Visual Differences Between Digital and Offset

Jul 09, 2019

Gone are the days of debating the benefits of digital vs. offset printing. With the quality being nearly indistinguishable between the two, most marketers hardly think about it anymore. However, there are still production differences between digital and offset printing, and it’s always good to know what they are. 

Most digital presses use dry toner. Consequently, one of the visual differences between digital and offset is how the toner impacts the brightness of the print. 

Toner tends to sit on top of the sheet rather than soaking into it like offset ink. This results in a vivid image that can be slightly shinier than offset. Some digital presses use toner suspended in liquid (sometimes called “ink” and other times “liquid toner”) that creates a slightly softer image. 

If you will be coating your pieces, the visual difference between offset and digital disappears. This is because the coating masks any difference in gloss between the two. While many marketers prefer the bright, glossier image of toner-based digital, if you are among those who prefer the softer look (and are not using liquid toner printing), you may want to consider a matte coating. 

Another difference between offset and digital is how the presses handle large areas of solid color. Although digital presses can print 100% solids, if your design will be using large areas of solid color, it is recommended that you build your solids using color blends. If you are printing black, for example, instead of using 100B, you might use 40C, 40M, 40Y, and 100B. 

There are other subtle differences between digital and offset, but in the end, what’s most important is whether the printed piece achieves your marketing goals. We’re here to make sure that, regardless of which process you use, the answer is unequivocally yes!

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