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What is the Difference Between Digital and Offset Printing?

The color printing process can be confusing to outside sources if you are not familiar with the printing industry. For many, they rely on their printers for color matching and producing high-quality prints to showcase their work. They also rely on them to steer them in the right direction between offset printing and digital printing. Being a knowledgeable and experienced printing company in the Indianapolis area, we wanted to elaborate on this topic to help our clients understand this process more simply.

Offset Printing

Offset printing uses an actual printing press to produce printed work. It is called offset, because the ink is not transferred directly onto the paper, instead it is transferred from the plates to the blanket, which is then rolled onto the sheet of paper, etc. Offset printing is most beneficial in printing larger quantities.

Digital Printing

Digital printing uses toner and not liquid inks. When you use digital printing, an image is sent directly to the printer using digital files from your computer. This type of printing is more beneficial in shorter print runs.  

Differences Between the Two Processes

Eye4ColormatchNow that you know the basic difference in offset printing and digital printing, let’s go into more detail of the advantages of each of these printing processes. 

Offset printing is a good source to perform color matching of Pantone colors. If your company branding is a specific Pantone color and you need to match this color consistently, using offset printing is your best option. As a printer we physically mix the inks to produce a specific color by using a Pantone Matching System (PMS) color book. Offset presses can provide certain color controls that are more reliable than digital printing. Metallic and fluorescent inks can also be used, which cannot be used in digital printing.

Digital printing uses four colors to print; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This four color process is not the same as printing on an offset press using pantone colors. Roughly 1/3 of PMS colors cannot be matched; therefore if you need a to specific match, it may be best to use offset printing. However, if you need small runs, the color will be very close, because we use a CMYK build of a specific PMS color.

Another difference is the sheet size that can be printed with each process. Digital printing typically runs smaller sheet sizes, these are usually between 8.5″ to 29″. While offset printing can run sheets between 29″ to 40″. Depending on what item you are printing, quantity and colors you are looking for, we can steer you in the right direction of which process to use. Larger posters, banners, brochures, etc may be best to run on our offset press if they are too large for digital printing and you need larger quantities.

If you are looking to print a short run, digital printing is the best option. With higher volumes, offset printing makes more sense and is cost-effective. Smaller runs can also be knocked out quickly using a digital printer because there is significantly less setup time. The turnaround can be quicker with this method, depending on the workload and quantity needed.

I know this all seems like a lot to understand, but as your local Indianapolis printer, we can go over any questions that you may have about this process. Depending on each client’s needs, we can provide a printing solution for your unique desires. The key factor that makes a customer pick one option over the other is typically the quantity and the importance of color matching. Each type of printing will provide you with a high quality, professional looking piece. The best part is, either way you go your end result will look great and make your company stand out.