Lithographic Printing Vs. Digital Printing

Many customers assume all modern printing uses digital technology. While the digital process has revolutionized the print industry, it hasn’t taken over entirely.

For several reasons, print shops still offer lithographic printing, often referred to as “offset litho”, as an alternative to digital.

The printing method that best suits your business depends on the type of job. Ordant, creator of a premier price-estimating software for print businesses, compares the two predominant printing processes, using elements most important to customers:

  • Speed in delivery. Lithographic printing involves a certain amount of technical preparation. Images are transferred to aluminum plates, which are inserted into a press and coated with colors that correspond to the images. Images on the plates are rolled onto cylinders, which then make an impression on paper. By contrast, digital printing employs no plates and instead transfers images directly onto paper or whatever material is being used. When quick turnaround is a priority, digital is faster.
  • Print Quality. While digital reproduction is improving, lithographic frequently provides better image quality, particularly when the printing surface is cloth, metal, plastic, or wood. Litho offset also produces colors that are more consistent. The digital process is more forgiving for low-resolution original images.
  • Cost. Digital printing is certainly cost-effective on small runs of around 500, for example. But litho offset costs drop significantly on large-volume runs.

Other details also factor into choosing the best printing method, such as:

  • Do you need to personalize postcards with the recipient’s name? Digital definitely holds the edge when it comes to customization.
  • The lithographic process better handles printing in black and white, while the digital process facilitates an actual-size sample for proofing.

Hiring an experienced print shop is critically important. Colors need constant monitoring during a litho offset press run, a competent print shop that understands how to adjust colors is critical to the success of a job.

Ordant print estimating software can help you understand the costs involved in print vs. lithographic printing to be sure your business costs are properly incorporated in your pricing.

For more on Ordant’s print estimating software, sign up for a personal free software demonstration today.


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