If you use an inkjet or laser printer at home or at work, then you are already using the process termed ‘digital printing’. If you’ve had to order a large quantity of printed items before then you would most likely have had these produced using the process ‘offset printing’. However, most clients are unaware of the difference between the two, or of the advantages of commercial digital printing, as opposed to running a few sheets out on the office printer.
Digital printing refers to the process that can print directly from a digital file (such as a PDF), to a printer that uses toners, or inks. This process can be done in a commercial sense to save you time and money in producing brochures, proposals and reports, invitations and posters.
Offset printing is the more traditional printing method that most people would have some awareness of, and uses large printing presses, and speciality inks. A digital file is broken up into ‘separations’ of the colours used (made up of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black – CMYK), and a separate printing plate is made for each of these colours. During the printing process layers of each colour are applied to the paper to produce the final end result. This is a very simplified explanation of the process, but it helps to highlight the main differences between offset printing, and digital printing, which are time and cost.
Although digital printing generally has a higher cost per item printed than offset printing, it has become much more popular due to these main points:
• Fast turnaround – most jobs can be produced within a couple of days, whereas offset printing can take up to a week or more;
• Smaller quantities – due to the set-up processes involved in offset printing and the running costs of the facilities and machinery, small quantity orders can be very expensive. Digital printing is the perfect option for quantities of between 1 and 1000 oversized sheets, which could equate to 6000 DL flyers, or 2000 A4’s;
• Personalisation – it is possible with digital printing software to produce items incorporating ‘variable data’ – each item can be individualised at the same time as printing the entire piece. This is a great tool for producing named invitations, numbered tickets, personalised marketing letters or brochures.
Don’t use the limitations of your office printer as an indication of the results you would get from having projects printed on a commercial digital printer! Commercial digital printing machines are far superior to the common office printer in many ways, including:
• Sheet size – oversize A3 sheets are used (‘SRA3’), which allows for multiple items to be printed on one sheet, and trimmed ‘full bleed’ – with colour going all the way to the edge of the trimmed page;
• Paper weight – most home or office printers accommodate standard office paper – 80gsm or 100gsm, commercial digital printers allow for up to 350gsm, which is great for postcards, business cards, report covers and invitations.
• Speed – the ability to print multiple items on a larger sheet, and the actual printing speed of commercial digital printers means that your marketing brochure or event invitations can be produced much more quickly than you could manage with your own printer.
• Finishing – digital printing suppliers such as Argon have additional trimming, folding and scoring equipment that you wouldn’t have available to you at home or at work.
Digital printing quality has also come a long way, and the average consumer could not tell the difference between a digitally printed item, and an offset printed item, so next time you need to have a brochure or flyer produced, consider a digital printing service, to save you time, money and effort!