The Technical, Explained

There are fewer differences today in the quality of digital printing and offset printing, but the technical differences between the two are quite remarkable. There is also a cost difference; although, that, too, is becoming less of an issue as technology continues to evolve.

First, The First Technique: Offset Printing

The offset press uses a system of plates that contain what are called “color separations”, each of which uses a specific, primary color. The combination of all the colors provides the image. The primary colors used are Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Black is added for, obviously, shades of gray, but it is also used to regulate contrast.

The setup involved in an offset press means that the larger the run, the lower the cost of each printed piece.

At one time, the plates were made from film separations, each containing a negative of the color separation. By the late 1990’s, a process had been developed to allow the color-separation plates to be created, directly, from a digital file.

Color separations for offset press

Second, The Newer Technique: Lasers

Digital printing uses a combination of lasers, electrostatic charges and dry toner or liquid toner particles to fuse the image onto the paper. No plate is required, so the setup costs virtually nothing. 

There is a slight, albeit scarcely noticeable, difference in overall image quality, but even that variance has become a subjective measure, given the pace of technological changes in digital presses.

It is important to not confuse a consumer-grade laser printer with a digital press. The differences between a digital press and a standard laser printer include the tight color specifications and printing tolerances needed for professional units, which perform short and medium runs 24-hours per day. Plus, there are the variable sizes of the media used for printing on a commercial unit.

At Printmaster, we can digitally print up to 13 x 27 inches on stock as thick as 14 point.

Which Should I Choose?

A couple of quick considerations will help you determine whether it is a good idea to print using offset press or digital press. First, how many items are you printing? If you have a short run, or even a medium run, a digital press is definitely your best option. Digital is also a good option if you are printing large quantities but need to do a mail merge-type of addressing for, say, post cards or mailers. The digital press can print multiple variations of a file in a single run, which an offset press will never be able to do.

However, if you have a large run print job, particularly a catalog, pamphlet or booklet, the offset press is definitely your best option, both for quality and cost. As we mentioned, the quality comparison is more a subjective interpretation, based upon each person’s particular preferences. But there is no debating the cost difference when it comes to large-scale print runs.

We are here to answer your questions, so please all us at 954-771-6104, today, to ask us more and get your quote.