Offset Printing Vs Digital Printing

Colorful ink fills a roll of paper as its worked through a printer.

So you’ve contacted your printer, chosen your material, sent the final design and they ask you, “How do you want us to print this? Do you want us to use offset or digital printing?”

Invariably the first question on your mind is: What’s the difference?

Well, let’s find out, shall we?

What’s Offset Printing

If you can imagine the spinning cylinders of newspaper printing presses, then you’ve seen offset printing. This method creates an exact replica of your design onto a series of aluminum plates that are fitted onto rollers. When the press is turned on, the aluminum plates are rolled in premixed ink colors; these plates then transfer the colors by rolling the inked design onto a rubber roller which then stamps it directly onto the printing material. Each piece that moves through the press gets fresh and exact color-matching ink.

What’s Digital Printing?

Digital printing is just like the printer you have at home. It draws ink from cartridges and drops it onto the material in minuscule droplets. These droplets are smaller than a pinprick and are layered over one another to create the desired color.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Digital Printing vs Offset? 

When you’re faced with a choice to use offset or digital printing, there are factors to consider which will help you determine which method is the best for your project.


Colorful swirl of yellow and orange and blue illuminates a clock.

In terms of speed, quantity will come onto play. If you have a low-volume order, then digital is the way to go. The speed of the technology is fast and does not include the required set-up time that offset printing does in creating the aluminum and rubber replicas of your design for the rollers. However, if you have a large volume order, offset printing may be the better option. Yes, you’ll have to accept the set-up time, but printing is incredibly fast once it’s armed for printing.


Because the color of the ink is premixed before it is pressed onto the material, offset printing provides an exact color match of your design and branding. Digital printing’s method of overlaying thousands of tiny dots onto a material produces a similar final product but can result in a slightly hued difference in printed product vs. original. The lines of an offset printer are much more crisp and straight as your original design is heat pressed into the aluminum. Because digital uses droplets or circles to create a design, the edges are not always as straight and perfect. You can take a look at the differences on akulakreative.


Because there is an initial set-up process for using an offset printing press, going with digital is best for lower volume orders. Depending on your printer, however, this initial set-up cost in terms of the cost of creating the aluminum sheets and the time involved is negated once you reach larger order numbers. So ask your printer what minimum quantity offsets this upfront cost and determine if your project meets it. If it doesn’t, go with digital.


Color swatches span across a white background.

As discussed above, offset printers provide the most accurate color match. This is because they utilize the Pantone Matching System, which is used worldwide. This ensures your branding remains precise no matter which printer you’re getting your products from. Digital is simply no match for it by the way it transfers color onto the material.

Specialty Jobs

If you’re interested in variable printing, in which each unit is to have a unique element to it, perhaps you’re adding each of your customer’s names to a direct mailer, then digital is the method you will need to use as it doesn’t print using one replica created out of aluminum. 

If you’re looking to add additional embellishments to your piece, say raised ink, foil or embossing, you’ll need to use an offset printer as it has the capability to produce these types of products.

If you want your design printed on a unique material like leather, wood, metal or special cardstocks then you’ll need to choose offset printing which has the capability to transfer your design onto these materials flawlessly.

Show Us What You’re Envisioning

So there you have it, every factor to consider when deciding between offset and digital printing. Now, let’s see your design! Velocity’s print team experts are ready to help that vision come to life.

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