Digital vs. Litho Printing

18/07/2012  | by: Shaun Cleary

Digital printing and Litho printing – which is better? There have been a number of advancements in recent times, but much confusion lies around which of the aforementioned forms of printing is most suitable for specific products.

Offset lithography is the most common type of large volume printing in the UK and simple involves an image being printed to a plate and then transferred to an elastic blanket before being placed on the print surface. It works on the grounds that oil and water don’t mix. In lithography the image takes ink from rollers yet the area around attracts water. This means both won’t mix and the image is created.

Digital printing removes the mechanical side of things and simply uses digital technology to print the image exactly onto the print.

Benefits of Lithograph


  • Image quality is very high


  • Lithograph works on paper and surfaces of up to 450gsm, that’s 100gsm more than digital.


  • It’s cheaper for larger printing jobs and high volume production. This is down to economies of scale as you produce more. Digital printing may be lower cost in a small job, but lithograph wins in large jobs.


  • Offset offers a larger range of options for your printing and you can choose from more finishes, surfaces to print on and sizes to print to that with digital.


  • Most modern offsets use a computer to plate system, which speeds up the process and ensures a better quality of image.


  • It uses Pantone inks and so offers you with excellent universal results and gives you more precise matching of colours.

Benefits of Digital


  • Digital printing is faster than the alternative


  • Accuracy and consistency is one strong point of the digital print. All images look exactly the same as there is no manual or mechanical process.


  • Lower set up costs mean that digital printing may be lower cost for smaller jobs. However, over a large job this is seldom the case.


  • Users can even use data printing with digital printers. This allows users to alter the image that is being printed as it is being printed. There is no need to even stop the press to change it and this means that you can personalise the print and continuingly change it as it is printed.


  • Digital printing is better for proofing and offers more exact proofs of the job at hand.


  • It is also easier to customise and is ideal for a number of printer jobs that just don’t work with litho.

To be honest, both types of printing have their benefits and it is up to you and your printer to decide on what sort of printing is the best for you. There are advantages and benefits to be had from both and that’s why they both still exist. So, ask your printer and they’ll advise you on the most cost friendly, quality option for your printing needs.


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