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Everything You Need to Know About Digital Printing

Custom booklet printing

When you work with commercial printing companies — whether you need advertising banners, aisle signs, bookmarks, mailers or plain old business cards — there’s one major choice you’ll need to make: whether to use digital or offset printing for your project. Often, a print company will offer both printing methods for the same products, which might be confusing if you don’t understand the differences. Here’s what you ought to know:

What Is Digital Printing?

Digital printing works somewhat like your regular inkjet printer, in which different colors of ink are layered directly onto a “substrate” (paper, usually) to create the desired tones and patterns. This method is called digital printing because there is no physical medium that transfers an image onto the paper; the printer creates it based on a digital file.

Offset printing, on the other hand, works more like an old-fashioned press. Custom plates are created and then used to transfer ink onto the substrate.

What Is the Quality Level of Digital Printing?

As in all printing, the quality of a digital printing job will depend on the equipment and skill of the printing company. A good digital printer can provide quality that is just as high as that of an offset printing process. Digital printing can also offer far more customization options in terms of both the ink and the substrate being used. Sometimes digital printing produces colors that are less vibrant than those that can be achieved using offset printing, but that’s the only major downside.

What Is the Pricing for Digital Printing?

For many projects — especially for small businesses — digital printing can offer an extremely affordable way to print products that need individual customization, such as direct mail pieces. It’s also the best choice for a relatively small run; because there’s less setup involved in digital printing, it’s not prohibitively expensive to print just a few copies of a project.

However, it’s good to keep in mind that if you need hundreds of identical copies, the price per unit may be lower using offset printing, even taking into account the initial expense of having custom plates created. If you talk to your printing company and explain your priorities (whether that’s quality, consistency, turnaround time, etc.), they’ll be able to help you decide whether digital printing will save your company money.

Do you have any other questions about the difference between digital and offset printing? Ask or provide more information in the comments.

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