The difference and benefits of Litho v Digital Printing

Whether it’s your new company brochure, a run of flyers or business cards for your newest recruit, getting the printing just right can make a big difference to your project’s final result.

When approaching a professional printing company, you’ll normally be offered the choice of two types of process, digital and offset lithography – or litho – printing. The process you choose will impact not just the finished product, but also the budget, timeframe and quality of your order.

What’s the difference between litho and digital printing?

Both litho and digital printing have their unique advantages, with each process suitable for a variety of jobs and applications.

In simple terms digital printing uses inks and a press that’s similar to a large office printer whereas lithographic printing uses wet ink and printing plates. These plates have an image burned into them which is then transferred (or offset) onto rubber blankets and then onto the printing surface.


As litho printing requires more time and money to set up, it’s generally used for longer print runs, while the convenience of digital printing is ideal for shorter runs and one off prints. With litho printing the unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up so is great for high volume runs.

Paper stock

Though the capabilities of digital printers are increasing all the time, in general, the variety of mediums that can be printed on using the litho process is wider. You’re not limited to paper either, litho printing is used to print on a range of surfaces including wood, metal and plastic.

So if you’re looking to print onto very light or very thick paper or another type of material, litho printing will probably be your best option.


When it comes to printing, size does matter! The smaller sheet size used for digital printing will often limit the maximum size of a document being printed. The largest paper size for a digital printing press will often be SRA3 where as a lithographic printing press maybe B1 or B2.


The preparation involved in litho printing means that jobs will take longer to turnaround compared to those using digital printing, so if you’re up against a tight deadline, digital may be the way to go.


Literally ensuring that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed and that everything is properly aligned and colours spot on is an important part of the printing process.

As you see an actual example of the printed proof with digital printing, it offers a more accurate idea of the finished product.

Getting wet proofs through litho printing can be expensive as the plates need to be created before the proof can be made, we offer several alternatives options instead.


Once you’re lithographic plates are made, customising the content of your order will probably involve starting the process all over again and remaking new plates.

If you’re using digital on the other hand, a few tweaks to the file on your desktop should suffice.

With both processes offering high quality results, the type of printing you choose simply comes down to your requirements and the way you work. Talk to us to find out more and get your next job underway today.

For advice on which method is best for your next project get in touch

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