Difference Between Digital Printing and Offset Printing

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Digital Printing and Offset Printing

If you are planning to print a project and wondering about choosing the best printing method, you might come across these two terms – digital printing and offset printing. Well, if you think that printing is printing and that these two terms don’t matter, then you are wrong. Knowing the difference between these two types of printing helps you find out the best type of method for your upcoming project. So what is the difference between digital and offset printing? Let’s look at how they differ.

Technology Used

Digital printing: Digital process does not use the aluminium plates with the image etched on them. The image is digitally transferred from the computer to the digital printing machine. It uses the electrostatic rollers (drums) to apply the toner onto the sheets of paper to print the image. The process is quite similar to inkjet printers.

Offset printing: Offset printing is produced on a printing press using the printed aluminium-based plates and the ink. For every colour, a separate metal plate is used. Each plate has to be laser etched utilising the information of a digital file of an image. The plate attached to a roller (plate cylinder) will transfer the ink to another cylinder with a rubber sheet (blanket) which rolls the ink unto the material which has to be printed.


Digital printing: It favours projects that require a lower volume of copies. When you print a large number of copies through digital printing, the price of printing the copies is much higher than the offset printing.

Offset printing: It makes more sense to opt for offset printing if you have to print a large number of copies. Offset printing requires more materials, time, and machinery to set up the printing operation. But since the paper and the ink used for offset printing is less expensive than digital printing, it is impractical to use digital printing while printing a large volume of copies.

Turn Around Time

Digital printing: When it comes to speed, nothing beats the raw speed of digital printing because of the significantly smaller setup time. If you have some flyers or business cards to print within a few minutes using a digital press, digital printing is one of the options. Many shops or companies provide quick digital printing services and efficient printing compared to offset printing.

Offset printing: Once the offset printing is set up, printing is much faster. Due to the time consumed to set up the offset press in the printing process, it is difficult to provide same-day or next day printing services. Many modern presses are employing dryers to apply a special coating to make the print dry quickly for rapid finishing.

Sheet Size

Digital printing: The printing runs a smaller sheet print size (19’’) to larger print size (29’’) with the help of high-end machines. While digital printing can limit the size of the sheet, many people are opting for digital wide format printing presses to meet their large sheet size.

Offset printing: On the other hand, the offset presses can run on the sheet from 29’’ to 40’’ sheets. This type of printing method is a great option when there is a need to print on larger sheets which is not possible by digital printing.

Colour Representation

Digital printing: This type of printing offers what most of the high-value brand companies prefer, i.ePantone (PMS) colours. Pantone colours are colour consistent and provide precise representation. Though digital printing offers the colour close to the PMS colours, the true colours can only be given by ink used by offset presses. Digital printing is continually improving the quality of the digital output.

Offset printing: Colour representation with offset printing is generally the most precise and superior to digital printing. Offset presses use Pantone ink to give a high-quality and precise look. This is important as most corporate brands want colour consistency and are willing to spend a considerable amount of money to get that look.


Digital printing: If you require unique information for each copy of your project, digital printing is the best option. Digital printing makes the variable data printing possible. Variable data printing is the information printed on each piece. It includes greetings cards, logos, specific addresses, and customer names.

Offset printing: As offset printing has to set up the plates to print, each plate is laser etched to print the information on the plate. When you need the variable data printing, it makes it difficult for offset printing to print the sheet compared to digital printing.


Digital printing: The pieces produced by digital printing are more subject to crack when the printed material is folded in any way. There is modern creasing equipment to prevent this issue from happening, but still, people prefer the vibrancy of digital colour.

Offset printing: Offset printing is a good option compared to digital printing in this case. This type of printing method can provide a higher quality option if the heavy solid ink or delicate gradients (shaded areas) are used.

We hope that knowing these key differences between digital printing and offset printing can help you to take a more informed decision to get better results on your next printing project including publications, manuals, catalogues, direct mail, and much more.

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