What is offset printing?
Offset lithography is a commonly used high volume commercial printing technology. In offset printing, the design image is first burned onto a plate, and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber sheet, and finally to the printing surface.
What is digital printing?
Digital printing is a method where small run jobs from desktop publishing are printed using large format and high volume laser printers. Many of the mechanical steps required for offset printing are eliminated (namely, making films and color proofs, manually stripping the pieces together, and making plates), which results in a much more affordable and faster print solution.
Advantages of digital and offset methods
1. Shorter turnaround
2. Lower costs for very small print runs
1. Higher image quality, higher resolution and no streaks/spots/banding.
2. Wider variety of choice for paper and finishing.
3. The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
4. Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs.
How to decide?
Offset printing has a front-end cost load, which means short runs (low quantities) may have a high per-unit cost. But as quantities increase, the unit cost goes down with offset printing. Very short runs can be more cost effective with digital printing; while larger quantities are likely to have a lower unit cost with offset printing.
Do you need or want a special paper, finish or unusual printing surface, or unique size? The options are getting better for digital, but offset printing still offers the most flexibility.
If you need it fast, digital usually offers quicker delivery.
Digital offers more accurate proofs, since what you see is an actual sample of the printed piece, printed using the exact process as the intended run. For offset printing, if you need hard proofs, stringently accurate colour proofing can become expensive.