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Recently we had some new business cards printed in the office and we were stuck with the question whether to go with a digital printing method or the more traditional method of offset lithography commonly known as the printing press method. I get a lot of customers asking me what the difference is between the two? Well I thought I would shed a little light on the subject and perhaps help some of you decide which print method to use.


Offset Lithography


The Printing Press the traditional method for printing was invented by German Johannes Gutenberg in the year 1450. Its a process by which ink is rolled on to paper and rests on the surface as well as being absorbed into the paper. This process is my preferred choice because its gives me the most accurate control of color, variation of color and paper weight. I have put together a list of pros and cons to Offset Printing below;


  • Allows the most wide range of color re-production. Bright florescence, Pantones®, metallics, foils and varnishes can all be produced using this method of printing.
  • Allows the most accurate color re-production and consistency
  • A wide variety paper weights, size and textures
  • Light inks such as white ink can be printed on a dark surface of a paper (i.e.. White ink of black paper)
  • Adjustments to ink density
  • Better quality inks
  • Large print runs exceeding 200,000+ copies can be reproduced and extremely quickly


  • Setup time is slower and a lot more production steps are required
  • Cost of printing low quantities (under 500 copies) can be more expensive
  • You can not just print out one copy
  • Drying time is considerable
  • Printing press machines can be fairly large and require trained personal (press men) to work and maintain them
  • For quality print results an experienced press man is a necessity
  • A lot more attention to detail is required to make sure that the quality of the results is acceptable. An experiencing graphic designer and press man working together can ensure the best results though.

Digital Printing


Originally invented as a pre-press digital proofing system, it was designed to emulate the final printing press results giving customers an idea of what their final printing press project would look like. The process eventually evolved into an alternative printing solution. A lot of people favour digital printing because they are more familiar with the process. Almost everyone one has owned a color printer at some point in their lives. They are small compact and available at many office supplies stores. I have put together a list of pros and cons to Digital Printing below;


  • Short turn around time, quick, no drying time for inks
  • Affordable, cost effective solution for small print runs under 500 copies
  • Can be printed onto a variety of mediums including; paper, glass, metal, marble
  • Can do very large format printing exceeding 10 feet in diameter
  • You can print out just one copy
  • Digital printers are more readily available and getting pricing is faster and does not require a formal quote from a print representative


  • Color consistancy is poor
  • Larger quantities exceeding 500 copies can be more expensive
  • Pantone® colors can not be reproduced
  • Difficult to reproduce colors accurately
  • Can not reproduce metallic inks, foils or varnishes
  • Weight of paper is limited and size of paper in most cases
  • Final results are limited to a semi-gloss or gloss finish
  • Not able to reproduce a matte finish very well
  • Ink is not not absorbed into paper rather it sits on top of paper and makes it more susceptible to cracking
  • Cannot produce white or light colored inks on dark papers

I hope I was able to give you a quick run down of the differences between the two types of printing and help you when deciding your next print job. If you are wondering which company we use for our print projects and are looking for a great product and services check out Kendricks Quality Printing in Winnipeg for both your Digital and Offset Printing needs.


Shaun Green 

January 30, 2013