OFFSET

Offset is the more traditional of the two printing methods. Dating back to the late 1800s, it is an offshoot of a much earlier printing method called lithography, in which a large, flat stone is treated with a hydrophilic substance (“water-retaining” – typically gum arabic) that resists ink. Ink adheres to the remaining surface, and a print can be pulled by pressing paper onto the stone.

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Our KBA 74Karat offset press.

Modern offset printing uses similar principles, except the image is created on a plate which is then attached to a cylinder. Rollers apply ink to these imaging cylinders, and these, in turn, apply the ink to rubber rollers (or “blankets”) which then set the image on paper. Unlike traditional lithography in which the ink goes directly from stone/plate to paper, the ink is “offset” from plate to blanket to paper.

Offset printing can be used for any number of inks. At On Demand Imaging, we have a 2-color offset press which is ideal for envelopes, letterhead, and some business card designs. We also have a 4-color process (CMYK) offset press which is excellent for all manner of full color print, whether it’s postcards, posters, brochures or data sheets. It creates crisp, vibrant print and is ideal for high quantity jobs.

DIGITAL

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Our Canon C7000VP digital press.

Digital printing has only been around for the past few decades. Current machines vary widely in the specifics of the process. The core difference between offset and digital is that digital printing uses no plates, which reduces set-up time, cost and overall waste. Digital is perfect for low quantity jobs and variable data/image items like customized postcards.

In toner-based digital presses, like our Canon C7000VP, toner (powdered pigment) is transferred to a plastic sheet or blanket, which then transfers the image to paper. Typically, heat is used in conjunction with a fuser oil to set the toner permanently on the paper.

In inkjet systems, like our HP Designjet wide-format printer, liquid ink is set on paper by a printhead which moves side to side. The ink is then cured with UV light. This is essentially the same process used by home inkjet printers, except our wide-format printer uses additional colors to increase its color range and provide more vibrant prints. The size and vibrant colors makes it great for posters, banners and pop-up tradeshow displays.

WHICH ONE DO I WANT?

We will work with you to determine the best option based on your job, but here’s a basic breakdown:

DIGITAL

  • Low quantity runs
  • High page-count jobs such as books or manuals
  • Variable data and variable image

DIGITAL LARGE FORMAT

  • Large signage such posters, banners, and tradeshow displays

OFFSET

  • Envelopes or letterhead (digital print can melt when running letterhead through laser printers)
  • High quantity runs
  • Larger sized pieces such as pocket folders, 6+ panel brochures, etc. (most digital presses have a 13″ x 19″ maximum sheet size)
  • 2-color Pantone match