What is Offset Printing and What is Digital Printing?


You may be completely unfamiliar with the current techniques in use for printing, and if you are, then the following is for you. If you are one of the initiated and already fully familiar and ‘au fait’ with this technology, then no matter, you may still learn something new, after all, you never know!

Offset printing is basically based on the scientific fact that oil and water do not mix. It is a very common printing technique where the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, and then on to the final printing surface. From this you can see where the name “offset” comes from, this being the act of it being transferred from one place to another.

Relying, as it does, on the science that water and oil do not mix, Offset printing is a longer and often somewhat more expensive process. However, it also produces very accurate prints that being run through different rollers under different colours creates a consistently, high quality product. The offset technique employs a flat image carrier on which the image to be printed gets its ink from the ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based solution, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.

Compared to other printing methods, offset printing is really best suited for cost-effectively producing bigger quantities of high quality prints in an economical way. Offset printing is usually the cheapest method to produce high quality printing in commercial printing quantities. Also, most of the things digital printing can do, offset printing can also do.

Digital printing is a much more recent technology, especially when you take into account the beginnings of true printing processes, going back to Caxton and the first printing presses of the fifteenth century. Digital printing uses computer technology that transforms data into electric signals that the computer translates into clear and recognizable commands. The computer transfers this data electronically to the printer and the result is a rich, photographic quality print, and without any need for the use of plates.

Digital printing is basically the process of transferring a document onto a personal computer to a printing ‘substrate’ by means of a device that accepts text and graphic output. A substrate being a solid substance or medium to which another substance is applied and to which that second substance adheres. As with other digital processes, information is reduced to binary code, or “digitized,” to facilitate its storage and reproduction.

One of the advantages of digital printing is its speed. The ink is already dry as soon as the printer stops printing and this means that the print run can be cut and bound in a few minutes. Another important factor in the digital printing process is that it bypasses completely the need for plate making. This allows for a drastic reduction in printing time, which of course is important in the more urgent print jobs.

Digital and Offset printing methods both have their own strengths and weaknesses. They provide for different printing needs and these days most printing companies use both printing technologies. You should ask your own printing company for quotes on both, and get advice from them as to which one is best for your own specific particular print job. You find more information at our website, we are printing specialists.

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