Digital vs offset printing

May 5, 2015

Digital printers

These are high-speed computer printers similar to your office laser printer. They’re especially popular for small runs as they’ve got flexibility and speed on their side.

Laser printers have come a long way since the pixelated washed-out colours of their early years. They can now provide premium results at an extremely competitive price. These machines are usually leased and are costed on a volume basis or per printed page -¬ mono or black page are also substantially cheaper than a CMYK print.

Digital printers have the flexibility to easily print double-sided or merge multiple jobs into the one print – and do it all with a very quick turnaround.

Because you can customise each page, these printers are top choice for personalised mail merges and direct mail campaigns with variable data. Plus, the latest machines can now also sort, fold, staple and insert all in the one run. Impressive.

The largest sheet size in digital printing is an RA3 which is slightly larger than an A3 page. Digital machines also usually run paper stock from about 80gsm up to approx 300gsm.

Offset printers

Offset (also known as lithographic) is the traditional method of printing that’s been around for hundreds of years. It involves large sheets of paper running through a printing press using a spot colour (often black) or a 4 colour CMYK (Cian, Magenta, Yellow, K black) process. The sheets are then cut to size, folded, laminated or further processed to achieve the desired finish.

Another type of offset printing is known as a web press. This is a large press used to print newspapers and magazines in large quantities. The main difference with a web press printers is their enormous size (some are as big as an average 2 bedroom unit). The paper is also drawn through the press on a continuous roll. Very high tech and impressive machines to watch, but not the most practical option for a local school magazine run.

Offset printing involves quite a bit of initial setup, so it’s generally reserved for the bigger runs (500+). But if you’re got the time, you can expect a very high quality print that’s very economical as you can run a much larger sheet and even combine multiple jobs.

The other good news is, once the machine has been setup, high speed and large quantities can be printed with great ease and a lower overall cost per unit.

As printing technology advances, more of the smaller jobs are moving to digital. However offset printing still the one to go for if you’re after a high resolution print where fine detail and a more permanent print is required.

Want to get started? Call us for a free quote or print recommendation on 1800 208 234.

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