December 5

Offset Printing vs Digital Printing: Which is better?



You have painstakingly come up with the perfect company brochure ever. The writing is immaculate, the design is divine, the layout is avantgarde, and the colour scheme is just perfect to the tee. Now all you have to do is to get it printed.

However, the pressing question here is: Which printing method is better?

This article will provide you with the necessary information to help make this final decision to see your creation into fruition.

In short, there are two most commonly used printing methods: Digital printing and Offset printing. The latter is a more traditional printing method, also commonly known as printing press method. Let’s look at these 2 printing methods in more detail below.

Offset Printing

Commonly known as lithography, offset printing is the most common kind of printing for high volume commercial jobs; think the likes of newspaper printing.

Offset printing is a process whereby ink is rolled onto paper to allow it to rest on the surface as well as being absorbed into the paper. But before that can happen, the printer first burns the design onto metal plates. There four plates: one for each colour. The colours are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, also abbreviated as CMYK. Offset printing also allows custom ink colours, known as Pantone colours, to be used instead.

The design is then transferred from the plates onto rubber rolls. The different colours of ink are spread on the rubber and the paper will run between them. While going through all of the rolls, the colour is also layered on the paper in order to get the final image.


  • A better colour fidelity, which refers to accuracy and balance of the colours in the design. As custom ink colours can be used as well, the colours will be spot on naturally
  • Works equally well on almost any kind of material
  • Large amount of copies can be reproduced with extreme speediness
  • Superior image quality which is clean, distinct type and spotless without any streaks or spots
  • Suitable for large volume jobs (more than 200,000 copies) as you will spend less compared to a digital print, which is about same per piece regardless of how huge the job gets
  • Allows the widest range of colour re-production. Pantones, metallic, foils, bright florescence and varnishes can be produced with this printing.


  • Not suitable for low volume jobs (below 500 copies) as the cost will be high
  • A lot of attention to detail is required to ensure acceptable quality of results. To achieve this, an experienced graphic designer and pressman must work together
  • Considerable drying time
  • With the creation of plates, a longer time is required
  • If there is an error on a plate which you did not catch, it is harder to fix during the batch printing process, resulting in a worse fallout

Digital Printing

Do you have a colour printer at home? If yes, then you can do digital printing! Digital printing skips the proofs, plates and rubber bed and applies the design directly to the printing surface with liquid ink or powdered toner. Larger printing companies have colour printers that are bigger, faster and more precise, but nevertheless the same concept applies.

This is an alternate printing solution designed to emulate the final printing press results to give customers an idea of what their final printing press project would look like. Due to the familiarity with the process, many will favour digital printing.


  • Faster turnaround time as there is no dying time for inks
  • Lower cost for low volume jobs (less than 500 copies).
  • Large format printing can be done (exceeding 10 feet in diameter)
  • Can be printed on a variety of mediums which include paper, glass, metal and marble.


  • Less colour fidelity because digital printing uses standard inks that cannot exactly match all colours. Despite the improvement of digital printing due to the closer match with blended inks, they still do not match as well as a custom mix which is used in offset printing
  • Higher cost for high volume jobs
  • Slightly lower quality, sharpness and crispness
  • Fewer options in materials you can print on

With the two methods explained, if you are still cannot decide which method to use for your next printing project, here are some points for you to consider in order to make the right decision:

  • Volume: If your project is big enough to overcome the initial costs, say over 500 pieces – offset printing will be the choice. Sure enough, you will get a quality print which cost less at a high volume.
  • Time: Digital printing wins hands down. You cannot simply do offset printing at the very last minute!
  • Colour: If black and white or just one or two colours are required, and the volume is substantial, offset printing may be the right choice. In the case of essential perfect colour, offset printing should be print of choice as it uses an actual Pantone ink for a perfect match. If basic four colour printing is required, digital printing may be the most cost-effective solution. However, digital printing can only give its best approximation of the colour.
  • Types: Name cards, thank you notes, cards – use offset for two colours maximum and for printing quantity of more than 500. Offset is also suitable if you have a very specific need to match a Pantone colour exactly. If full colour and only a few copies are required, choose digital printing.
  • Posters, book jackets – Offset printing is the choice of print due to the higher quality printing required to make the images look perfect.


To sum this up, the differences highlighted above will assist you in making the right decision on the best printing method for your project. Working with a designer definitely can give you added insights, so do not hesitate to get expert help!

Apart from Translation, which is the core business, Lingua Technologies International work with renown printers in Singapore to offers high quality, cost-effective printing services as well. Contact us to find out more!

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