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Digital vs offset printing (and why you care)

Have you ever looked at some printed material and thought, “wow—this is classy!” Chances are, you’re looking at offset printing.

On the flip side, have you ever seen an ad that was like “200 postcards for $20!” and thought “what a deal!!”? That’s digital printing.

What's the difference?

The result of offset printing is clear and crisp renditions. A professional printer sets up custom metal plates and layers four colors of  ink to create your print, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK (CMYK). (Here is a quick video describing the process if you’re interested):

Digital printing, on the other hand, combines tiny pixel dots of colors to make an illusion or overall effect. its a type of pixelation similar to your TV.

Here’s where it counts.

Offset printing is beautiful, flawless and professional—but if you have a small run of say, 500 business cards, the cost will be extravagant. This is because most of the cost of offset printing is involved in the set up of those metal plates. On the other hand, if you need 50,000, 10,000, even 2000 of something, offset printing is completely affordable and smart.

Digital printing is a savior to small businesses because most of the time we don’t need such large quantities of things like business cards or brochures. It’s quick, easy and cheap, but the result is a bit less of a superior product. To the discerning eye, you can look closely and see the pixelation. But seriously, who is looking that closely at your business cards anyway! We wish!! (It’s usually someone in the marketing or printing business!)

Believe me, I absolutely love stellar printing. And paper. And when I owned my business (the maternity boutique, not the solar one), I spent way too much money on getting everything *just right*. The result was large quantities of very beautiful designs I created with my graphic designer, which I ended up having a ton left over. To this day I have gorgeous stickers, boxes and bags I don’t want to throw away. But when you’re a business owner, everything should be pointing to Profit. And expensive printing just does not always add up, no matter how good it looks. You can get very good results and reasonable rates by printing small batches with digital.

And try this trick: when you’re considering your next print job, ask yourself how many you think you need, and then divide by two! Then figure out which printing process is best. I think you’ll be happy you did and guess what—you can always reorder!


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