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Here at Mcgilvray Printers we offer two types of Printing processes, Lithograph and
Digital. Depending on the nature of your print requirements will determine which
method would be best suited to your job. Below is an explanation of the two processes
The growth of digital printing technology has brought technical advancements, more
options, and exciting new features to today’s commercial printing. It's also brought
some confusion. An understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing
and how those compare to traditional offset lithography is critical in making the
Offset lithography is the most common high volume commercial printing technology.
In offset printing, the desired print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred
(or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface.
The lithographic process is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image to
be printed gets ink from ink rollers, while the non printing area attracts a film
of water, keeping the non printing areas ink-free.
Mechanical Steps Eliminated in Digital Printing
Digital printing eliminates many of the mechanical steps required for conventional
printing, including making films and colour proofs, manually stripping the pieces
together and making plates.
So … Which is Better
Well, it seems that depends.
Advantages of Digital
Every print is the same. More accurate counts, less waste and fewer variations, due
to not having to balance ink and water during press run.
Cheaper low volume printing. While the unit cost of each piece may be higher than
with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower
per unit costs for very small print runs.
Variable Data Printing is a form of customisable digital printing. Using information
from a database or external file, text and graphics can be changed on each piece
without stopping or slowing down the press. For example, personalized letters can
be printed with a different name and address on each letter. Variable data printing
is used primarily for direct marketing, customer relationship development and advertising.
Advantages of Offset
High image quality.
Works on a wide range of printing surfaces including paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather,
rough paper and plastic.
The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs. While today’s digital presses
are close to the cost/benefit ratio of offset for high quality work, they are not
yet able to compete with the volume an offset press can produce.
Many modern offset presses use computer-to-plate systems as opposed to the older
computer-to-film work flows, further increasing quality.
Still Not Sure Which is Right?
Use this checklist to help decide:
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.
Colour. Digital presses use four-colour process printing. If you need only black
ink or one or two ink colours, offset printing may offer a more cost-effective solution.
If you need four-colour printing, digital may offer advantages in lower up-front
More on colour. 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 colour using a four-colour matching process, so some digital
printers may offer less accurate colour 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 colour proofing for offset printing can be expensive.
Customisation. Without question, digital printing offers the most affordable way
to customize marketing materials, direct mail pieces, letters, etc.
Use the above checklist to help you decide and if you are still not sure give us
a call and our in-house graphic designer will advise you on the best and most cost
effective method for your print project.