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One of the most important decisions a business or graphic designer makes is whether to have postcards printed on an offset press or digital press. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and each can be a good choice depending on the scope of the project. To clear up any ambiguity about whether you should print your postcard on an offset or digital press, here's an informative guide to choosing your preferred printing method.
For years offset printing was the only option for high-quality postcard printing. When you submit your files to an offset printer, they will put them on a metal plate, which will transfer your design to a rubber pad that rolls over the paper as it comes through the press. Ink, oil and water are used to transfer your design to the paper. When it comes to postcards, offset printing is a great choice because it is extremely economical at high volumes and offers the best-quality finished materials, bar none. Offset printing, however, often requires two or more passes through the printer and offset press setup is expensive, so it is traditionally only economical for very large runs (more on this later).
Digital printing is the new kid on the block and has made short-run postcard printing affordable because there are virtually no setup costs. Digital printing presses also require only one pass through the machine, so postcard printing jobs can be turned around very quickly. Digital printing does have its limitations: To date, no digital printer matches the quality of true offset printing; high-volume jobs can become very expensive; and fewer paper options are available for digital presses.
For mid- to high-volume projects, offset printing offers premium quality and cost-efficiency — if your printer has the right equipment. PsPrint, for example, prints their offset-quality postcards on a Komori Lithrone S40SP — an offset press that offers high-quality printed postcards at a very affordable price. This is because the Lithrone S40SP incorporates revolutionary one-pass printing and other breakthroughs that significantly lower the price of traditional offset printing. In this manner, you can get the best possible quality at great prices regardless of whether you're printing 250 postcards or 50,000 postcards.
For shorter runs of 50 to 200 postcards, it's best to go digital. Digital printing presses have come a long way in recent years and come very close to matching the quality of traditional offset printing presses. There is no setup cost associated with digital printing, so your price per piece on short runs is significantly lower than what it would be with offset printing. Make sure your printing company has a high-quality digital printer. PsPrint, for example, prints their short-run postcards on state-of-the-art HP Indigo digital presses, which produces postcards of such high quality that only the trained eye can tell the difference.
Designers are often charged with handling postcard printing, and are therefore faced with the decision on whether to go with digital or offset. Budget-minded clients appreciate a graphic designer who understands how to get the best pricing, but repeat business often depends on the quality of the finished postcard. For high-volume runs, you should have your postcards printed on an offset press. For short runs, digital printing is your best bet. Don't cut corners on quality, and choose a printer that offers both digital and offset printing to offer your clients the best of both worlds.