The printing process has come a long way. In fact, it’s estimated we have reproduced images for over 5000 years. During that time we used clay tablets, wooden blocks and metal engravings to transfer images. In 1439, the first printing press was built and changed the world forever. By the end of the 1800’s an estimated 1.8 billion books had been printed.
In the past 30 years, digital and offset printing technologies gained significance as the preferred means for reproducing text and images. Digital printing leverages technology and creates an efficient platform to reproduce images while offset printing embraces manufacturing with an emphasis on craftsmanship. If you find yourself ordering printing on a regular basis then it’s time you understood the differences between digital and offset printing. You might be surprised at the time and money you could save. In this blog we will share insights into not only the differences between these two forms of printing but also offer a few tips that will help you “make printing simple.”
Digital Printing Pros :
- Speed Speed Speed : Digital presses require very little setup time and can create print jobs incredibly fast. For example, our prepress staff is capable of downloading a file and sending it electronically to digital press within a matter of minutes. Once the paper stock is loaded a digital pressman simply presses the start button. Presto! Within moments warm prints start to exit the press and land in a neat stack.
- Convenience : Digital presses are commonly used by chain printers and office supply stores.
- Quality : To the untrained eye you are likely to see very little difference between a gloss sheet printed from a digital press and one that has been printed from an offset press. Non gloss sheets printed from a digital and offset press can be even more difficult to distinguish.
- Value : When it comes to small print jobs digital printing is the best choice. In fact, it’s likely digital printing will be your only economical option if you only need a few pieces printed.
- DPI (Dots per Square Inch) : Digital presses are capable or extremely high DPI meaning they are capture very high detail.
Here is a short list of products that we believe make great sense for digital presses.
- Booklets – Up to 1000 booklets, especially ones with low page count.
- Stationery – Under 2500 letterheads and envelopes.
- Standard non gloss and gloss business cards – Under 1000 cards.
- Numbered Form Printing – Under 2500 8.5 x 11 forms.
- Rack or push cards – Under 1000
- Brochures – Under 1000
- Any report that requires spiral or comb binding
- Note Pads – Under 100 pads
- Greeting Cards – Under 500 cards
- Flyers – Under 500
- Tickets – Under 2500
Digital Printing Cons :
- Toner vs Ink : Almost all digital presses do not use ink. Instead, they use toner which is a mixture capable of producing both text and images. By using a heat fusing process, cyan, magenta, yellow and black toners are bonded to paper. Because of this process toner prints can scratch easily, especially when they print dark colors on a heavy stock. Digital prints made from toner are also prone to cracking when folded if they are not scored properly. Lastly, toner can produce streaking or banding depending on the maintenance life cycle of the digital press.
- Time is money : Going to chain printers and office supply stores can be hit or miss. Locating one may be easy. Getting your job printed, trimmed or folded with precision, not to mention done on time, will depend on the staff and the standards they keep.
- Paper thickness issues : You’ve likely held a business card in your hand and marveled at the thickness. It’s almost guaranteed that card was printed on an offset press. Most digital presses do not like heavy stocks. Anything above 110 lb. paper can sometimes cause jamming issues on digital presses. This means bringing a sample to your local digital printer might mean compromising with a digital paper stock that best suits their digital press.
Offset Press Pros :
- Volume savings : Offset presses are made for long runs and are capable printing millions of impressions in just one run. This means the cost per 1000 can be much less than a digital press. This kind of savings comes in handy for businesses that need to buy in bulk. One of the most common mistakes that companies make is not ordering bulk. Starting each year reviewing your printing needs and then ordering them in bulk can save thousands of dollars not to mention time. If you don’t have the space ask the printer if they can inventory the product and ship it to you on an as needed basis. This is commonly referred to as a fulfillment service.
- Coatings : The most commonly used coating is Aqueous coating and offers a higher shine than most toner based presses. One step up in the gloss family is UV coating. This coating has a super high gloss appearance and is extremely durable. Within the UV family is spot UV coating. This is an artistic approach that masks certain area applies UV gloss to them. When applied to a matte finish sheet it can be very eye catching.
- Consistent quality : Offset presses have auto register and auto ink capabilities allowing for tight controls over quality. Most press rooms also have operators and staff that pull sheets to verify quality.
- Paper Variety : Offset print shops offer customers a greater variety of stocks to choose from. Especially when it comes to thicker stocks such as 14pt, 16pt and 32pt. Offset presses can also print on plastic, tear resistant paper, suede, pearl, silk, magnet, plastic, Akuafoil, and Kraft stocks. While some digital presses are capable of printing some of these stocks it’s highly unlikely they will have them in stock at your local digital printer
- Product diversity and customization : Offset printers are likely to also have a greater selection of finishing equipment than digital printing shops. Below is a list of products that require finishing.
- Presentation Folders
- Table Tent Cards
- Custom boxes
- Product hang tags
- Greeting cards
- Door hangers
Offset Cons :
- Time : Using an offset shop may mean you have to wait. Depending on the product the turnaround time could be up to 7 working days. It’s always a good idea when discussing your product with an offset printer to ask when you product will be completed once print ready files have been submitted.
- Short Runs : If you only need a few copies, it would be a mistake to ask a commercial printer for help. Asking a printer what their minimum quantity is will help ensure you don’t end up with more than you need or waste money.
- Customer service : We hear this complaint a lot from new customers who have come from offset printers. Because the bulk of their work may be coming from brokered jobs they may lack some customer care resources that a local digital printer might offer.
- Accessibility : The closest offset printer is likely in an industrial park or an area of town you have never been to. They are notorious for not having signage and being difficult to locate. That being said, if you like a sense of adventure you will likely be glad you made the effort.
Tips and Suggestions :
- Get to know your local digital or offset print professional : You will likely appreciate their straightforward approach and ability to get right to the point. These are professionals that specialize in getting things done and are not afraid of a challenge.
- Schedule an appointment : Professionals that work in the printing industry are juggling numerous deadlines at one time. Requesting a meeting will help ensure you have their attention.
- Ask questions and advice : Printers want to help you but can recognize in a matter of seconds if you don’t know what you are talking about. Make a list of questions before you arrive.
- Be Prepared : Print professionals will likely not be able to help you with problems beyond their control. Be prepared and get to the point. Explain your project and when you need it completed.
- Request an estimate : Don’t commit to any project with a digital or offset printer unless they have produced an estimate.
- Modern Communication : Be sure to get a business card and ask what the best method to communicate with them is. Ideally you can establish email communication throughout the project. This will help ensure you are kept up to speed on when the job will be completed.
- House sheets and in-stock paper : Printers often have a house sheet or preferred stock of paper they use. They also tend to have paper in their inventory that is either commonly used or has been left over from a previous job. Consider asking for the price of their house sheet and if they have any remnant paper that may work for your project. Beware of asking for unusual specialty paper. Sourcing paper is getting tricky these days and can come with a steep price tag.
At Stigler Printing we believe in the power of educating our customers and making printing simple. From all your friends at Stigler Printing we would like to thank you for reading this month’s blog.