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HomePackaging KnowledgeDigital Vs. Offset Printing: Choosing the Right Technique

Digital Vs. Offset Printing: Choosing the Right Technique

There are numerous choices to make when it comes time to print your product packaging. Each of them is important, as you want to choose a printing technique that will show off your design and won’t fade but also won’t cause you to go over budget. 

There are two main categories of printing that you may find yourself choosing between: digital and offset. Take a closer look at each to figure out which printing techniques makes the most sense for your product packaging. 

Understanding Offset Printing

The offset printing process uses plates to transfer an image. That image goes onto a bit of rubber called a “blanket” before being rolled onto paper (or the cardboard for your packaging). The name “offset” comes from the fact that the ink doesn’t go directly onto the paper. 

Understanding Digital Printing

Instead of using plates, like in offset printing, digital printing relies on large printers that use liquid ink or toner. 

With those basics out of the way, take a look at some of the key differences between the two techniques and how they may influence which one you should use. 

Quantity of Prints

If you need to print a lot of packages, then offset printing will typically be the better option. It can be incredibly efficient once it is set up. It also does great at delivering clean prints with accurate color reproduction. 

However, if you don’t need a large run, digital printing tends to make more sense. For an easy rule of thumb, some printing experts say that if the run is less than 500, digital is the way to go. 

Customization on the Printing 

One of the most important things to consider is whether all of your packages are going to be identical or if there will be tiny differences between them. For example, does each of your packages have a unique code on it that you need to incorporate in the printing process? 

If not, then either technique is an option. If you do need slight variations, then you have to use digital printing. There simply isn’t a way to efficiently make those changes with offset printing. 

Quality and Colors of Images

For most product packaging, you make it a high priority that all of the images are clear and without spots or streaks. You also prioritize color consistency. Offset printing is better at both of these things. While offset printing delivers reliable colors and images, there is less color fidelity for digital printing, as well as lower-quality images with less crispness and sharpness.

Turnaround Time

If time is of the essence, then digital printing may be a better option. The fact that you have to create the plates for offset printing before you start a project will cause a slight delay. But remember, once the job gets started, offset printing will print higher volumes more quickly. 

When in Doubt, Ask for Expert Advice

Still not sure which printing technique makes the most sense for you? Ask your packaging manufacturer which one they suggest. Their experience will give them expert insight

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