When you’re getting started on a printing project, the question of digital vs. offset printing doesn’t typically come up…until the end. At The Ambit Works, we get many questions about how we got to the final project. And, it all comes back to the type of printing. So, today on our blog, we’re going to cover the basics of digital printing vs. offset printing.

Very plainly, digital printing is a modern printing method that sends a digital file, like a PDF, directly to the printer, instead of creating a printing plate which is used in offset printing. But, what you want to know is how it affects your projects. We’ve put together some helpful background information on the topic for your reference:


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Which is cheaper digital or offset printing? It all depends on the quantity. Offset printing can be expensive because of the setup fees to create the printing plate, but when the quantity goes very high, the cost per page lowers, So, if it’s a very large project offset printing can be more economical.  When digital printing became popular, it allowed businesses to print small batches at a time and made it affordable for smaller businesses to print any quantity without a large setup fee. So, if you have a smaller project then it might be more affordable to go with a digital printer while a large scale project might go the other way.


Many print projects are on tight turnarounds and we’re often asked to deliver projects yesterday. Timing is a huge factor in printing a project and digital typically wins the boat on this one. Offset printing takes longer because of the initial setup of the printing plate whereas digital printing is on demand. The standard turnaround for digital is 24 hours and the standard for offset is 4-7 days. However, when we get into larger quantities (like over 10K), digital can actually take longer! So, make sure to account for how long printing projects will take!


Although it’s a very close race, offset printing is the winner here. The quality on offset printing is unmatched due to the exact precision of the printing plate. However, digital printing has advanced dramatically since it started out. The digital printing processes today are so high quality that most people wouldn’t be able to notice a difference in quality between digital vs. offset printing products. Also, keep in mind that proofing is much easier and accurate for digital printing, because you’re seeing an exact sample of the printed piece.


Depending on what you need to customize for your printing project, you’ll need to vary between digital vs. offset printing. If you’re going to deliver a variable data printing and customize each name on the piece, then you’ll need to work with digital printing, which allows for this type of personalization. If we’re talking about customization on the type of print medium, such as large scale printing, unique paper or an unusual printing surface, then offset printing is the way to go.

Final Product

In terms of finishing, both offset and digital printing techniques offer the same level of choices – such as foil stamps and die cuts, and binding options like saddle stitch. But one factor to keep in mind here is how the final product will look. Many times we get asked why a final digital printed product looks glossy, even though it’s printed on matte paper. Basically, the heavier the coverage on digital, the glossier the outcome will be. This is because the toner sits on top of the sheet in digital printing vs offset printing, where the ink absorbs into an uncoated sheet. So, just something to keep in mind if you have a specific idea of how the final product will look!

So now you should have a better understanding about the differences between digital and offset printing. But don’t worry, you won’t need to make these decisions yourself. We’ll walk you through the many steps to determine the best way to produce your printing project! Just ask!


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