Digital Printing vs Offset Printing | NYC Printing | Bestype
By Bestype Printing & Imaging on April 20, 2020
Digital Printing. Offset printing. For NYC’s busy marketers, creatives, and business owners, these are the two main printing methods that can get your ideas onto the page and into the hands of your ideal customers. Choosing between the two methods depends on what you want the end-user to experience when interacting with your printed product.
Brochures are a great candidate for offset printing, as are posters, marketing booklets, and magazines. The legal brief you need to distribute may look best using digital printing. Stationery can look gorgeous, printed digitally, or using offset techniques. Digitally printing or offset printing business cards are options that you can choose based on your style and budget, plus small offset printing business cards are easy to change if your contact details change.
Your digital vs. offset printing choices depend on what you want to achieve, what materials you want to include, and the volume of how many pages you want to print. Your goals and material choices affect your decision — which mode of printing works best for the project you’re envisioning? Bestype printing can produce whatever you need or combine the two types of printing for your project: your expectations and project budget narrow down digital printing vs. offset printing choices. Our NYC printing technicians make it easy for you to select which printing method hits your creative, budgetary, and marketing targets.
What is offset printing?
Offset printing is also known as offset lithographic printing, and chances are, this is the method of printing most of you encounter whenever you pick up a book or magazine. Machine automation updates how offset printing works in the 21st Century, but Bestype’s NYC offset printing technicians still use manual skills to make sure your printing project looks its best.
Our technicians layout text and graphics on metallic printing plates and then apply wet ink and water over the design areas. Water washes away ink from the places that turn into white space in your final design. The plates print the inked images onto each page.
Creating lithographic plates takes more time than creating a page digitally, but the actual printing happens quickly. Modern offset printing is faster than ever, especially with modern drying techniques, which use a fine dusting of powder to dry each offset image before it exits the printer.
What is digital printing
There’s a substantial similarity between the digital printing process and photocopying. Still, modern digital printing technology and the graphic design artists behind every digitally printed page have moved digital printing far from its origins. Digital printing directs output from an electronic file onto whatever material accepts powdered toner or liquid ink. Digital printing skips mechanical labor and transmission onto traditional press plates and rollers; digital printers are direct. They are also fast — our NYC digital printing offers the quickest method of producing short runs of text and images, especially if there are many pages in each document. Digital printing color quality is better now than ever before — digital color fidelity is almost as good as traditional offset printing, depending on the type of paper selected for the printing job.
Improved technology in digital printing vs. offset means that customers have a more comprehensive selection of stock and materials to print on. But, some paper types and project outcomes look better using offset printing vs. digital — some paper accepts ink better lithographically than digitally.
The benefits of offset printing
Offset printing is a modern-day application of a centuries-old printing technique. Instead of a limestone surface covered in acid, wax, resin, and ink to print images as traditional lithographs, offset printing technicians transfer the content you want to print onto aluminum plates. The plates receive a coating of chemicals and water, which moves the image onto a rubber roller called a blanket. The printer rolls the inked blanket onto the paper or other stocks you want to print your content onto, dries it, and your lithographic offset print is ready. This style of lithographic printing is known as offset due to the mode of ink transfer — ink is transferred indirectly. Once an offset plate is cast, printing goes quickly, even for the most extensive runs of sheets.
Your true colors are always shining through, in every copy
Offset printing is a great choice when publishers need to print large batches of pages very fast and because offset printing delivers accurate color fidelity, i.e., the faithfulness of color selection and their balance in the design. Offset prints are crisp, clean, and what readers expect to view in a professionally-produced commercial publication. This technology can use almost any kind of material and remain true to your creative vision — technicians monitor every element of the print run to ensure that details are as accurate on copy 50,000 as they are on the first issue to roll off the press.
Offset printing breaks even with your budget
Lastly, offset is the most cost-effective way to print a large volume run. While setting up each plate involves upfront costs for parts and labor, you will spend less using offset printing vs. digital printing, provided you have many pages to print.
The drawbacks of offset printing — what you need to know
With all the benefits of offset printing, there may be some situations where offset printing is not your best choice in comparison with what a digital printer can do in a shorter amount of time and at a comparable cost.
Offset printing may not be your most budget-sensitive choice
Offset printing may not be your best choice if you have a relatively low volume of pages to print. Digital printing may be your most economical solution for short runs of smaller documents or bound materials with lower distribution and circulation.
Time is your enemy
As we mentioned above, offset printing takes a more significant investment of time and labor to set up. If your project deadline looms, choosing digital printing would benefit your production timeline and give you less stress.
Offset typographical errors: truths and consequences
Once sharp eyes discover an error in your offset project proof, producing a new plate or even a set of lithographic plates needs to happen to ensure that your reader doesn’t find an incorrect attribution in an image, a column layout mishap, or a typographical error. Correcting errors, no matter how small, slows down the offset printing process. Digital printing offers faster methods to correct the mistakes and re-design layouts before multiple copies make it off the press and into circulation. It is easier to fix problems in your favorite digital creative suite applications and send us a new file than it is to re-cast a lithographic tray series.
The benefits of digital printing
Bestype’s digital printers come in large format and smaller sizes. Some of the printers are laser printers using powdered or liquid toner cartridges to apply content to each surface as it strikes the first layer. Other printers use inkjet technology, spraying each image instead of laser-printing. Regardless of which digital printer works best, laser and inkjet digital printing share a few commonalities that make choosing digital the best option in certain circumstances.
Good DTP is key
Digital printing relies on you (or your favorite desktop publishing team member) to create the documents you want to print. Digital printing does not need tin plates, ink mixers, monitoring, rollers and dryers, or any of the other processes and parts required to produce a lithographic proof. When you find errors in your final document, you can make changes in your files very quickly using your favorite software suite before we go to press. It’s faster to print digitally, and it’s easier to fix errors before committing to print.
WYSIWYG: set it and forget it
In digital printing, what you see on your display is what you get, generally speaking. What appears on your monitor more or less appears on the page as you envisioned it. Every digital print is identical to its previous one. Color and ink variations often frustrate calibration technicians during offset printing, but inkjet and laser settings ensure that every image prints identically.
Digital is economical
Digital printing is less expensive than offset printing for low-volume print runs. While the price per unit lowers slightly during offset printing, digital printing generally costs less by using fewer hours of set-up labor.
Reuse and recycle
DTP professionals save their projects and reuse them as templates when items change or as a base for new projects using similar formats. Templates save time and money. If you produce a digital printing project and want to make changes to it for a new version, you can recycle a previous version, save it under a new name and version number, and make the changes you need. Alternatively, you can save your project as a template that regenerates as you need new versions. Your new project will print identically perfectly and include your changes to text and graphics.
The drawbacks of digital printing
There are projects that significantly benefit from offset printing. If you love texture in your final product, or would like to add special finishes or use unique materials, you should consider going the offset printing route, schedule more time for production and printing, and plan your designs and materials accordingly.
Not all paper is alike
Digital printing doesn’t always accommodate the paper you think would work best for your project. Still, whatever material you choose for most applications, the pages and covers will print perfectly.
True colors — sort of
Digital printing offers less color fidelity, but most people do not notice slight variations in color from design, to monitor, to print. Digital jobs rely on standard toner colors (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black) determined by the designer’s selections and are applied by the software settings in your design file. In offset printing, technicians custom blend colored inks to obtain precisely the color you expect to see in your reproductions, and monitor levels during production, adjusting levels as needed. There is good news about catching color problems in digital printing. Bestype technicians can guide you through your options and help you reselect and recolor your graphics before committing to your print run.
Digital printing can be more expensive than you first budgeted
With all of the cost savings because my design team is doing all of the work before sending my file to Bestype, choosing digital printing is cheaper in the long run, right?
While low-volume jobs with many pages benefit from digital printing, higher volume jobs resulting in copies in the thousands may be the more economical way to produce your publication. Many variables contribute to cost. Your Bestype representative will always be able to estimate the cost of your print project and help you decide which method of printing, offset printing vs. digital printing, will be the most cost-effective for you.
Extra levels of fine-tuning are available in offset printing that are not available digitally. In most cases, your reader will not notice the difference between digital or offset images and text. Digital text and graphics may appear less sharp, less crisp to the trained eye. Pixelation may be more evident when your viewers look closely at images printed digitally. Font selections may appear more defined in offset printing. Great digital printing project results rely on selecting paper and cover stock that plays well with laser and inkjet toner cartridges. Still, as we mentioned, most of your audience will not immediately spot differences between a digitally printed publication and a traditionally offset printed one.
How to decide between digital vs. offset printing
Your choice in printing technology depends on the type of project you want to produce, the materials you want to use in your project, how much lead time you have available before your project’s production deadline, and ultimately your budget.
Whichever method you choose for your Bestype project, digital printing vs. offset printing, our knowledgeable technical experts deliver a great experience and excellent production skills. Your representative will guide you through all of the questions you will need to answer before we print. He or she will also point out ways of avoiding common technical problems before producing the first offset production plate or running your first digital print sample.
Our questions for you:
Volume: How many pieces do you plan to print? Are there multiple pages that will be trimmed, bound, and finished? Are you printing a brochure, a book, a newspaper, or a magazine?
Time: When is your print deadline?
Type: What are you printing? Are you printing stationery items like letterhead, notecards, and business cards? How many colors are you using in your project? Does your dust cover need a detailed design, but the book pages use sepia-toned or black ink on 80 lb vanilla stock? Are you including grayscale or color maps? Would you like any photographic reproductions included in your project?
More color questions: How much color is involved with your project, and what kind of color process are you using? Do you need to use the Pantone® Matching System to achieve a perfect and professional final result?
Customization: How “different” is your project? Is your project designed for non-paper materials, including wood, metal, plastics, and vinyl?
Proofs: We always offer samples or proofs before we print, but will you need to see a produced example of your project and run it through an editorial approval process before our final printing?
Why choose bestype’s NYC printing services for your offset printing or digital printing project
With over 40 years of experience providing creative New Yorkers everything they need to get anything printed, Bestype can guide you through every question you have and get your project printed accurately, on budget, and on time.
Within our convenient Soho print shop, we offer everything in-house without outsourcing any project task or component. We have installed multiple printers on-site to accommodate our full roster of regular clients and new customers. Our digital printers accommodate any format project ranging from 18 to 100 inches wide. Our offset printing presses are also on-site, and we use them to produce everything from business cards to magazines, catalogs, and community newspapers. We have everything you need to complete your creative printing project. We maintain a comprehensive supply inventory. We carry the different types and weights of paper and card, newsprint, plastics, vinyl, metal, and acrylics so that special orders never catch us off guard — we have what your project needs when you need it.
Whatever you can print, we can also finish and bind. We also help you with delivery logistics. Whether you decide to pick up your order or need assistance delivering your project to a specific location, we will make sure your project delivery date stays on target.
Let’s get going with your next printing project
Bestype printing presses are ready to roll for your next project, and we can help you make the decisions that will determine which method, digital or offset printing, works best based on what your project goals are. Give us a call or visit us soon to speak with our experienced team members. We are always happy to talk with you about your ideas and show you exactly how printing works when you trust Bestype with your next creative project. Contact us today!