Digital vs. Offset Printing: What’s the Difference?

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Digital vs. Offset Printing: What’s the Difference?

There are two main types of commercial printing: offset and digital. While digital printing revolutionized the industry, traditional offset printing maintained its place among (and even chalked up a few advantages over) modern digital processes. First, it’s beneficial to understand the differences between digital vs. offset printing.

The Offset Printing Process

Offset printing is a much more laborious task compared to its digital counterpart, but the input upfront can deliver excellent quality, scalability and cost-effectiveness. In offset printing, images are transferred from negatives to aluminum plates through a chemical reaction initiated by the passing of light (like in a photo lab). In order to print offset, we need to:

  1. Find the appropriately sized aluminum plate to transfer the print.
  2. Use ink and rollers to prepare the plates and begin the lithographic process.
  3. Complete the lithography. Since oil-based inks and water don’t mix, the areas of the plate that we want to have printed collect and maintain the ink, while non-print areas collect the water (which keeps the ink from settling there).
  4. Finally, transfer the image from the plate onto a rubber blanket, and then to the final surface (the substrate).

If you’ve been following, you might notice that the original image never touches the paper. The rubber blanket is the transferring mechanism, thus making it “offset.”

How Digital Offset Printing Differs

Digital printing eliminates a large portion of the labor and materials involved in offset printing. Films, color proofs, plates, having to assemble the pieces – all out the window with digital offset printing. The image is transferred digitally rather than manually. You can probably guess that this means a faster setup and turnaround time.

Digital vs. Offset Printing Solutions at Duggal

Seeing the printing industry evolve over our many decades in business, we understand the value of both offset and digital printing and can recommend which might be right for your project. Read this quick starter article and contact us to speak with one of our visual consultants today.