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Monday, August 29, 2011

Offset Printing vs. Digital Printing

If you are a designers or even a small business owner marketing your company, at some point you are going to have to get professional printing done.  You will encounter the decision of Digital Printing or Offset Printing.  So how do you know which to choose?
In years past really the only way to get a professional looking print job was to do offset printing.  Digital printing was left to home desktop printers and really did not have much of a place in a professional print shop.  That has changed though, thanks to improvements in technology.  Now we have cost effective choices.
Offset Printing is best used for mass print jobs; newspaper, magazine, national direct mail drops, even business cards to name a few uses.  The beauty of offset is the 1000th printout looks as crisp and clean as the first.  When you provide your printer with a full color design they will go through a prepress process.  Part of this process is creating plates for the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black values in your design.  These colors are layered on top of each other at varying percents of intensity to create the full color design.  Although the actual printing process is not terribly expensive the prepress process can affect the final cost. 
The more you print the less the per piece cost is because the pre press cost will be the same regardless of how many prints you do.  So you can think of spreading $100 of prepress costs over doing 10 prints you would pay $10 for each print, or you can spread $100 in prepress costs over doing 100 prints and you would have $1 per print.  This is just an illustration of how mass printing can benefit from offset printing.  Of course you would still pay for paper, printing and post production costs.
Digital Printing is kind of like how you hit send and print to your home printer.  Of course there is more to it than that and a professional printer has a higher quality printer in general.  There is little to no prepress, you are just paying for the paper and ink for each print out. 
If you have ever tried printing a lot on your home printer you will notice the 100th print is not as clean as the 1st, a professional printer has that same issue.  This is why digital printing is best used for small print jobs.  Although I have to admit this issue gets less obvious as new technology is released.
As always I recommend asking your professional printer to offer their view on which process you should do.  They will be able to give you a cost breakdown to each process and recommend which is best for you.

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