Gearing up for packaging is one of the final and most important steps to getting a product ready for the market. Besides designing an effective and well-branded package, entrepreneurs also must consider how a package should be made. One common decision is choosing between digital printing packaging versus offset printing. While it may seem like an unimportant detail, the type of printing can have a big impact on the final product.
What s Digital Printing?
Although most of us don’t think about it, we’ve all used digital printing—albeit our home and office printers are much more limited than commercial machines. The process stays similar across the board, however. Digital printers can either use liquid ink or dry powdered ink. Inkjet printing uses liquid ink to finely spray a surface with color. This method is much cheaper and more common, especially in the end consumer market.
Laser printers are much more reliable when it comes to tight detail retention. As the name suggests, a laser is used to bind toner—essentially, dry ink—to the surface being printed on. Laser printer machines can be much more pricey, so it’s no surprise that quality digital printing is typically left to dedicated packaging businesses.
What Is Offset Printing?
Offset printing is the traditional format most people likely think of. This process involves creating plates of each logo, image, letter, and design, which is then colored appropriately with ink and rolled onto the package’s surface via a rubber transfer blanket. This printing type is used commonly in newspapers, though long gone are the days of manually arranging and designing a layout by installing plates one at a time into a printing machine.
These days offset is very efficient and much more complex than the first printing machines. Modern varieties use large rolls of uncut paper which are positioned between the plates and transfer layer. The result is a very fast production of large quantity and high-quality graphics.
Which Is Better?
How does a business decide on digital printing packages versus offset printing? As with most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Each business will need to analyze its needs, perhaps even on a project-by-project basis. Offset printing produces the crispest and highest quality print. This is essential for text or image-heavy prints such as newspapers and books. On the other hand, making custom plates can be very expensive. Unless the final product is intended for mass production, an offset may be too expensive.
Digital printing, on the other hand, is much cheaper. It’s great for highly custom prints that aren’t super detail-oriented, such as product packaging. While digital printing is rarely as crisp as offset, the difference is negotiable. Think printing a family photo off your home computer versus at a professional printer. Some of the pixels may fuzz at the edges, but any text or details will still be completely visible. Digital printing is affordable across the board but is often selected for smaller printing runs.