Offset vs. Digital – Which Printing Process is Right for My Job?

The advancement of digital printing has given consumers more options and greater affordability for print jobs. But how does it differ from offset printing? Which is better? Here’s a quick guide to the differences between digital and offset to help you decide which process might be a better fit for your job.

What is offset printing?

With offset printing, an image is burned onto a plate and transferred to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. It’s combined with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image area obtains ink from ink rollers while the non-printing area attracts a water-based solution. This keeps the non-printing areas ink free.

What is digital printing?

Digital printing eliminates the step of creating printing plates. Instead, the image is printed directly on to the media.

Which is better?

That depends on your specific needs. Here are some of the key advantages to the two types of printing:


  • Shorter turn-around time
  • More cost effective for low-volume printing
  • Offers variable data printing where text or graphics are changed on each piece without slowing down the press. For example, a postcard can be printed to have a unique name and address on each print.


  • High image quality
  • Integrity of color is optimal
  • More cost-effective for high volume printing
  • Can print on various surfaces, including wood, cloth, metal, leather and plastic
  • Can print on larger sheets, giving you more options for size


In general, digital printing will be more cost effective for full-color, low quantity jobs. Offset printing will be more cost effective for high quantity jobs and offers the best image quality and color matching. If in doubt, check with your printer to see which printing process they recommend for your job.

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