Offset vs. digital printing

Offset vs, digitalOffset 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.


Sources: Pinsonnault Creative | Sage Media | Tsunami Marketing | University of South Australia

11 printing techniques you need to know

Not all printing processes are the same, just as not all print material is the same. A book needs a different kind of stock than that of a newspaper, for example. Before selecting your printing provider there are 11 printing techniques you should get to know in order to get the best results:

1. Offset lithography. The most cost-effective printing technique, where chemicals are used to create an image on a flexible plate that attracts ink while repelling water (The white spaces attract water and repel ink).The plate is wrapped around a cylinder and water rollers soak the white spaces. Ink rollers apply the ink on the image area and it is then transferred to a rubber blanket before finally being pressed on the paper. Offset printing is most used in newspapers, magazines, brochures and CD booklets.

Offset printing(Image:

2. Digital printing. A perfect choice for small four-color print runs of no more than 5000 units. Its turnaround is of less than 2 days. Digital printing does not use ink but toner, which instead of being absorbed by the paper forms a layer on it and no plates are necessary since the image can be printed directly from a computer.

Digital printing(Image:

3. Gravure printing. The gravure cylinder is covered with flooded (or low viscosity) ink and the substrate is pressed onto is surface. Gravure printing is used on long-run prints such as newspapers, magazines, direct mail catalogs and packaging.

Gravure printing(Image: David Sillitoe for The Guardian).

4. Electrostatic printing. This process is similar to photocopying. It does not use ink or plates; instead, a zinc oxide coating is applied on the paper that reacts by forming an image with powder on the surface.

5. Screen printing. A screen plate of a fine mesh such as nylon is used to print on t-shirts, ring binders, bumper stickers and billboards. A stencil is used to block ink on non-image areas with each layer of color (cyan, magenta, yellow and black).

Screen printing(Image:

6. Reprographics. Common in-house copying and quick-printing process.

7. Embossing/Debossing. These processes respectively create a raised or depressed impression on the paper by stamping it between a metal plate and a counter.

Embossing(Image: Adoniram Sides).

8. Flexography. It uses flexible rubber plates where the non-image areas are etched away so the ink is applied on the substrate. The ink used is water based and allows for a faster drying process and shorter production times. Flexography is used to print on cardboard boxes, grocery bags and gift wrap, as well as bottle and can labels.

9. Engraving. This process will result in a raised image and saturated colors on the substrate. The print image is carved onto a metal plate and then the spaces are filled with ink so that the paper can be pressed on top of it. Arguably the most expensive and time consuming printing techniques, it is used for gala invitations and business cards for high executives.


10. Thermography. A less expensive process than engraving with a similar result. A special powder is adhered to wet ink and then heated to blend. It is used for stationery products.

11. Letterpress (relief) printing. Johannes Gutenberg used this process when he developed the first press. It works just like a rubber stamp, where images and text are raised from a surface, inked and then pressed against the paper or printing substrate. Once the standard printing technique, it is now used mostly in specialty shops for fine art prints, books, wedding invitations and posters.


Sources: All Graphic Design | Bhaves Advertisers | Design History | Design Instruct | Digital Marketing Services | Offset Printing | Printing Paradise | Top 7 Business

8 things you should check before sending a file to the printer

Print proof

Ordering a high-volume printing job means producing thousands of units from a single document, so a single mistake can turn into the thousands as well. This is why you should check these 8 things before sending a file to the printer.

  1. Convert images to CMYK. Here’s the difference between RGB and CMYK color profiles. If you are working with digital photos or using RGB color in your design, make sure that you convert your images to CMYK. Otherwise your colors will look very different on print.
  2. Include an adequate bleed. The bleed is artwork space that extends outside the document borders. Since guillotines are not 100% accurate, you must add a 1/8″ of space to make sure your content doesn’t get trimmed.
  3. Set a safe area by adding quiet borders. No logos or text should be located beyond the quiet borders. These borders should be at least 1/4″ from the edge of the document. The quiet border minimun-widths are: 5mm for business cards; 8mm for CD sleeves; 12mm for flyers; 25mm for posters. Larger prints require wider quiet borders.
  4. Check for spelling mistakes. You don’t need to be a printing expert to avoid this costly mistake. After you have run the spell checker on your computer, re-read the whole copy text and/or have someone proof-read it for you. Remember that a typo can result in a correctly spelled but erroneously placed word.
  5. Convert to outlines or embed fonts. Convert all the text to outlines or curves in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign before exporting to PDF to avoid unexpected changes in the font style. If the font type you used is not installed on your printer’s computer, your material will print with a different typeface and you won’t notice until it’s too late. You can also embed the font when exporting to PDF or ultimately send the font to your printer.
  6. Use a high image resolution. 300 dpi (dots per inch) is the minimum resolution needed for print jobs. Lower resolutions such as 72 dpi will simply look terrible on print. Also, enlarging a low resolution image will not solve the problem.
  7. Print a sample for proofing. Print a rough version of the material so you can have it on your hands and check the spelling, margins and image quality. You can also make annotations for further revisions.
  8. Use the right file formats. .tiff .pdf and high-quality .jpeg files are recommended. DO NOT send .gif or .png images to print, since they were developed to handle 72 ppi (points per inch). Ask your printer first to be sure you are sending the right file type.


Sources: Andrew Kelsall Design | BCW | BonFX | Smashing Magazine

5 terms you must know before you print

Printing terms

When ordering a custom printing job, there are certain terms you must first know to get exactly what you want.

  1. Stock. Paper or other material to be printed. It can be divided into body (the stock where the main text is to be printed) and cover stock (a generally thicker material used for posters, menus, folders and covers of paperback books).
  2. Paper brand. Get to know the brand of paper that fits your needs but bear in mind that we recommend you to seek paper quality first and brand name second Your print provider may offer you a bulk price if you ask for a specific brand.
  3. Weight. The weight difference between a single sheet of two types of paper may be imperceptible. But is it the same with an 2000 page book? In the US and Canada, basis weight (also called substance weight) refers to the actual weight in pounds of 1000 sheets of any given size of paper. In other countries with ISO paper sizes, basis weight (also called grammage) means the weight in grams of a square meter of paper. Ream weight is used to express the weight in pounds of 500 sheets of paper cut to the basic size. *NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH FONT WEIGHT. Font or type weight is the comparative amount of blackness of a type style. Light, semi, bold or ultra bold typefaces have different weight between them.
  4. Opacity. The property of both paper andk ink to prevent printing on one side of the sheet from showing through to the other. Do you want almost see-through paper or a high-opacity paper for your print material?
  5. Caliper. The thickness of paper in thousandths of an inch (also called mils or points), pages per inch (ppi) thousandths of a millimeter (microns), or pages per centimeter (ppc).

These are just the basics but they sure will come in handy the next time your company needs you to send something to the printer.

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Printing Industry Exchange

The Mexican dream: low costs, high quality

Nissan manufacturing plant in AguascalientesNissan’s manufacturing plant in Aguascalientes. (Image: AutoField Guide).

‘Cheap’ often means compromised quality. It also used to mean manufacturing in Southeast Asia.

But there’s a new array of opportunities emerging right in the USA’s backyard, with Mexico as a thriving economy, predicted to enter the top 10 world economies in the next decade and to reach the 8th place by 2050.

Mexico’s annual exports of manufactured goods comprise about the same value as the rest of Latin America put together. Mexican universities produce produces each year more engineers than Germany, resulting in a more specialized workforce. In 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened Mexico to the world by eliminating most tariffs with the United States and Canada. It now has more free trade deals than any other nation, with 44 countries.

Also, Asian wages are rising. The average manufacturing wage in Mexico per hour rose only from $1.50 in 2000 to $2.10 USD in 2011 while China’s grew from $0.30 to $1.60. Transport costs are far more competitive for companies that manufacture in Mexico, and shipping times are considerably lower: a container can take three months to travel from China to the US, against two days from Mexico.

AlixPartners said in 2011:

The joint effect of pay, logistics and currency fluctuations had made Mexico the world’s cheapest place to manufacture goods destined for the United States, undercutting China as well as countries such as India and Vietnam.

Nissan has a village-sized factory in Cuernavaca, near Mexico City, where New York Citiy’s thousands of taxis will be manufactured. Mazda and Audi are also building factories. But cars are not the only manufactured goods in Mexico; medical and electronic industries are also posted in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego, California.

Nowadays it is more attractive and cost-effective to manufacture close to markets. Mexico has realized the dream of low costs and high quality.


Sources: The Economist | Business 360

Why our brain prefers print over digital media

fmri scanner print over digital media

What’s more real, virtual or print material?

This may seem an odd question but answering it holds key information about today’s consumers to marketers and companies.

A study by Millard Brown in collaboration with the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University shows that the brain has a greater emotional process as a response to physical material compared with virtual experiences.

In the research, 20 participants were shown ads and other images in print and digital forms. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) was used to scan their brain activity and see the kind of reactions they presented to the various stimuli.

The results showed that material shown on printed cards generated more brain activity in the area associated with the integration of visual and spatial information, each located in a different hemisphere. It turns out physical material is more real for the brain, since it provides with a more complete experience. It also has more connections with internal feelings, which suggests a greater internalization of the printed message. This is why direct mail, brochures, flyers and coupons are still used in advertising.

So does this mean we should switch back to print media and forget about digital media? Of course not. Each industry has different purchasing processes and consumer behavior. You should determine when and where to market your products and services via conventional media.


Source: Millard Brown

Top 5 countries to print outside the US

Offset printing

Globalized communications and access to international markets have set a new scenario for printing industries all over the world. With rich countries (i.e., United States, the European Union, Japan) no longer control the world economy and little profit margin, emerging economies are the focus of attention for American companies looking for print providers.

Where are these opportunities located? In these following five countries:


Chinese printing companies have a large influence over the Government, usually with the same company owners acting as Government officials. Tariff reduction for U.S. imports into China since the country has become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regulations to have the latest equipment help print companies improve their quality to comply with international market needs.


The Indian printing industry grows at higher rates than the rest of the economy and its growth is believed to be directly relational to GDP growth. Tariff reductions and regional trade agreements have also increased competitiveness along with print quality in order to meet international standards. Indian companies are relieved of importing tariffs for equipment if they show an increase in their exporting volume, so the printing industry focused on foreign customers has state-of-the-art equipment the domestic focused industry can’t afford to be penalized for. India, however, is at a disadvantage with China, where the Government has financial interest in most of the large printing companies so the risk is considerably higher for the private owned Indian ones. Other disadvantages include higher import tariffs on foreign manufactured equipment, comparative labor and capital costs, and shorter Chinese shipping times to the US West Coast.


The Russian printing industry provides products and services to newspaper, magazine, and graphic media printing. Digital printing is growing fast. Its demand was driven by printers who had bought equipment to become the leaders in a new field. This is a characteristic of Russian business, not only the printing industry. In Russia it is difficult to get financing for many printing medium and small-sized companies, as well as high tax rates and excessive certification procedures for imported equipment. The long distance between Russia and the US is also an issue.


Mexico is one of the world’s most open economies, is a member of the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and has free trade agreements with Canada, the European Union and many other countries. Many domestic Mexican printing companies have 20 year old equipment, and firms with modern equipment sometimes lacked the training needed to exploit possible opportunities. The creation of new degree programs in Engineering in Graphic Arts has covered this lack of trained personnel, and the Mexican printing industry has seen consolidation, increasing competition, and taking advantage of its strategic location with low shipping times to North American, Latin American, European and Asian markets.


This South American country has a leading role in the WTO and MERCOSUR, a customs union that includes Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia. Sixty percent of the printing industry is located in the wealthier regions of the South and Southeast, in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Menaus. As the poorer regions become wealthier, local printing industries will grow to serve local and regional markets, which may open a window for digital printing systems.


Source: Emerging Global Print Markets: A Five-Country Comparative Study