When to Use Offset Printing vs. Digital Printing: The Benefits and Drawbacks

When deciding the best commercial printing method to choose, most designers are divided between offset or digital printing. Although every design has its own uniqueness, it’s important to be aware of the distinction between offset printing and digital printing along with their pros and cons for a more informed decision.

Here’s a comprehensive analysis of offset printing and digital printing Benefits and Drawbacks

Offset Printing

Offset printing, also known as conventional printing, is the oldest printing technique and has been in use for over 100 years. Robert Barclay first employed it in 1875 when he developed the first rotary offset lithographic press.

The design image is mechanically burned onto an aluminum plate, transferred to a rubber “blanket,” and then finally transferred to the printing surface. The offset method uses a planographic image carrier in conjunction with the lithographic process, which involves the repelling of oil and water. The image to be printed receives ink from rollers while the non-printing area draws a stream of water, keeping the non-printing areas clear of ink.

This printing method is widely used in commercial printing with high volumes such as magazines, newspapers, and books since it gives precise color control, and a variety of crisp, professional printing.


  • Printing large quantities is inexpensive.
  • A broad range of paper types and custom-designed finishes is available.
  • A broad range of colors including Pantones and metallics can be recreated.
  • It allows precise and precise reproduction of colors.
  • Modern offset presses employ computer-to-plate, as opposed to traditional computer-to-film technology.


  • The price per unit for printing in small quantities could be costly.
  • The production process requires more steps which makes the process more time-consuming.
  • It is not possible to print only one copy using offset printing since it is costly and time-consuming.
  • It is essential to pay attention to top-quality outcomes

Digital Printing

The primary distinction between offset printing and digital printing is that digital printing does not use plates or ink rollers, but rather uses alternatives like toners in laser printers and liquid inks in larger printers. This method of printing is ideal when low-volume printing is required, like when creating booklets, cards for greetings, and flyers. Digital printing also permits designers to use variables in information.

This means that every piece printed can be branded with an individual code, name, or even an address that is printed. Although offset printing is not able to meet this requirement, however, digital printing is an excellent method for businesses that need to personalize their prints.


  • Costs for setup are lower for shorter runs.
  • Faster turnaround times.
  • Variable data capability.
  • It provides accuracy when proofreading.


  • Digital printing presses typically are able to accommodate only sheets of 18″x12″.
  • Digital presses can’t print Pantone colors.
  • When compared to offset printing, the quality of digital prints is typically less, but it is often not noticeable for the not-skilled eye.

When To Use and Why

If you need more than the distinction between offset and digital printing methods, these are a few crucial considerations to aid you in deciding the best printing method to use.


Offset printing is an initial cost load for the plates and setting up. This means that for small runs, you could be charged a high amount for each unit. But, as the amount increases, the price is reduced by offset printing. However small quantities (less than 1000) are more affordable using digital printing.

Printing Medium

In the past couple of years, the selection of papers that are suitable in digital print has grown dramatically. But, if you’re seeking to print on a unique print surface or want to create an unusual texture, offset printing continues to provide the greatest flexibility. Additionally, with offset printing, you’re not restricted to the dimensions of your print unlike digital printing, where you are limited to the 12″x18″ measurement of the paper.

Turnaround Times

Because the set-up is minimal and a shorter time is needed to dry ink, fold or trimming. Digital printing provides rapid turnaround times when relative to offset methods.


If your design requires just one or two black colors offset printing could be the best choice because digital printing typically utilizes all four process colors, which include Cyan, Magenta, Yellow along with Black (CMYK). But it is crucial to be aware that if you’re reproducing with four-color options Digital printing can be more cost-effective, particularly for small-scale jobs.


Digital printing allows you to can see the proofs more exactly because what you see is the actual image of the printed item. The cost of proofing is high using offset printing.


If you’re planning on personalizing your design Digital printing is the most effective option. By using variable-data printing you are able to personalize your text and images depending on the impression you are making.

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