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Offset Printing or Digital Printing, Which One Should You Choose?

You’ve spent three weeks perfecting the writing for your print, proofread it countless times and spent hours consulting the opinions of your design team and finalised the design. Now what?

This is the point in your project where you’ll be looking to get your work published or printed. A typical procurement process will constitute some time to understand the differences between two main branches of printing – Offset Printing and Digital Printing, which method of printing to choose and why.

Thankfully for you, we have broken down these processes for you with the key factors of considerations, so that you can become clear of the unique traits of the two printing methods, and which works best for the requirements of your project.

What is Offset Printing

(Offset printing machines at Fuisland)

The process of offset printing, or offset lithography is the more complex printing method of the two. Offset printing requires more preparation time as compared to digital printing as there are more areas of quality control involved to produce great-looking prints.

The process of offset printing involves using etched metal plates applied to rubber blankets to transfer the ink onto the printing surface. Each of these plates used needs to be etched in a single colour, which makes it especially challenging for a print job that requires an array of colours. It also takes time to carefully calibrate the concentration of the ink used, usually achieved by multiple runs of the print tests. The offset printing process comprises of four spot colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, commonly referred to as CMYK. In addition, offset printing also has the unique ability to allow custom ink colours, known as Pantone colours, to be used during the printing process.

What is Digital Printing Digital printers produce its prints by mapping out the image’s fine droplets of ink onto the printing surface to create the image chosen for print. Electrostatic rollers are used to apply toners onto the printing surface by using an electrostatic charge before finally passing through a high-heat unit to finish the process.

Digital printing can produce its prints with minimal setup as opposed to offset printing which requires a considerable amount of time to setup. Digital printing applies the image directly to the printing surface with toners, and skips the aforementioned processes of offset printing - including colour proofing, metal plates production, transferring of ink from metal plates to the rubber blankets, making digital printing the faster and more efficient option of the two for low print runs.

Offset Printing vs Digital Printing


There is unfortunately no one-size-fits-all approach to solving your printing needs. What’s important is that each method of printing should be evaluated carefully with the considerations from quantities of print, to print quality, type of print, and the type of urgency required.

Generally speaking, offset printing would be most suitable for print jobs of a high-run, or require a very specific need (eg. pantone colours, better colour fidelity). Some examples include books, newspapers, brochures, artbooks, and catalogs. Digital printing would work best for print jobs of a lower quantity, and require a faster turnaround time.

We hope our introduction and guideline above helped ease your procurement process and provided you with at least a basic understanding of the commercial printing process.

In the meantime, if you have a print job that requires help, feel free to drop us an enquiry at and we will be happy to help you understand this process better and provide you the solution you need!



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