Digital vs litho

There are two differences between Digital and Litho printing: the technique and apparatus. Digital print is best suited for printing small quantities, whereas Litho is the better option for longer print runs. Both offer outstanding colour and image quality.

Digital printing

We only use high-end digital offset technology to deliver exceptional print quality. Thanks to the minimal setup costs associated with digital printing, this digital printing offers terrific value for small print runs.

Our clever Instant Price Calculator knows when you need digital, and when you need litho. If you reach a tipping point in terms of quantity as you build your order, your quote will be automatically switched from a digital press to a litho press.

If you’re planning on printing in the hundreds, this will usually be done with our digital press.

Digital presses typically offer a faster turnaround time than litho presses.

When you enter your print specifications using our online calculator, you’ll be shown the method we’ll use to print your item. If the printer is listed as HP Indigo 7600, it’s digital.

This is an HP Indigo printing press
HP Indigo printing press

Litho printing

Litho printing is also known as offset printing, and is a very traditional method of printing.

In litho printing, we ink and transfer your image from a metal printing plate to a rubber blanket, and from the rubber to the paper, which results in a sharp, clean print.

For litho print jobs, we use the Heidelberg Speedmaster, which is an enormous, room-sized printing press. It can print up to 12,500 sheets of paper per hour, and is considerably faster than its digital counterpart for large print jobs.

However, setup of a litho press is more complicated and can take longer, as the metal plates need to be prepared prior to print. This adds to the upfront cost, but does make sense if you’re printing thousands or tens of thousands of a particular design.

When you enter your print specifications using our online calculator, you’ll be shown the method we’ll use to print your item. If it’s listed as a Heidelberg Speedmaster, it’s litho.

Many of our customers prefer the quality and finish of products printed on a large scale by a litho press. We recommend playing with the quantities in our instant price calculator until the print machine displayed changes from Digital to Litho. You may be pleasantly surprised at the extra value offered by increasing the quantity of your print run.

This is a Heidelberg Speedmaster printing press
Heidelberg Speedmaster printing press Litho printing process

Colour variance

While they both use CMYK inks, digital and litho printing presses produce slightly different colours. This is due to their different manufacturing processes.

Because digital printers are basically industrial scale office printers, they print colours very vibrantly with a high level of contrast. Litho printers, in contrast, apply wet ink to metal plates that are pressed onto paper to transfer the image.

So if you print a small test run on a digital press, then print a large run on a litho press, you will see some slight colour differences.

While litho printed colour may not always be as vibrant as digital printed colour, it is more consistent throughout the print run and provides considerable cost savings when printing in high volumes. We can print high quantities using a digital press if required. Contact our print experts if you need high quantities printed on a digital press.

Booklet cover printed on a digital and litho press
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