Digital vs. Litho Print: Which is right for me?

Digital Vs Litho: Report

Digital Printing

Overview

Quick turnaround with low wastage. Great for short-run products, variable data and smaller document sizes. Quality is close to lithographic, but unable to use dedicated spot colours (for example, metallic ink). Perfect for business cards, mailings, booklets, postcards/flyers etc.

Lithographic Printing

Overview

Higher-output machines with larger paper sizes. Suited to ‘static’ artwork products and precise colour-matching. Slower turnaround due to plate-making and make-ready and less viable for variable data production. Excellent for long runs, larger brochures and booklets, letterheads and very light stocks.



What will be best for me?

To help you work out which production method is best for you, we’ve put together the main considerations we give each job before assigning it to a certain printing production method. Although other factors can come into play, here’s the main factors that help us decide.

Size of document

Digital and litho presses can take different sizes of paper to print on. Our iGen 4 Diamond can print up to 320mm wide and 600mm long. Our litho press can process paper up to B2 in size (520mm by 720mm). As such the size of your document in its flat-sheet form may well dictate the method of production.

Quantity

Although lithographic print incurs a set-up charge in the form of plate-making and make-readies (this involves printing the document on excess stock to ensure colour densities and other parameters are correct before running the actual job) the unit cost of printing a sheet is much lower than digital. Therefore, if you have a high volume run it works out cheaper to use lithographic printing. If, for example, you only want 250 A5 leaflets printed the set-up is much quicker on a digital press and there is no need to make plates which will bring the cost of the job down.

Desired stock

Most digital presses do have a limitation on stock – we recommend anything between 100gsm and 350gsm, otherwise the paper may be either too delicate or too thick to be processed through the machine. There can also be issues with highly textured papers as the toner may not be able to fuse fully to the stock. If you’re looking for something on very thick or very light stock, we will usually recommend lithographic production to ensure consistency and efficiency during the printing process.

Design considerations

Although the quality of digital production is now very close to that of lithographic, digital can still only process 4 colours at one time. It is possible to have a ‘special’ toner mixed it can be very expensive. All artwork is converted to CMYK before going through the press. With lithographic production, our press can have up to 6 colours for one job (for example, CMYK + 2 specials) which can improve colour-matching and consistency with previously produced work. It is also important to consider what the document will be used for as toner based products will not run through another toner or inkjet printer after production. Therefore all letterheads and continuation sheets are produced lithographically.


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Technical Explanation

If you like to dig into the ‘why’ of how things work, this is the part for you – here’s a breakdown of how each production method works:


Digital Print

Lithographic Print


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