Digital VS. Offset Printing for Packaging: Which one should I choose

For most businesses, a concern that often remains is deciding whether to opt for digital printing or offset printing. Both approaches are exceptional in different ways and succeed in particular fields. However, the environmental impact and carbon footprint of offset and digital printing are different. No matter how much you desire highly effective items and eye-catching packaging with solid branding, the printing process must be considered. Technology advancements have greatly improved printing methods. Since many different printing techniques are available, you can select a printing process based on your budget, volume, and quality. This post attempts to familiarize you with the various packaging printing methods that suit your needs.

Digital Printing

Toner or bigger printers that use liquid ink are used for digital printing. Digital printing thrives for printing in short runs, like a run of 20 greeting cards or 100 fliers. Another benefit of digital printing is printing with different types of data. The only option is digital when each component requires a specific code, name, or address. This need cannot be met by offset printing.

  • Fast Turnarounds.

    Setting up for traditional printing takes more time because metal plates need to be prepared for each image and color. With digital printing, you may start the presses with a few clicks and a change of an electronic image. Due to this, it's perfect for testing new printed packaging or concepts when you don't want to take a chance on a big print run whose final output might not match your visual standards.

  • Customization and Personalization

    Digital printing makes it simple to print variable data. You can create specialized or bespoke packaging for transient promotions using digital technology. Given that consumers have come to anticipate customization, you can nearly always incorporate customizations with variable data printing, including color, text, and even imagery, to provide personalized packaging. For instance, you can print marketing materials that are particular to a location without increasing prices.

  • Low and Medium Volume Runs

    Digital printing doesn't require print minimums to be profitable, but traditional printing requires large-volume runs to be cost-effective. This is ideal for marketing campaigns and prototypes when smaller volumes are typically required.

Source: Wikipedia: Large format digital prints

Offset Printing

The usage of offset printing dates back to 1907 and is seen as a development of lithography, or stone printing, which has a long history dating to the 18th century. This indicates that, in contrast to digital printing, the ink must undergo a little detour before being transferred to the target surface. The steps are as follows:
  • The print picture is first transferred to a sheet of metal treated explicitly so that the ink only absorbs where it is required for printing.
  • Each printing color requires a distinct plate, which must be manufactured.
  • Following this, the printing plates are fastened in the press, where the ink and motive are first passed in a mirror image from the printing forms to a blanket tube and then to the material to be printed.
  • It's challenging to surpass offset printing's premium quality and competitive pricing. Here are some justifications for why it would be appropriate in your packing circumstance.
Large Print Runs
Offset is highly cost-effective for high volumes, despite having higher upfront costs due to the requirement for plates and the make-ready procedure. Don't forget that this also relates to many of the same graphics, not only a lot of printed material. Offset printing is recommended for large print runs, especially considering the following point. Once you pass the setup costs linked to traditional printing, each succeeding piece of print becomes less expensive.
Brilliant Quality
From the first folding carton to the last, offset printing creates vibrant, accurate color and high-quality images with sharp typefaces and minute details. To keep fine details, the printer regulates the ink flow. Therefore, offset printing makes a lot of sense if your packaging contains intricate imagery or visual design.
Specialty inks, coatings, and inline cold foil are just a few decorative effects offset printing can accommodate to upgrade your packaging. Offset printing is the industry standard because of its high quality and economical production of medium to large volumes. However, digital printing capabilities have increased customer options for their packaging.
Source: Wikipedia: Side view of the offset printing process. Multiple ink rollers are used to distribute and homogenize the ink.

So, Which One is Better?

For shorter runs, digital printing is less expensive, even if changes are made in flight. Offset printing will be more cost-effective if you print a single design in large quantities over the long term.

Digital Printing Suits Small Business Needs
It may be satisfying to see your packaging come to life through printing. Remember to keep your end creation in mind as you navigate the sometimes-overwhelming path from conception to realization.
You can set reasonable expectations that lead to a satisfying outcome if you consider your ideal packaging material, the deepness of color and detail essential for your design, chosen turnaround time, and the budget allotted to your custom packaging.
Due to its simplicity of use and affordable operations, digital packaging printing will benefit most e-commerce businesses. Even if your business plans to conduct large-scale runs and market research, creating prototypes using digital printing that can later be manufactured in significant quantities using effective lithographic technology is still beneficial.
Digital printing provides affordable options for the straightforward designs found on most packaging used for e-commerce.

The Takeaway!

Digital and offset printing techniques are both beneficial according to everyone's needs. Depending on the demands of your project, each offers specific advantages.

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