Digital printing vs. offset printing: what are they and what are the advantages?

Those who work with graphic pieces of all types are often faced with the clash between digital printing and offset printing. It is important to know these two systems and how they work to define which is ideal for your client’s art. Thus, you will be able to deliver a quality product, aligned with its objectives and the characteristics of the project.

Do you know what are the characteristics of these types of printing, and what are the advantages of each of them? Do you know how to choose the best one, according to each type of proposal? In today’s post, we will clarify some frequently asked questions on the subject that make all the difference!

If you want to find out the answers to these questions and learn more about the topic, continue with us!

Digital printing vs. offset printing

Designers ,  owners of advertising agencies , printers and other professionals who work with the production of graphic pieces need to dominate the production process of these pieces from its beginning – in the conceptualization and planning of the project -, until the end, in the delivery of art for the client.

It is important to understand what types of printing exist and when each of them should be used, since, right at the conception, printing will already be an important variable. All work is optimized when we have mastery of all stages, because that way we make the right choices, avoiding unnecessary expenses or rework.

Okay, we already know why we should know the types of printing. Now let’s get down to business!

Offset printing

This is the oldest method of printing. This technique is performed, mainly, by means of three metallic cylinders. The first cylinder is moistened with water and receives the paint (oily consistency), in which these two elements are mixed. It is on that plate that the image will be placed.

Then, the image is transferred from that plate to the second cylinder, called the blanket. There, now, the image is already there. It remains to be transferred to paper. This is where the functionality of the third cylinder comes in – the paper is placed between it and the blanket, being pressed by both. The image passes from the blanket to the paper, and that is when the printing takes place.

The system is considered to be an indirect process, as it passes through this intermediate cylinder before reaching the paper. The colors (CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are printed separately, that is, one by one, mixing until you get to the final image, which contains the mixture of all  colors .


Just like any type of equipment, with the technology, the printers also went through the digitization process. New digital printers, by nature, work differently and have other qualities.

The main characteristics of this printing, which differ from offset, are: firstly, it is a direct process, in which you send the image from a digital medium directly to the printer. Second, the ink is already mixed before being transferred to the paper.

These are the printers that we have at home and that are also present in copiers and similar stores.

Advantages of each type of printing

But, after all, how to choose between the two? To decide between digital printing vs. offset printing, you will need to analyze some particularities of the art in question.

Each system offers different advantages, and are more suitable for certain types of demand. Basically, you will need to think about the quantity and sizes that the piece requires.

Understand the pros of each process to learn how to choose.


This system has two types of cost: fixed and variable. Fixed is related to machinery, such as the cost of plates, photolithography and engraving, expenses that happen with each new printing. The variable, on the other hand, concerns the circulation, that is, the amount of material to be printed. However, the variable cost of offset printing is less than the variable cost of digital printing. Therefore, for medium and long runs, the offset is more suitable.

It also offers greater flexibility in formats and materials. With it, it is possible to make large scale prints, which is not possible with digital prints. It also allows the use of different types of materials and  weights . In addition, some special colors, such as metallic, for example, can only be printed using offset.

Finally, this process has a high printing speed, higher than the digital process. But there is time spent in preparing the machinery that needs to be put into the account. Again, this reinforces that this option is more advantageous for long runs.


Unlike the previous one, digital printing does not have a fixed cost, only a variable one. Therefore, it is more suitable for proofs and short runs, since you will not have a high expense to print a few copies (as in the case of offset, due to the fixed cost).

There is also a gain in production time. As it does not require a previous preparation, for small quantities, it is faster to make digital printing, since it does not require the preparation of the plates.

Digital printing also has a major advantage: the use of variable data. Imagine that you need to print a piece whose information varies, such as a flyer for a dance show that will have several presentations, in different places, days and times, for example.

If you choose offset, for each presentation you will need to exchange plates, adapting these variable data in the art. This generates a high cost. Therefore, in cases like this, digital is more suitable, since, to modify what is necessary, it is only necessary to adapt the file on the computer, without unnecessary extra costs.

Last, but not least, the question that remains unanswered: is there a difference in quality in the final product between digital printing vs. offset printing? The answer is yes!

Due to the nature of its processes, offset reproduces colors better, but produces a superior image in quality. But with technology that never stops, digital printers are getting better every day. The ideal is to guarantee the quality of your supplier, who will deliver a great product regardless of the type of printing you choose.

So, did this text clarify your doubts about Digital Printing vs Offset Printing? Here at Gráfica KWG we work with both types of printing. Browse our store and find the best type of printing for you.

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