Is It Printed Digital Or Offset? Do I Care?

Even though most people know these days what digital printing is, I have been asked many times the question – “Is it printed digital of offset?” So, here I have put down some basic information about digital printing.

What is Digital Printing?

Printing which is done using Electrophotography process. Click on it to learn more about how it is done. I am not going to go into the scientific details, lets the science professors worry about those details. Some of the main highlights are

  • Digital Printing is fairly a newer technology then Offset Printing
  • Digital Printing -  1 or 1000 - will cost the same, where as offset printing usually has a setup charge for making plates, making inks , wastage etc.
  • As far as quality is concerned - now days Digital Printing Technology has advanced so much that it is hard to make out if it is printed digitally or offset. Usually I can tell easily by looking at it.
  • Wastage of the amount of paper and chemical during printing goes down, as there is no setup required for digital printing. So basically a Digital Printed Job is more greener than a Offset Printed job, as there is chemistry involved (for e.g. Blanket Wash, Inks, Ink Washes ++).
  • Unlike conventional ink, the ink or toner used for digital printing do not permeate the substrate. It creates a thin layer on the surface. Sometimes,  fuser fluids are used with UV curving process (for ink) or heat process (for toner) so that it sticks to the substrate.

When to Choose One over other?

Usually a good print shop will be able to do that for you easily. Also it will depend upon the type of job. For e.g.

1. If you need 50 flyers or brochures then most probably it will be printed digitally. It is economical to do that. But if you need 2000 of those flyers then it will be printed offset, as remember the cost for digital printing remains the same - whether it is 1 or 1000 sheets. But in offset printing once the setup is done all you are paying for is for the paper and press time. And usually the offset presses runs much faster then the digital counterparts.

2. Take the previous example one step ahead - lets say you need the 2000 flyers by 5 PM today. So if you need it real fast then most probably it will be printed digitally as there is no drying time and setup time involved. You provide the proper file and there it goes to the press. (By the way we do these rush kind of datasheets very frequently - like run 2500 letter size flyers on 100lb Gloss Text in less than 3 hours)

3. Lets say you have a print job which requires the logo colors to match exactly, then it has to be printed offset using PMS (or Pantone Colors). For e.g. Business cards for companies like Intel and Microsoft are usually in 1 or 2 colors. And the logo colors will remain the same from one card to another. Digital printing is not reliable for color matching but can come close

4. If you need large quantity of any job then it will be printed Offset.

Do I Care?

No! If you are not too picky about the colors. Usually the printer should provide the best economical solution for the job. At PrintPapa we always try to choose the best possible solutions for your money.

If you are very strict about the color hues and saturation then please ask for a hard copy proof. If you are happy with the printed copy, then we move to your job to production.

In some cases the jobs can only be printed Offset, because of paper type, thickness, accuracy and so forth. A good printer should be able to provide you with all the information.

Hopefully this will prepare you for your next project and you can ask the right questions to your printer.