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Litho Vs. Digital Printing: What’s the Difference, And Why You Should Care!

You want cost-effective solutions, but how you get them can often be confusing without a basic understanding of the two primary types of printing; litho and digital. Have no fear, our experts at Franzen Graphics are here to break it down in plain English so you can confidently choose the right solution for your needs.

Litho Printing – The Long Run

Otherwise known as “offset lithography,” litho printing is one of the oldest and most technical forms of printing. It uses wet ink and metal laser-cut plates to transfer the image onto a rubber blanket that is then pressed onto the printing surface.

The primary advantage of litho printing is the ability to produce high-volume runs more cost-effectively due to the cost of ink and printing speed. Additionally, because litho printers use wet ink and rubber blankets, they can print custom colors, specific Pantone colors, and even metallic ink, on almost any surface with consistent quality.

The most significant considerations with litho are the length of the run and the timeliness of the project. Making the metal plates is very technical and involved; it can take a significant amount of time to set up and typically has poor ROI on shorter runs. Additionally, because each metal plate is custom to the project, making edits to the imprint or including variable data can be time-consuming and costly.

This type of printing is ideal for large-format, high-volume runs, especially those with custom color requirements. Do you have a job in mind? Check out our litho printing specs!

Digital Printing – The Short Run

Digital printing does not require metal plates or a rubber blanket, but instead references an electronic file when printing and requires minimal setup.

The primary advantage of digital printing is the ability for quick setup and ease of personalization through variable data in the electronic file reference. These factors contribute to a quick turnaround and good ROI on shorter runs.

The most significant considerations with digital are the material you are printing on and the exactness of color matching needed. Digital printing is typically less flexible in the types of materials it will print well on and does not produce custom colors as consistently as litho printing, especially on longer runs. Additionally, digital printing can be more expensive on longer runs due to the cost of digital ink.

This type of printing is ideal for shorter runs, especially those with variable data. Do you have a job in mind? Check out our digital printing specs!

At Sun Graphics Media, providing innovative solutions for our clients is what we’re known for. Whether it’s high-volume litho, large format digital, large format screen printing, kit packing, large volume storage, or marketing and development, we have all the solutions you need under one roof. We’re so good at it we’ve even been nominated for an innovation award. We’re so good at it that some of the world’s largest brands like Champs, Adidas, the PGA, Piggly Wiggly, Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center, Torke Coffee, and numerous other others rely on us. We’re so good at it we’re the GOAT. Ok, so you get the point. The next time you need an innovative solution, give us a call.


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