Digital printing is not an ink-on-paper process; it’s a toner-on-paper process. The toner lays on top of the paper, whereas ink soaks into the paper with offset printing. Digital printing can be faster than offset printing because it eliminates the step of producing film, and drying time isn’t necessary because there is no ink involve. The job can get pulled off the presses and into the finishing stages immediately. However, since digital printing is not an ink-on-paper process, the look and feel of a digitally printed piece will not be the same as a project printed on an offset machine. For example, if you plan to print solids over a fold or spine, the toner may flake off. Talk to your printer about what to expect, and ask for samples of their work on the paper stock you intend to use.
If you’re producing a project that requires variable data, such as the personalization of direct mail pieces, digital printing is a great tool to accomplish your goals.
It’s also possible to print a job using a combination of offset and digital printing. This creates a whole new set of opportunities and challenges.
Benefits of Digital Printing
- Cost-effective for short runs (less than 1000)
- Variable data capability on some presses
Disadvantages of Digital Printing
The print techniques you may be used to with an offset press may vary with digital equipment. Here are some highlights.
- Looking for a full bleed? You’ll need a larger sheet. Toner won’t extend off the edges. For example, if you want to print a full bleed on an 8.5 x 11.5 sheet, you’ll need to print your image on a larger sized sheet and trim it down.
- Thin lines or small type reproduced in color may not print as well on digital presses as on offset presses because registration is not always exact. Avoid knock-out type.
- Digital equipment does not offer spot colors or special finishing techniques such as varnishes.
- Large blocks of solid may present problems such as flaking and banding.
- Not as exact in reproducing match colors.
- Screen (match colors printed at less than 100%) may appear pixelized.