Is offset printing better than digital printing? It's a question many have asked before, and the answer is not as clear and straight-forward as you might think. The answer, of course, is "yes and no." Let's explore the differences between offset printing and digital printing to see which is king when it comes to printing your marketing materials.
Offset printing has been around for more than a century, and for decades it was the best way to print just about everything commercial: newspapers, magazines, booklets, advertisements, postcards, brochures and more. Generally speaking, offset printing works by transferring ink from a plate to a rubber sheet, which then rolls the ink onto paper, vinyl or other surface. This is in contrast to digital printing, which does not use plates to transfer ink to paper.
Offset vs. digital
In general, offset printing is regarded as being of higher quality; however, digital printing has made strides in respect to quality and two copies of the same design - one via offset printing, the other via digital printing - may appear identical to the untrained eye. Offset printing presses also allow you to print larger sheets and can print many pieces quicker than digital printing presses - again, generally speaking.
Outside of those relatively minor differences, the actual finished product associated with offset printing versus digital printing are remarkably similar. The difference, as it turns out, is rooted more deeply in price and budget than anything else; and even these numbers are contingent on your business needs.
Better plate than never
Since offset printing uses plates, every print job has to be made into a plate, and the press has to be individually set up for each individual job. This process costs money and adds an upfront fee to your print job regardless of quantity. Since digital printing does not use plates, no setup fees are involved so you pay a flat price per piece.
Short runs vs. large runs
Here's where it gets interesting, and noteworthy for small businesses seeking to maximize their return on investment: For short runs, digital printing negates a setup fee so it can be far more economical than offset printing. However, because offset presses can print so rapidly your offset price per piece is not static - it diminishes with quantity. Thus, for large runs offset printing becomes far more economical than digital printing because your setup fee is absorbed by the diminished price per piece.
Depending on the type of project you're printing, digital printing is typically the best choice when you're printing fewer than 500 to 1,000 pieces; and offset printing is typically the best choice when you're printing more than 500 to 1,000 pieces. You can research the differences per project type using PsPrint's instant price quote widget.
Keep in mind that many resources that publish information regarding offset printing versus digital printing have a vested interest in one or the other; but when you work with a printing company that has state-of-the-art printing presses for both offset and digital applications, you can get unbiased recommendations that work within your budget, quantity and quality requirements so you can get the best possible print job for your money - whether it's offset or digital.