Fall is in the air, and your company is ready for the holiday marketing season. You’ve got your new product line organized and promoted on social media and your web site. Marketing and sales staff are chomping at the bit to capitalize on the best time of year for your business. And you’ve got plans for a great print marketing campaign that you know will take sales to new heights this season. But one thing you might not have thought of is the method of printing best suited for your campaign; namely, whether they will be printed on offset presses or digital presses. 

Understanding the differences between offset and digital printing can help you make the best choices in the design of your piece, the quantity you choose, and the timeline of your project. Those outside the printing industry might not know what offset and digital printing means, but fear not – this helpful guide will dispel any confusion on the subject.

What is Offset Printing?

First, a brief history lesson. Offset printing has been around for far longer than digital printing – for decades offset printing has been the primary means for printing in the commercial setting. Offset printing involves transferring ink from an aluminum plate on to a rubber sheet that then prints the information on paper or another printing medium. Before the advent of digital printing, this would’ve likely been the only choice available to marketers interested in print. 

Because offset printing require building plates for specific jobs, the upfront cost of even starting an offset printing job can be somewhat cost prohibitive. However, once set up, offset presses are highly efficient and thus are the best choice for large quantity runs. In addition, offset printing provides accurate color reproduction and crisp, clean prints.

What is Digital Printing?

Unlike offset printing, digital printing does not require the use of plates. Instead, it often uses “drums” to apply toner and add color onto paper. Digital printing is much faster and easier to set up, and doesn’t require as much material to get started. For this reason, it is best suited for short runs – think 250 flyers or 500 postcards. With less set up time and less drying time required, it’s also the ideal choice when you need a fast turnaround.

When to Use Each Method

After the advent of digital printing, marketers still relied heavily on offset printing because they believed it created a better final product. For a long a time, this was true as a rule, but advances in digital printing technology have allowed for better and better quality over time. Today, digital printing rivals the quality of offset printing and thus deciding when to use each method often comes down to the quantity you need, the size of your piece, and the timeline of your project. 

As mentioned above, short run projects most commonly are ran on digital presses, whereas larger runs (think thousands of pieces rather than tens or hundreds) are produced on offset presses. 

In addition, the size of your printed piece can determine whether it will be ran digital or offset. Digital presses typically accommodate smaller sheet sizes whereas offset presses can accommodate larger sheet sizes. So, if you’re printing a pocket folder where the flat size is larger than a digital press can accommodate, then regardless of quantity, it will be printed on an offset press. 

Something else to consider is whether your piece will incorporate any variable data such as personalized names, images, or text. If so, then digital printing is the only way it can be produced. 

Lastly, consider the timeline of your project. If you need something printed and finished within two days, then digital printing is likely the only option. However, if your timeline is more flexible, then offset printing can be a great choice to produce a high quality print. 

Ultimately, the final decision will depend on your specific print piece and how all of these factors work together. With a trusted printer like U.S. Press here to help you every step of the way, you can be assured that you make the best choice for your marketing campaign. 

Posted by:Robert Davison

Marketing Content Creator

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