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What is the difference between digital and offset printing?

Understanding the difference between digital and offset printing is crucial for making informed decisions about your printing needs. At Print Harbour, we offer both options, each with its own set of advantages, depending on the project requirements. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

Process and Technology

Offset printing is a traditional method that involves transferring (or ‘offsetting’) ink from metal plates to a rubber blanket, and then onto the printing surface. It’s known for its precision and quality, especially for larger runs. Digital printing, on the other hand, uses modern printing methods where images are directly printed onto the material from a digital file, similar to how a home printer works.

Quality and Colour Accuracy

Offset printing is renowned for its high quality and colour accuracy. It’s the preferred method for jobs requiring exact colour matching, such as corporate branding materials. Digital printing has improved significantly in quality and offers a level closer to offset, although it may not always match offset’s precision in colour fidelity.

Cost and Efficiency for Different Volumes

Offset printing has a higher setup cost due to the plate creation process, making it more cost-effective for large volume orders. Digital printing has a lower setup cost, making it ideal for short runs and on-demand printing. It offers more flexibility for smaller quantities and frequent updates to the printed material.

Turnaround Time

Digital printing typically has a faster turnaround time, as there’s no need to set up plates. It’s a great option for projects with tight deadlines. Offset printing takes longer to set up, but once underway, it can print large volumes quickly.

Customisation and Variable Data

Digital printing allows for easy customization and variable data printing, such as personalizing individual items within a batch. This is particularly useful for direct mail campaigns. Offset printing doesn’t readily support this level of customization without additional cost and time. 


At Print Harbour, we understand the nuances between digital and offset printing and can guide you to the best choice for your specific project. Whether you need high-quality, large-volume prints or fast, customised small batches, our team is here to help. Contact us today to discuss your printing needs, and let us provide you with the high-quality service and expertise that your project deserves.