Digital vs. Offset Printing – How to Decide on the Best Printing Option?

If you’re in the printing business, some of the major services you’ll probably cover include brochures, business cards, posters, digital printing, imagery and so much more. In short, life’s all a colour and a keen sense of perfect aesthetics!

When in the printing business, you should’ve good knowledge and market expertise on perfect design, colour palette, geometries, shapes, copy, layout, shades and many other relevant aspects. While all of this is important, there’s always that one particular thing that can be tricky when it comes to take a firm decision; in the printing business it’s choosing between digital and offset/litho printing.

Indeed, some of the biggest digital printing companies in Dubai and around the world are already running their printing operations with much success while offering both offset and digital printing options. Both however, have their benefits and drawbacks so let’s have a detailed look into both for you to decide easily as per your printing requirements or business services.

Offset Printing – The Old School Method

Also called lithography, offset printing is one of the oldest and common types of printing technique best suited for bulk printing needs in commercial sectors. One of the best examples of lithography is newspapers processing through the big rolls. It works with the printer burning the design onto the metallic plates that includes one for each different colour but, with this type of printing; only four particular shades are associated that are cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key). But, custom ink colours (Pantone) are also used.

The next step involves transferring of the design on the rubber rolls from the plates. Different shades of the ink are then laid on the rubber after which paper runs between them, carefully going through all the rolls to merge the colours and layers for the final image.

Weighing the Pros

  • A highly reliable superior and finest quality of the image is one of the biggest benefits of lithography. You can always expect clean, no-streak, unique and spotless images ready to make an impression.
  • Colour fidelity that includes a perfect balance and accuracy of the colours in the printing design, is always at its finest with offset printing. And the use of mixed custom colour inks for each printing assignment further refines the image, bringing it closer to natural.
  • Offset printing works perfectly and likewise on almost any material.
  • From financial returns and profit perspective, offset printing can earn you more bucks for bulk printing orders. Initial investment may seem heavier and time taking for it’s all about setting up the printing service and creation of the plates but once done and all the materials are ready to begin with, your investment declines whereas profit margin soars higher.

A Few Drawbacks

  • For low volume printing orders, offset method is expensive.
  • Printing time is longer since plates are created first.
  • Literally no room for even a tiniest of error as the fallout could be worse. Take for example a typographic error that can ruin the entire batch, leaving you no choice but to restart the process from scratch; huge waste of time, money and effort.

Digital Printing – Modern & Creative Approach

Digital printing concept

Digitalisation seems to have taken on almost every industry including printing business. When introduced, it simply put a big “NO” to all the time-taking and mechanical methods of lithography. With it begins an exciting new journey of digital printing companies in Dubai and around the world in providing more quality work in half the time as that of offset print.

By applying designs directly onto the printing surface, either using a liquid ink or powdered toner saves you time and effort as that with the proofing, plates and rubber bedding. In case you haven’t noticed, that inkjet or laser printer at your home and in the office that’s connected with the computer is a digital printer. As a matter of fact, big time digital printing companies in Dubai have digital printers that are far bigger, faster, accurate and highly reliable for professional printing services.

Digital Printing Pro Facts

  • As with every digital process, turnaround time is faster.
  • Since each print would be identical, chances of errors, odd variations or imbalance between water and ink are either zero or fewer.
  • Digital printing is the best option for less printing orders.
  • There’s plenty of room to rectify errors in digital printing. Take for instance a postcard or any other type of printing requirement where you just missed providing important information, it can easily be modified.
  • Creating two dummy prints for comparison and scrutiny ensures the final result is perfect and flawless from every aspect.


  • Unlike lithography, printing options or materials used for digital prints are fewer than usual.
  • Colour fidelity is also low since digital printing involves standard inks that simply couldn’t match the colours and bring a balance. With offset, specialised mixed inks makes the final print as close to a perfect match than digital. Nonetheless, digital printing has come a long way with lots of improvement.
  • Totally opposite to lithography, cost for bulk printing orders with digital is higher.
  • When it comes to overall quality, sharpness, colour depth and crispness of the print, offset takes the lead as compared to digital.

Deciding Between Offset & Digital Printing

The factors outlined below would surely help you in choosing between both printing mediums.

– Project Scope

In case you’ve landed a big project that can easily cover the initial front-end costs, offset printing is the best option.

– Delivery Timeline

If time is your biggest concern and a huge challenge, digital always takes the lead and you also have room to make last-minute rectifications should there be any!

– Printing Material

The type of material would decide your preferred printing medium. Perhaps it can be plastic, paper or metallic business cards, maybe flyers and marketing leaflets so on; whatever your need, digital printing these days is always a priority due to convenience, cost and efficiency. Still, you can always skip it for the offset if you require a bit more perfection in the final output.

– All About Colour

Either black-and-white or two-colour simple printing is your requirement for the time yet the order is in bulk, offset printing is the right choice. Whereas for more multi-coloured, creative art and special font styles in the printing, digital can be the most cost-effective and efficient.

In case you desire near perfect match shades to the natural element or your need is for the Pantone Matching System, offset is highly preferred for the perfect match unlike digital which only gives close approximation rather than perfection.

– Special Demands & Sample Proofing

When it comes to customising your printing needs and adding more creativity for less, digital printing is the easiest and preferred choice whereas the same goes for sampling of the final print. Digital gives you an exact-match sample should you’ve confirmed the printing order in bulk. With special demands and sampling in printing, offset is a more expensive and time-taking option.

And You Got Your Print…

Once you’ve decided on all the above factors, choosing between digital and offset is a lot easier. It’s time to get your printing business up and rolling with expert advice and tips shared above.

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