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Digital Printing vs Offset Printing: The Pros, The Cons, and The Examples (2022)

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Apart from screen printing, there are two other printing techniques commonly used in the printing industry, namely offset printing and digital offset printing. What is the difference between the two printing techniques? So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each technique?

We need to know which technique best suits our needs and budget.

Knowing printing techniques can help us get the printing results we want, after knowing about printing techniques we will feel more confident using online digital printing services.

For now, there are two options for printing, namely offset and digital. Offset printing and digital printing are printing techniques. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but both can be used as needed.

Offset Printing

Offset technique is one of the most commonly used printing techniques. With the offset method, the material to be printed is transferred from a plate to a layer of rubber, then onto the surface of the material. The offset process uses wet ink and requires a drying process after the printing process takes place.

Offset is used to print in large scale/quantity. Among all printing techniques, offset is arguably the most economical, high quality and has good consistency for printing on a large scale.

Offset Printing Process

In the process, the prepared design will be burned onto an aluminum plate with wet ink. The basic colors used are CMYK which stands for Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow (yellow), Black (black) and special branded ink colors.

In the picture below, the aluminum plate containing the printed design will first be transferred to the offset plate in the form of a rubber blanket. Next, the rubber blanket will be rolled onto the desired print media, for example paper. The flow of ink transfer from the rubber plate to this medium is called offsetting.

Offset printing is also called lithography or flat printing because the position between the surface of the media that prints and the surface of the part that does not print is the same height. The principle used in the offset printing technique is the principle that oil and water cannot be mixed.

The process is in the form of repelling water and ink, where the part that does not print will attract water to repel the ink, while the part that prints will attract the ink to repel water. Because it involves wet ink, the drying process also requires a long time even up to a day so that the ink on the media is completely dry.

Offset printing is very suitable for printing on a large scale or quantity because the cost is very economical. Among other printing techniques, offset printing has high quality and has good consistency for printing on a large scale. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of offset printing?

The Pros of Offset Printing

  • Offset printing techniques can print in large quantities, the more quantity or quantity printed, the cheaper the sheet price.
  • The offset printing machine allows for printing with coarse textures and thick grammage up to 300gsm.
  • Offset printing technique can print media in A1 or A0 size.
  • Can print special colors like gold, silver or highlighter colors.
  • The colors on the prints are quite good, so the prints are clean, look tight and the images are without smudges or spots.
  • The resulting color specifications are more accurate.
  • Can work well on almost all materials.

The Cons of Offset Printing

  • Offset printing technique requires a long production time, because it has a fairly long process such as making films, printing plates and setting the ink on the machine.
  • The ink used by wet offset printing machines takes time to dry.
  • It will cost a lot if it is done for small-scale work.
  • If an error occurs on the plate, it will be difficult to repair and even be required to repeat the entire process from the beginning.

Digital Printing

Digital offset, or the cool term, digital printing, is a printing method of digital-based images, which are usually in the form of files, which can then be directly printed on various media in a faster way.

Digital offset is the result of innovative developments from conventional printing methods, which emerged along with world technological advances that have entered the digital era.

Generally digital offsets have higher production costs per unit than more conventional printing methods such as offset printing and screen printing.

Digital Printing Process

Just like offset printing, digital printing also requires CMYK ink, but there are also digital printing machines that have more than 4 basic colors and for white, metallic and clear effects, special dry ink is needed.

The machine used for digital printing uses a photoreceptor rubber belt under the electrostatic charger to give the belt a negative charge. After that, the laser will focus the light on a specific area of the belt, in order to reverse the charge and create an image based on the design.

Printer ink mixed with the previously negative charge will be attached to the belt and attached to another positively charged area. For single color prints, the printing process will be applied directly to the print media. However, for full color printing, each color will be applied separately to the transfer belt and only after that it will be printed on the media.

The Pros of Digital Printing

  • Digital printing can print up to any unit, because it has a machine that supports it.
  • Digital printing techniques are suitable for printing business cards or photobooks that do not require large-scale printing.
  • Using a digital process, the production time is fast, there is no need to make a plate for printing or film, just process it through computer media and print directly.
  • Can print various designs in one printing process, because the process is digital. Unlike offset printing, where one plate can only be used for one design.
  • Each printout is identical. Because the process uses a digital machine so there is little possibility of a difference.
  • Can change the design in the middle of the printing process.

The Cons of Digital Printing

  • Production costs are higher when printing in smaller quantities.
  • Digital printing techniques are suitable for printing on a small scale, because if for large-scale printing techniques the resulting colors will be inconsistent and cost a lot of money.
  • Digital printing can only print on A3+ sized media and a maximum paper grammage of 270 gsm paper.
  • The quality of the prints, especially for color sharpness, is lower than offset printing.
  • It can produce colors that are less accurate because they use standard inks that don’t necessarily match all the colors needed.
  • Materials that can be used as print media are quite limited.
  • Can only print images in CMYK color format for maximum results

Bottom Line

After reading and understanding it, you can easily make choices for the type of printing technique you need!

If what is needed is a small business card or sticker, you can use digital printing. Then if what you want to produce is in the form of a large quantity or billboard, you can use offset printing so that the resulting product can be maximized.

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