Skip to main content

When to Choose Digital or Offset Printing for Your Print Projects

When planning for your organization’s operational or promotional print material, it is important to choose the most efficient type of printing method. This can help save time and money. There are many factors that go into deciding whether a project should use digital or offset presses. Factors that go into deciding the print process a project needs will be explained in this article.  

But first, what is the difference between digital and offset printing? Digital printing can be thought of as the same concept as your digital laser printer—but on a much larger scale. This printing process is mainly used for smaller projects with a quick turnaround time. Offset printing is the process where the image is transferred from a metal printing plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the paper to create a high-quality, clear image. Offset printing is used for larger projects that need exact colour representation.

Project Run Length and Cost

Digital printing is the most cost-efficient when used for short to medium print runs. Although estimates can vary based on a project’s requirements, a helpful guide to deciding which printing process your project needs is to calculate run length. If your project requires less than 1,000 copies, it may be best to print using digital presses. If the project requires more than 1,000 copies printed, it may be more cost-efficient to use offset printing.

Digital print and copy examples including notepad, envelope, letter, thank you card
Examples of digital print projects produced at Printing Unlimited.

Digital printing has a low set-up cost and a high run-cost, meaning it is the perfect printing method for shorter runs. The reason that digital printing has a low set-up cost is because plates do not have to be made and samples do not have to be printed. However, the toner that digital presses use is expensive, which is the reason why it has a higher run-cost. Furthermore, the more you print, the less cost-effective this process is.

Offset presses are made for projects with long runs since they have a high set-up cost and a low run-cost. The reason that offset printing has a high set-up cost is because the press requires large metal plates to be made in order to transfer the image. It has an intensive cleaning and maintenance process that needs to be done between different projects. However, once the press is running, it has a low run-cost as the ink used is not as expensive as toner. As a result, the more you print, the more cost-effective this process is.

Printing UnlimiteOffset printing project examples including calendar, door hanger, tabletop tent card, notes, forms
Examples of offset printing projects produced at Printing Unlimited.

Colour Considerations (PANTONE)

During the printing process digital presses, like laser printers, use toner for the production of colour. However, there are some larger digital presses that use liquid ink. The goal of digital printing is to produce quality, cost-efficient images at a fast turnaround time. As a result, the colour gamut of the toner used is smaller than that of offset. Digital printing offers amazing value for small print runs, but it is more difficult to colour-match using digital technology.

Offset presses offer consistent colour throughout the whole print run and produce exceptionally colour-arcuate results. Custom inks, including PANTONE colours, can be added to the press to ensure the correct branding pallet is being followed throughout a project. This increases the brand awareness and the ability for customers to recognize your brand. Offset presses also have the ability to use specialised inks such as metallic and fluorescent ink.

Variable Data Printing (VDP)

Variable data is a process that can be used for marketing materials including flyers, mailers, postcards and brochures. The benefit to using variable data digital printing is to give your customer a personalised product. Digital printing presses can produce products that use customer data to deliver customised advertising campaigns. Studies show that having at least three points of personalisation improves customer response by over 1000%. Points of personalisation can include a text, images or colours that relate to the customer’s interest.

Printing Substrates

There is a wide variety of substrates that can be used when printing digitally on a flatbed press. Using our digital printers, we are able to print on almost any substrate up to two inches thick. Different substrate options include coroplast, foamboard, banner, Styrene, Gatorboard, DiBond and even doors. Our wide-format digital printer can print on roll-based substrates like vinyl and paper that are perfect for large banners, vehicle graphics, signs, posters, decals and so much more.

Offset printing has the ability to produce outstanding images on substrates like paper, cardboard and vinyl. At Printing Unlimited, our offset printing presses use these substrates to business material including brochures, calendars and business cards.

Boy in black t-shirt holding two circular diecut coroplast signs with hockey player profiles on them
Circular diecut coroplast print project example produced at Printing Unlimited

Figuring out which type of printing process is best for your project can be tricky considering all the different factors. Our team is there to help advise your business whether your project requires digital or offset printing. We provide a variety of specialised services for both offset and digital printing that is perfect for your business material. Contact us today to get started!