Written by: Paula Fargo

paula fargo

Q: Bennett Brauer from Wilmington, DE, writes in to ask: “You’ve mentioned offset and digital printing… What the heck is the difference? Which do I need?”

A: Well, Bennett, what a great question! Which one is better for you depends on several factors. Let’s take a closer look!

Here are some variables we take into account to determine whether we should use offset or digital printing: what does your piece look like? How many you will be needing? How quickly do you need the project completed? How precisely should your colors match previously printed pieces? What type of bindery work will be needed? What will your piece will be used for?

Offset Printing is the ‘old school’ tried and true printing method that’s still in use today. When a printer uses offset printing, they create plates with your images – one plate for each color you’d like to use. Rollers then transfer ink from the plate onto paper. Offset printing uses the Pantone color system, which means that exact colors can be matched precisely. We would choose offset printing, for example, if your company’s logo had to have particular PMS numbers on your stationery.

Sometimes, offset printing might be more cost-effective for a larger quantity order due to economies of scale.

If the piece you want printed looks more like a page from a magazine than a letter you would receive from a lawyer, chances are we would print that digitally rather than with a traditional printing press.

Digital printing is great for shorter runs and typically has a quicker turnaround time, since, unlike offset printing which uses actual ink, digital uses a dry ink toner which is ready to go immediately, not requiring any drying time. Because digital printing uses CMYK instead of the Pantone color system, it’s possible to have slight color variation from an actual PMS color; however, we are happy to provide a hard copy proof so you can see for yourself what the colors will actually look like.

Some great examples of when it’s best to use digital printing include printing short runs of posters, brochures or manuals, or printing anything with lots of color or an intricate design.

Depending on what type of finishing or bindery services you need, we might recommend offset or digital, based on our experience with those processes.

Finally, once we find out what you are using your pieces for, we can offer the right service to make sure you get the result you are looking for.

While it’s exciting that you hopefully now understand the difference between offset and digital printing, there’s no need to stress about which to choose when it comes time to placing your order. You can count on the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Curry Printing to know which option is best for your project.