Choosing between Litho printing and digital printing can make all the difference when looking to maximize a project’s final result. Depending on the parameters of the job, selecting the right technology will also impact the overall budget, timeline and the physical characteristics of the printed product.
Litho vs. Digital printing process
Offset Lithographic printing, also called Litho, involves the making of printing plates for each individual job. Printing plates create an image that is first transferred (offset) onto synthetic rubber blankets and then onto the final printing surface.
Digital inkjet printers place tiny droplets of ink directly onto the substrate, eliminating the need for any make-ready time before printing.
Both processes are capable of producing stunning results, with distinct advantages depending on the context and job requirements.
Litho printing is more economical for high quantities
While Litho printing does require more resources to set up, the cost per print goes down significantly for high volume runs. The more you print, the lower your costs. Advancements in modern platemaking have also sped up and even automated the process, shortening and simplifying make-ready time.
Digital printing for fast turnaround
When you’re up against a deadline, choosing Digital printing may reduce turnaround time because of the elimination of platemaking and the ink takes less time to fully dry. Along with being fast, digital printing is far more cost effective for short runs.
Range of substrates
While Digital printer capabilities are expanding every year, the variety of available substrates and compatible paper stock is still limited compared to Litho printing. The Litho process can be utilized to print directly to paper stock of all thicknesses and sizes, plus non-paper surfaces that include metal, wood, plastic and more.
Digital makes customization a breeze
Making changes to lithographic plates is not possible once they have been made, except for recreating a plate. Digital printing customizations can be made with a few clicks of the mouse. This makes Digital printing the best choice for content that requires tweaking or updating for different runs.
The same idea holds true for proofing. The digital process makes it easy to print out a proof immediately to check for errors, whereas a true lithographic proof requires the making of plates and a short production run; however, digital prints are common for proofing a Litho job.
Key Considerations for Choosing Digital
Digital print offers maximum versatility, customization, and low cost benefits for short runs. Expectations in the consumer marketplace have drifted towards individualized products over the last decade. This trend lends towards shorter runs and lower expectations of quality. Depending on your print customer’s needs, Digital printing may be the solution you need.
Key Characteristics for when Selecting Litho
Litho printing typically produces a higher quality end product depending on the substrate and the product use. Here are some considerations that support choosing Litho, if your customer base requires the type of work noted below:
- Digital printing is primarily focused on CMYK and white
- Both Litho and Digital printing produce spot colors
- While both Litho and Digital printing produce Pantone colors to improve reproduction accuracy Litho offers a wider color range
- Litho inks offer superior protection against marking, scuffing or cracking (when folded)
- Although both Digital and Litho inks can be laminated and subjected to other post-processes Litho inks are typically prone to less issues
- The Litho process is better for printing large areas of solid color
- Litho inks are typically better suited for UV varnishing applications
- Litho printing reproduces tints and gradients better than digital printing
- Metallic inks work better with the Litho printing process