Offset lithography and digital printing are arguably the most common printing methods (we cover many more in this article) but they are not the same. When should you use offset and when digital printing?
When to choose offset lithography
- When high image quality is a priority. Offset offers the best possible printing quality.
- When specialized inks and color fidelity are required. Metallic and PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors are available.
- On long-run prints. Producing over 1000 prints is more cost effective as cost per unit decreases.
- With a wide range of printing substrates such as a more flexible variety of paper types, wood, cloth, metal leather and plastic.
- With formats larger than 18″ x 12″.
When to choose digital printing
- When a short turnaround is priority.
- On short-run prints. Printing under 500-1000 units is more cost effective.
- When customization is required. Since this is a computer-to-print method, information from a database or external text and graphics can be modified on each piece as it prints (e.g., names on business cards, personalized letters or ticket numbers).
- When no PMS colors are required (though some digital printers are able to closely match them).
In short, digital printing is recommended for faster, cheaper and customizable low-volume prints. Offset printing should be used for high-volume printing with a higher quality.