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How to Choose Between Offset Printing and Digital Printing

written by: Renee J. Taliana•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 11/12/2010

Printing your desktop publishing project can be easy if you know the basics of the most common types of printing options. This article provides the know-how on which printing option is the best for you to use.

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    Basic Questions to Ask Yourself

    To decide how you should print your project, answer the following questions:

    1. Are you printing over 500 pieces?

    2. Do you want full color or is two-color ok?

    3. Do you need them today?

    Commercial offset printing is typically printed in CMYK (C for cyan, M for magenta, Y for yellow, and K for black). Printing with these standard colors of blue, red, yellow and black allows the press to create almost any color of the rainbow without having to pay for special inks. Offset presses print large sheets of paper and cut the final pieces down to size after printing.

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    Offset Printing

    Offset printing is usually most cost effective for 500 pieces or more in quantity. This type of printing takes about a week in processing time. If you would like to save money, printing in two colors is an economical way of reducing costs while keeping the quality of offset printing. If you decide to work with an offset printer always require a press proof so that you can review and approve the production result prior to approving an entire print run.

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    Digital Printing

    Digital printing is a great way to get printing accomplished fast and in full color for a small quantity. Digital printing today allows for printing on various papers and sizes, but you will have less options than with offset printing. Digital printing can sometimes have banding problems if large areas of color are used, so take caution with these types of projects. Have a test print made for you to review before approving the print job.

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    Other Ways to Decide if Offset or Digital Printing is Better

    Here are some other options to consider:

    • Color output means that your file is printed to a color copier. Color copies are made from a hardcopy original on a color copier.
    • The least expensive of these options are color copies. Less money means less quality in this case, so be sure to review samples of printed pieces of a similar nature to your project before rewarding the job to a vendor.

    For more, read about Offset Printing vs On-Demand Digital Printing to learn more about which method offers advantages.

    To find a professional printer near you, look up your city and state in Google along with keywords like color printing, offset printing, digital printing, or color copies. For information on using Fedex Kinkos online printing services, check out this article on about printing your files from FedEx.