Offset Printing Vs. Digital Printing


If you’ve ever shopped for a printing company you’ve probably come across companies who describe themselves as either offset printers or digital printers. Each method has advantages and disadvantages for customers, so it’s helpful to know which process a printing company uses.

Offset Printing

Offset printers use thin, flexible plates coated in ink to print designs onto paper or cardstock. Because of the expense associated with making a plate for every order, this method is most cost effective when used for large runs of one design. Most offset printing companies offer inexpensive printing at high volumes (10,000+ items), but charge high fees for low quantity orders.

The work involved in creating individual plates also means that offset printers have a much longer turnaround time (typically around 5-7 days, but sometimes longer depending on the number of orders the company receives).

Digital Printing

Digital printers (like use commercial inkjet or laser printing machines that deposit ink onto paper or cardstock to produce an image. Unlike offset printers, digital printing companies do not need to spend time designing and producing printing plates. This gives digital printing companies a greater degree of flexibility and quicker turnaround times. For small order quantities (less than 1,000), digital printers are almost always cheaper than offset printers. Digital printers are also able to fulfill orders within much more quickly; can mail postcards the same day an order is placed.

Digital printing also allows customers to use variable data. That means that each postcard in an order can have a unique name or image printed on it. This is a great way to personalize postcards according to their recipients (and to increase the response rate of your mailing campaigns).

Of course the printing process isn’t the only factor you’ll want to consider when choosing a printing company, but knowing which process a printing company uses can make that choice easier.

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