One of the most difficult decisions for some business owners is whether to order digital printing or to go with offset printing instead. This can be a hard one, and if you want certain options such as variable imaging or you have certain specialized inks or techniques in mind, this can complicate the issue even further if you do not have a lot of knowledge and experience with printing.
Before you make any important decision on printing, it is always a good idea to do a little research and find out as much as possible on the subject. This can help you avoid the most common mistakes and give you guidance about what you want and need, and that means you will make better choices and more informed decisions.
When Should You Order Digital Printing vs Offset Printing?
In many cases, you do not have to order digital printing as early as you do offset, because the offset method requires some extra time to design and create the printing plates that are needed. With digital technology, everything is computerized, and this speeds up the printing process so less time is necessary before you can pick up the order or have it delivered or mailed.
Which Method Allows Variable Imaging?
A digital printer can usually provide variable imaging without any delays or problems. In the offset process, changing the graphics can mean changing plates, and that requires a labor force as well as additional printing plates. If you want to personalize each piece with small variables then digital may be the best choice in most cases.
Variable data printing and data merges can only be done by digital printing and are usually subject to a separate fee (from the printer) to set up the merge.
How Important is the Highest Possible Image Quality?
When you order digital printing you want quality images, but usually small minor defects in the image which are almost undetectable are not an issue. If the image quality must be as high as possible then the offset method may be a better choice because it can provide superior image quality.
Printing an image at a resolution of 300 pixels/inch squeezes the pixels in close enough together to keep everything looking sharp.
What will the Printed Materials be Used For?
Whether you plan on using variable imaging or not, it is important to consider what the printed materials will be used for. If it is critical that you wow and impress with your materials this can usually be managed by either method, but other factors will also play a role in your final decision.
Your Budget Will Play a Role in This Decision
Before you can decide whether to order digital printing or to go with the offset method instead, you need to look at your budget and figure out which method will fit the best with the financial resources that you have. You have to balance cost, quality, and quantity so that you can make the right choice in your individual situation.
How Many Pieces Are You Ordering?
One of the important factors in addition to variable imaging is the number of items that you are ordering. If you have a run of 500 units or more than offset may be the best pick, but if you need a run of 500 or less units then digital could be the best choice. Larger runs make offset more affordable because each piece has a lower price.
Will You Need a Larger Format?
It may not be possible to order digital printing if you want a larger format. Digital presses are much more limited when it comes to the paper stock size that can be accommodated while offset presses can easily handle oversized items and larger formats. If you want to use digital then you may have to scale down your initial design to do this.
Do You Want Specialized Techniques and Unusual Colors?
Another situation that may make it difficult or even impossible to order digital printing is if you insist on having specialized techniques or unusual colors. Since the digital process uses computer software it may not be capable of performing the steps needed with some ink colors or specialized techniques.
When do you order digital printing, and when do you use offset instead?