Digital Printing vs. Offset Printing

by EricJuly 12, 2017

We’re a Digital and Offset printing company located in Irvine, CA.

We’ve been such a company for the past 28 years, and this article will contain completely unbiased information on both types of printing, for three types of people:

  1. A businessman/woman who is looking to secure print for the right price at the right quality at the right time
  2. Someone who is looking to get into the world of printing business. (Great tips below!)
  3. Those who are simply curious.

Let’s start.

Digital Printing Advantages

Visit our digital printing page here for more

1.) Digital Printing can connect with PMIS & CRM Software, and has plenty of digital touchpoints for a business organization.

Digital printing means your printers are, as implied, very digitally-based. They read data connecting from computers and process the information from the computer to perform its job. Newer models like the iGen by Xerox do this particularly well. The advantage here is, if anyone has heard of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, they’ll know it’s important to tie things into the system to keep customers and workflow organized. Digital Printers often come with API’s or things involving EFI’s Digital Fiery suite in order to properly communicate with other business systems.

The advantage here is first because it makes sense from a business standpoint to have something that easily integrates into sending automated emails and keeping customers updated about their order, and when it can be delivered. Digital helps take more work off the hands of real people when it comes to information management.

2.) Rapid Turnaround for short runs

Quality & Speed is king in the printing industry, and that trend isn’t changing. But ‘speed’ depends on the scope of how you look at things:

If you get a client who calls you and says they need 3,000 brochures in less than a day for a convention, digital is your -only- option.

Conversely in regards to offset printing,

If you get a client who calls you up and informs you they need 300,000 brochures in less than 5 days, offset is your -only- option.

The ink used in digital is going to dry quicker, and it’s overall easier to start the job.

3.) Variable / Custom printing content.

For a wedding with 400 in attendance, you’re going to need digital and use a .CSV with your PMIS (Print Management Inventory Software) to load those files into the printer queue, and each card will be printed the same besides the name.

For test scores or perhaps a school that mails a newsletter that addresses each student personally “Dear Mr/Mrs. Stewarts”… Again, a job for digital printing.

4.) More compact of a printing machine

Of course this depends on the models, but in some cases you can easily pack 2-4 digital printers in the same floorspace you would need for an offset press. You can run these in a garage pretty easily. Unfortunately they need a lot more consistent maintenance than an offset printer would need, especially higher end models with high-end sensitive instruments like the ones we use here in our Irvine office.

5.) Lower startup operation costs and speed for printing

-No platemaker or plates required

-No need for most prepress

-Conversion of files is minimal, proofing is easier.

Offset Printing Advantages

Visit our offset printing page here

1.) Mass Production Printer, Big Savings, cost scales down with units printed

Offset is the king of newspapers, those weekly deals you see at grocery stores, (Both of these are considered web-offset printing), and anything else that needs over 3k copies.

It on average uses far less ink.

It’s efficient with ink, so you spend a lot less on refills and cartridges. The parts are bulky, powerful, and hard to break. The machine itself will require very little maintenance that the pressman can’t maintain, compared to the highly trained maintenance crews that need to work on most digital printers.

2.) Custom Printing Paper

Offset and its industrial glory has no issues printing on the widest variety of specialty stocks, from magnets to vinyl, wood, cloth, stickers and cardboard.

3.) Marathon Speed Printing

Even though Offset printing takes a while to set up, it uses a metal plate to offset ink into paper, with specific areas using waters and oils to repel and push ink into the correct areas of the printed page. This process means it can also run the plate across paper at insane speeds, with some offset printers being able to produce 9×11 running through it at over 30mph.

4.) Higher quality picture and print quality

Digital printing technology, although closer all the time, still can’t produce the same quality results as having the two, analog solid surfaces making contact copies (Such as the plate and the printing medium or paper stock to be printed on)



Quantity. Offset printing has a front-end cost load. Short runs may have a high unit cost. But as quantities increase, the unit cost goes down with offset printing. Very short runs can be much more cost effective with digital printing; while larger quantities are likely to have a lower unit cost with offset printing.

Printing medium. Do you need or want a special paper, finish or unusual printing surface, or unique size? The options are increasing continually for digital, but offset printing still offers the most flexibility.

Color. Digital presses use four-color process printing. If you need only black ink or one or two ink colors, offset printing may offer a more cost-effective solution. If you need four-color printing, digital may offer advantages in lower up-front costs.

More on color. If you’re planning to print using the Pantone® Matching System, offset printing will give you the best match, since it uses actual Pantone® ink. Digital printing simulates the color using a four-color matching process, so some digital printers may offer less accurate color matching on projects.

Turnaround. If you need it fast, digital usually offers quicker delivery.

Proofing. Digital offers accurate proofs since you see an actual sample of the printed piece. Accurate color proofing for offset printing can be expensive.

Customization. Without question, digital printing offers the most affordable way to customize marketing materials, direct mail pieces, letters, etc.


Thanks for reading, more to come!

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