Offset vs. Digital: The Printing Battle of the Century!

Offset and digital: the two premiere heavyweights of printing. But which one should you bet on when it comes to your project?

First, a little history: offset printing – which prints using a physical plate with your image on it – ruled the printing presses for over 100 years. When computers burst on to the scene, they brought digital printing to the ring, which cuts out the plate entirely. The two have been fighting for your printing attention ever since.

Which is the best for your job? Let’s break down the stats.


In the blue corner: Offset
A commonly used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or ‘offset’) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. The image to be printed gets ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based film (called ‘fountain solution’), keeping the non-printing areas ink-free. This process requires an experienced craftsman to ensure the pure quality of each and every project.

High image quality
Offset delivers a finished product that looks a bit better than its digital counterpart.

Precise color matching
When your project calls for an exact color match, offset is the way to go – it’s more accurate at color reproduction than digital.

Versatile
If you’re thinking of a special surface or size for your job, offset gives you flexibility that digital can’t compete with. It works on a much larger variety of paper stocks, including but not limited to felts, vellums, textured stocks.

Cost-effective for long print runs
With offset, your price per print decreases as the size of your run increases, making up for the larger upfront cost compared to digital.

More consistent
The careful, manual process of offset printing means that images can’t shift their position from copy to copy.

Potential savings for fewer colors
If your print job is large enough and requires only black ink, or just one or two ink colors, offset printing may be more cost effective.


In the red corner: Digital
A method of printing using digital techniques in which the data and images are printed directly from a computer onto paper. The ink or toner does not permeate the paper, as does conventional ink, but forms a thin layer on the surface. Digital printing eliminates many of the mechanical steps required for offset printing, including making films, manually stripping the pieces together and making plates.

Fast turnaround time
When your deadline is just around the corner, digital really shines – it’s speedier than offset.

Customizable
Since digital doesn’t use printing plates, every print can be different, which means it’s easy for you to change your printing data (like a first and last name on a mailing piece).

The “green” printing option
Printing with digital uses less chemicals and less paper than offset, so it’s the more environmentally friendly way to go.

Cost-effective for short print runs
When you don’t have too much to print, going with digital instead of offset will save you some cash.

Potential four-color printing savings
If you need more than one or two ink colors, digital may offer advantages and lower up-front costs.

And your winner is…
…it depends! It really does come down to your specific print job. While offset gives you a finished product that looks better and is more accurate, they’re both worthy contenders. Just make sure to weigh your options before you make your choice.

Still not sure? We can help you pick a winner.

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"We've been doing business with Professional Duplicating, Inc. for over 12 years, and ProDupe continues to offer offset and digital printing services to us that are consistently affordable and reliable. ProDupe respects our deadlines and offers the very best in customer service and care."
- Danielle D. MacDonald, President/CEO MAC4 Communications, LLC
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