To best meet your needs, Excel Graphics offers both traditional Offset Lithography & Digital Printing. Offset Lithography is generally considered to offer the highest quality; however, Digital Presses continue to improve in both color quality & paper stock accommodation. There are differences & benefits to both methods to carefully consider for each job. General comparisons are available for reference below, & we are here to answer your questions & recommend the best process for your project.
Offset Lithography requires upfront costs for setup. A metal plate must be developed for each Spot Color, & setup sheets must be run to adjust for correct color, density & registration. Setup costs are fixed—relative to your project—as your print job will require the same setup time & materials, without regard to the final print volume. However, Offset Presses are generally able to accommodate larger press sheets than a Digital Press. This allows more pieces to be printed per impression (printed sheet) The combined result; cost per finished unit decreases as print volume increases. This generally means Offset Lithography is less economical for a short run (less than 1000) & best for printing in volume. Printing Offset is also typically the more economical option for one & two color jobs.
Digital Printing requires little to no upfront cost for setup. Instead, there is typically a flat fee per impression (printed sheet). Digital Presses are generally limited to smaller press sheets, meaning that fewer pieces can be printed to a sheet. These factors give Digital Presses a cost-per-unit edge for short-runs, but make them far less economical for printing in volume.
Offset Lithography involves transferring wet ink from the developed plate to a roller before transfer to paper, or substrate. This process, known as offsetting, provides the highest fidelity for images & text; delivers rich & consistent solid fills, allows for tighter color control & quality, & greatly reduces issues with cracked colors or images on folded pieces.
Digital Printing commonly involves fusing dry toner directly to paper. Great strides have been made with regard to image quality, & color control & quality; however, Digital Presses are less adept at handling solid color fills, & toner often cracks when paper is folded. Digital has an advantage in that it is more forgiving with lower resolution images, but cannot yet match Offset Printing for overall image & text quality. Digital presses that use ink—as opposed to dry toner—offer higher print fidelity & quality, but are not as forgiving with sub-standard resolution.
Offset Presses provide the highest color quality, control, & coverage. In addition to Process Printing, Offset Printing also accommodates pre-matched Spot Colors (e.g. Pantone), allowing for accurate color matching.
Digital Printing is limited to Process Printing, meaning that toner colors are combined on each sheet during the run. Colors cannot be pre-mixed & matched. Digital Presses do allow for adjustment, & continually improve in simulating Spot Colors; however, because Digital Printing is limited to Process, it cannot match Offset Printing for Spot Color accuracy.
Offset Printing allows for the greatest variety in stock selection. While considerations must be made for ink absorbtion on uncoated stock, or ink additives to meet drying, hardening, or packaging requirements, there are truly few limitations.
Digital Presses require stock specifically designed for toner adhesion, significantly limitting the selection when compared to Offset. Using stock intended for Offset can result in blistering & inadequate toner coverage, or failure to fuse to the paper. As Digital Printing technology progresses, & as paper mills increase their digital stock offerings, more choices are becoming available.
A sheet-fed Offset Press can—depending on press type & job particulars—run 12,000 to 18,000 sheets per hour; far faster than the best Digital Presses. A web-fed Offset Press is even faster! However, as Offset Printing requires a lengthy setup, it is generally best suited to larger press runs.
Digital Presses continue to improve & generally offer the most competitive turnaround time for full-color short runs under 2,000.