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Digital vs. Offset Printing Explained

You may have heard these terms thrown around when speaking to someone about printing your materials and probably didn’t know the difference between the two options. But understanding the benefits and drawbacks of digital printing and offset printing can help you make decisions when working with a printer, as well as potentially save you time and money.

Digital Printing

Digital printing has become very common, both in commercial printing and in at-home printers. If you have a printer at home or go to the library, it’s most likely a digital printer you’re using. Digital printing uses toner, or liquid ink, that is transferred directly to the paper or other substrate on which you are printing. When using a color digital printer, you will see CMYK toner cartridges, which stand for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, and combine to create the different colors.

Digital printing has become very popular because it is quick, relatively low-cost, and easy to customize or make changes.

Offset Printing

Offset printing is a more “traditional” method of printing that uses plates to transfer ink to a rubber cylinder, which is then used to transfer the ink to paper or other substrates. Offset printing also uses CMYK ink, but each individual color is applied to a different plate and rolled separately. Offset printing also has the ability to apply specialty inks, like metallic or Pantone colors.

Because offset printing requires a longer process and more materials, it has become a more cost-effective and preferred option for very large runs and repeat runs where the same design will be used.

Benefits of Digital Printing

  • Quick setup and production for short runs.

  • Low cost for small quantities.

  • Print the exact number you need.

  • Variable data input capacity. (Names, address, promo codes, etc.)

  • Improved technology has improved quality.

Benefits of Offset Printing

  • Large quantities can be printed at lower costs.

  • A larger variety of substrates and finishes can be used.

  • Specialty inks, like metallic and Pantone, can be used.

  • The best quality prints with greater detail.

  • If doing reruns, the quality will not change since the plates are already created.

So, the next time you are speaking with a commercial printer, know what you want to do and ask about their capabilities to see if they can produce the best quality product you deserve.

Omega High-Impact Print Solutions has a variety of digital and offset printing equipment with expert operators. Contact us today to start your next print project and our team will help you find the best solution.


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