Offset Printing vs Digital Printing: Which is Best for You?

Posted March 3rd, 2014 by .

Categories: Digital Printing, Offset Printing.

Since the advent of the first digital printers in the early 1980’s, people have asked which is better, digital or conventional printing? The answer was, and still is, it depends on what you want to print and how many.

CONVENTIONAL PRINTING (most commonly known as “offset”):

This process involves several steps before the first sheets of paper are even touched.

First, your image, book, brochure, etc. needs to be etched into one or more metal printing plates. Most modern printing companies such as Zodiac Printeractive have devices that utilize lasers to handle this task. (In the past, this was achieved using film and chemical processes.)

These plates are then put onto a printing press and coated with ink. The paper passes under these plates and the image is transferred. This process can be used for one or “spot” color as well as “four-color” or full color printing. Offset provides accurate color reproduction and a variety of printing materials can be used.

Offset is best utilized if you need LARGE QUANTITIES printed. The “set-up” at the beginning costs more, but the more you print, the cost per piece will drop significantly. Typically, most printers will recommend using offset if you are printing over 1,500-2,000 pieces.


Like most laser printers, digital printing uses color toner instead of ink. There is no set-up as with offset printing, and this makes the cost per piece very inexpensive for LOW QUANTITY printing, allowing you to print 1 or 100 when you need it. If you need to print 1,000-2,000 pieces, then digital printing may be best. As with any project, compare the cost to offset before you commit.

One of the biggest advantages of digital printing is the ability to use “variable data”, such as names, addresses, promo codes, etc., something not available on offset printing. Coupled with a fast turn-around time, digital printing is an extremely viable alternative to conventional offset printing for small quantities.

Both offset and digital printing are tried and true printing methods. The final decision is really determined by how many pieces you need printed, any special papers you want, factors such as variable data, and of course, cost.