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Digital or offset litho printing - what's the difference?

Posted 10th November 2017

Digital or offset litho printing - what's the difference?

If you’re having flyers, brochures, books or posters printed, there’s a good chance they’ll be created using either digital or offset litho printing presses. Both methods offer high quality results, so to give you an idea of the differences between the two techniques we look at their respective benefits.

Benefits of offset litho printing:

Unit cost

Cost will often be a major factor when choosing between these two printing processes. One of the biggest benefits of offset lithographic printing is that, once set up, the cost of printing a page is very low. Although the process requires a longer prep time, once the printing plates are in place and the press is ready to run, your pages will fly off the production line in moments.

Choice of paper stock

The flexibility of the offset litho process allows a variety of paper types to be used to create printed products. You can choose from a variety of coated materials as well as uncoated and recycled paper stock. From thick, tactile card to light and delicate paper you can choose the material that’s perfect for your project.

Colour options

In addition to four colour process printing litho printing allows Pantone colours to be used. This is ideal if you’re trying to reproduce a specific colour that is an integral part of your printed product or brand.

Sheet size

When using the offset litho process, larger sheets of paper can be used. This helps to maximise the number of items that can be printed on each page, further speeding up the process and reducing printing costs. It also allows larger documents to be printed such as A1 posters and wall charts.

Heidleberg 5 colour printing press

Benefits of digital printing:

Quick turnaround times

One of the main reasons to use digital printing is the fast turnaround time the technique offers. A digital print run can be set up in short space of time, without the need to make printing plates, this allows you to quickly go from finished design to real print. If you’re in a hurry to get your brochures, flyers or book covers back from the printers, this is the process for you.

Proofing and changes

With digital printing, you can create proofs that are printed on the same material as the final runouts. These can then be checked by your client and the design team. Even if your job is to be litho printed, rather than supply wet proofs, digitally printed proofs will be supplied instead as this allow alterations to be made to the original artwork.

Cost savings 

As digital printing has a much faster setup time, it’s generally more affordable for shorter print runs. This can help smaller companies to keep to tight budgets and bring printing jobs in on time.

If you’d like to learn more about digital printing or litho printing, or if you’d like to discuss a print project of your own, explore our site or get in touch with a member of our team.