Many people believe that when you print a variety of documents it’s all done in the same printer. Printing is printing. Right? Not really.

So, what’s the distinction between these printers? There are two main types of printing commonly used in business communication applications, offset printing and digital printing, let’s get intelligent over this and let inteliprint break it down for you.

What is offset printing

Also called lithography, offset printing is a popular high-volume commercial printing technique. The document that you choose to print is either burned onto a plate or printed onto a film that transfers the design onto the paper. Like a stamp! Each colour that is used requires one plate, so a black and white print job only requires one plate. If you are printing in full colour, the job requires four plates (CMYK). You can even have 10, 20, 30 colours, the limit does not exist. How? Well You may have a special Pantone colour which is a standardised colour available from a colour palette system. This colour variation enables you to have that special unique feel to your work.

There are a few downsides to offset printing, mainly from the high-use of the internet for business applications. Pictures that are downloaded from online sources don’t work with offset because they are RGB (red, green, blue), made for viewing on the computer screen and are low resolution. If you want to print from online sources, you first have to convert the file to a CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) profile and set it to a resolution of 300 dpi or greater, something that can be done easily in Adobe Photoshop.

The benefits of offset printing

  • Extremely high-quality image
  • Can be printed on paper and other surfaces
  • Cheaper price for high volumes
  • Variety of custom papers
  • Specialty inks, such as metallic or fluorescent inks in the offset process.

The downside to offset printing

  • All prints are not always accurate, alignment can be slightly off
  • Expensive for one-offs or less than 500 copies.

What is digital printing?

Digital printing, is best for small jobs such as flyers, memos, letters, documents etc, usually below a quantity of 500 or less.

A lot of the steps from offset printing are removed, such as using colour proofs, making plates and using film. Digital is able to print from online sources and it is much faster than offset. There is also less waste of paper and the final product is more uniform and accurate.

At inteliprint we use digital printing as it is quicker, cleaner and in many cases, cheaper. You can also adjust the printing process mid process, much more easily than with offset printing. This makes digital easier to customise without slowing down the process.

Of course, there are a few downsides to digital printing such as not being able to have a wide array of colours. Digital often requires flimsier paper stocks, which some people view as a ‘lower-quality’ product. You are also limited to just four colours CMYK and one type of finish with digital.

The benefits of digital printing

  • Lower costs
  • Fast turnaround time
  • Lower minimum print quantities
  • Inexpensive black and white digital printing
  • Improved technology has made digital quality acceptable for more uses
  • Each print is the exact same as the one before it
  • Lower paper wastage
  • Easy to customise jobs

The downside to digital printing

  • Limited stocks and GSM (paper types and thickness)
  • Printer cannot print edge to edge (puts a white border around the outside)
  • Quality of photographs and graphics can be limited

Offset and digital are both useful printing methods. To choose the right method depends on your price range, type of project and what quality kind you are after.

When you need larger runs of a project, into the hundreds or thousands, using a specific Pantone colour, a variety of custom paper choice and specialty inks, such as metallic or fluorescent inks offset printing is the only way to go. If it’s a small print run of less than 500 or so or the need for individual addresses or information is required, digital is your solution.

At inteliprint we can supply both offset and digital printing so please let us know if you need any more information, we are always happy to answer and questions you may have.

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