Offset or Digital, why the difference in printing? Both printing methods have its advantages, and depending on the type of project, one type can be considered a better way than the other.
Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. Offset printing came into existence in the early 1900s, and for many years, it was the only method available of producing high-quality printed products. Offset printing became the most popular form of commercial printing in the 1950s, and subsequent improvements to paper, inks and technology has maximized its superior production speed and plate durability.
Offset printing is highly economical when large volumes are printed and the prints are of superior quality. However, the setup and the fixed cost can be considered expensive, especially when only small quantities are needed.
The main difference between digital printing and traditional offset methods is that no printing plates are used, resulting in a quicker and less expensive turn around time. However, Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods. This price is usually offset by the cost saving in avoiding all the technical steps needed to make printing plates. Digital printing also allows for “on demand printing,” short turn around, and even a modification of the image (variable data) with each impression. The savings in labor and ever-increasing capability of digital presses means digital printing is reaching a point where it could produce larger print runs at a lower price, with output quality comparable to offset printing. Despite all that, Digital printing has its shortcomings since there are a limited number of options available for paper size, and large volume tasks can result in a higher cost.
So, which to choose? The “correct method” mostly depends on the project features. For printing in large quantity, offset printing is more cost-effective and has the better printing quality of the two approaches. In contrast, for small scale printing, digital printing is the better choice as it saves time and costs. And, thanks to ground-breaking technology, the digital printing press can now offer significant benefits; smaller toner particles and a greater reduction in fuser oil now allow digitally printed products to have a very near “offset” look and feel.
It is therefore very important on the designer’s part to understand the client’s needs and choose the process of printing that would suit the clients’ demand best.