Digital Printing vs. Offset Printing

Something that most people don’t consider when planning their print project is what type of press it will be printed on. The two types of presses that are most commonly used for commercial printing are a Digital Press or an Offset Press. Print shops across the world tend to merely offer either Digital Printing or Offset Printing. They preach to their customers that their way is the best way, but at PrintingCenterUSA, we recognize the cost and quality benefit of having both options available.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a step back and define these two four color printing processes.

What is Offset Printing?

Offset printing is printing on a 4 color lithography press where the pages of your project are imposed onto a plate. The image is then transferred to an intermediate blanket cylinder that prints one of the 4 CMYK colors at a time onto the individual pages of your product. This requires a pretty elaborate setup process as well as manual accuracy from the press operator. Offset presses are very consistent and efficient once setup, though.

What is Digital Printing?

A digital printing press does not require plates and can utilize either toner or ink, depending on the press. A digital press is still a four-color printing process, but it requires far less makeready and manual accuracy than offset printing. For these reasons, Digital Printing is synonymous with short-run printing.

Now that we have a basic understanding of these two forms of printing, let’s get into the various aspects that help PrintingCenterUSA decide which type of press your order will be printed on.

Turnaround Time

Turnaround time is always an important consideration for our customers. The elaborate setup time that goes along with offset printing puts you at a disadvantage for short run orders. However, this set up time becomes worth it for bulk orders. This is because offset presses are extremely efficient once they’re up and running.

For your short run orders, digital presses are generally used. There is virtually no make ready (initial setup processes), allowing us to get to printing quicker. The shorter the setup time, the shorter the run time, the lower the cost. Which leads us into the next consideration.


We all want to get the biggest bang for our buck, but there is no concrete answer for which type of press is cheapest to run an order on. With offset printing, the cost and time associated with the makeready makes it a costly option for short-run printing (typically 1,000 or less). For higher quantities (typically 1,000+), offset printing begins to become more cost effective. Offset materials such as ink are cheaper, so when printing a larger order, you make up the cost of the makeready. So if you have 2,000 subscribers to your quarterly magazine and are looking find the cheapest printing option, an offset press will be the most cost effective.

As we already mentioned, digital printing requires virtually no makeready. This is a huge benefit for short-run orders. The toner generally used with digital presses is more expensive than with offset, which makes larger orders become more costly. So if you’re looking to print 200 fundraising calendars for your animal rescue, then a digital press will be the most cost effective.

At PrintingCenterUSA, our philosophy is to provide our customers with the lowest per-product price possible. Since we print using both digital and offset presses, we are able to allow the specifications of your order determine what will be the cheapest. 

Color Reproduction

PrintingCenterUSA is G7 certified for color. This means that we are constantly calibrating all of our presses, testing our color accuracy, and meeting the pleasing color standard. So with us, there is virtually no difference between Offset and Digital printing when it comes to color. You may hear from other print shops that Offset Presses have more consistent color accuracy, but PrintingCenterUSA has mastered the art of printing pleasing color no matter the press type. As long as you print with us, color will almost never be an issue. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Since we have both of these options available, you can always count on PrintingCenterUSA to produce a product that exceeds all of your expectations. From cost to color, we have your back!

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