same image as long as you need it, and the cost goes down with the more prints you make. Offset printing can also print on a wider variety of substances, including wood, plastic, and metal. Offset offers more options than digital if you need different paper sizes, finishes, or formats. It can also be more affordable than digital if you are printing black and white documents.

The Answer?

It completely depends on what (and how much) you want to print! Both of these printing options are perfect for certain jobs, and both will take a back seat to the other in different areas. Determine what it is you want to print, and make your decision on a job-by-job basis. And if you need a recommendation for a company that does fantastic offset or digital printing, give us a call because we work with both! (515-278-4050)

Offset Printing Process

PS: Here is a great, local company that can help out with all of your printing needs, regardless of which option you choose: