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Change is inevitable and it brings many benefits, but sometimes certain technologies stand the test of time and evolve only as the technology dictates. One of those sectors is printing, which is often overlooked as an important business support sector. There are several different types of printing processes and some of the sub sectors continue to develop at an astonishing rate, but at its core, printing is simply a process of putting ink (or toner) on paper, no matter what hi-tech application drives it.

Different forms of print include:

  • Litho
  • Digital
  • Gravure
  • Screen
  • Flexo
  • Wide Format

As technology improves, there are several options to choose from. Litho and digital printing are the two most common types of print, so let’s examine what’s right for you.

The Basic Difference

Litho and digital printing are very different processes: Litho printing uses wet ink and printing plates, whereas digital printers use either ink or toner. Both printing techniques have pros and cons but are very different to one another, so choosing between the two can be difficult. Litho and digital print differ in terms of:

  • Print Quality
  • Speed
  • Cost
  • Types of materials used
  • Personalisation

The merits of Litho and Digital printing

Print Quality
Print quality is extremely important, especially if you use printed products for marketing or packaging. When it comes to comparing both printing techniques, litho printing has traditionally produced products of a higher quality than simple digital. With new technology, it’s difficult to see the difference in quality between both printing techniques.

Litho printing is the better choice of printing technique if your product requires large blocks of solid colour, as the colour will appear smoother compared to digital printing.

Between both printing techniques, the finish of the print is also very different; when it comes to litho printing the ink used soaks into the paper, whereas with digital printing the ink sits on the surface of the paper. This means that the same image could look different when compared together.

When it comes to printing onto different types of paper such as textured and coloured, litho printing is the better option; however, there isn’t much difference between the two when it comes to printing on glossy, silk, or uncoated paper, as both techniques offer a good coverage and a high-quality print.

Digital printing has a very quick set up time, as the file is uploaded onto a PC and the printing begins instantly (just like the office printer). Depending on the model, the device can print up to 5,000 sheets per hour. When it comes to litho printing, the setup will take longer as the image has to be made on printing plates. When this process has been done, litho printing produces more prints – at up 20,000 sheets per hour.

When deciding which option is best, you have to consider the quantity you want in the specified time. If you want a smaller amount printed quickly, then digital printing is the best option. If you are looking to produce large quantities of print, then litho printing is the better option.

There is no initial setup charge for digital printing. You only pay for the paper used and a cost per copy charge (CPC), which is also known as the ‘click charge’, which is the process of each sheet going through the printer. Click rates are charged separately for mono and colour prints.

Litho printing is different as there is a setup process before the printing actually begins (called a ‘make ready’, which includes making and fitting the printing plates to the press) which is chargeable. You also have to pay for the paper and the ink used as well as the machine time. However, after the initial setup cost, and depending on the quantity, litho printing is usually cheaper than digital printing. You can also re-use the printing plates as often as you want for direct reprints.

Types of Materials
Leaflets, brochures, and other marketing products can be printed on a range of materials such as glossy, silk, uncoated, textured and coloured card or paper.

Between both litho and digital printing, litho printing produces higher quality work when printing on all materials, whereas digital printing does not print as well on rough or heavily textured materials.

When printing on paper, choosing between litho and digital printing won’t affect the quality as they will produce very similar outcomes; there isn’t much difference between the two types of print on paper-based materials.

Personalised marketing products can make a big difference on the success of a marketing campaign and could include details such as a person’s name, address and other personal details. With digital printing, personalising prints is easy and quickly done as there is no extra setup procedure. This offers a distinct advantage over litho printing, which doesn’t offer this capability at all.

Litho printing v Digital printing
When it comes to choosing between litho and digital printing, as we have shown, you need to take many factors into consideration.

Litho printing is the better-quality method when using textured paper and when the design requires a large colour block coverage. However, when you are printing on a more standard stock, the quality between the two printers isn’t noticeable.

Digital printing is cost effective when it comes to printing fewer prints whilst litho printing, even though you have to pay for the setup, works out cheaper if you are printing large quantities of prints.

Final note

Auditel are the UK’s leading cost control and procurement consultancy and have a team of specialists who can offer the best possible advice in reducing all your printing costs.

For information, do not hesitate to call us.