The difference between offset printing and digital printing really boils down to one thing: quantity. Digital printing is ideal for smaller projects while offset is ideal for large volume printing. The difference in the economics between the two types of printing is mostly due to the technology of the printing; how the image is transferred to the page or other medium.
Offset printing has been used for over a century for many different products such as brochures and posters. It uses metal plates that transfer the desired image onto a rubber sheet and then transfers it from there onto the paper. Offset printing allows you to use much larger paper than digital and it’s much faster, about 120,000 pages printed every hour on one machine. This is definitely the method to use if many identical things are needed due to the fact that the price usually lowers as a number of printing increases. Offset printing is also known to have slightly better color quality than digital printing, especially with Pantone colors, a system for matching colour. This is because offset printing can use Pantone inks.
Digital printing a fairly new way of printing, but it is still very useful and is a fast-growing method of production. Digital printing either uses tiny ink heads to transfer the image onto the medium, or it uses drums to fuse toners to the medium, depending on which type of digital printing is needed. This method is best for many different circumstances because most projects don’t require more than a couple hundred copies. It’s also a great method because individual prints are able to have changeable parts, like addresses or names. Unlike offset printing, digital printing does not require any setup time before projects, so it’s also ideal for projects requiring a fast turnaround.
As you can see, digital printing and offset printing are both better and worse than the other, depending on what is needed. A project needs longer runs or there’s a very specific Pantone color needed, then offset is the way to go. For a project with a shorter run and variables in content, then digital would be the ideal fit. Both methods are high quality and professional, so the decision should rely on the requirements of each individual project!
Still not clear? Check out this infographic I found on digital vs offset printing for your reference.