Pros And Cons of Litho vs Digital Printing
Time to read 7 min
Time to read 7 min
When starting a new project you’ll typically be offered two processes, Litho and Digital Printing. The choice you make will impact the finished product, budget, and even your timeframe. The differences and advantages of each printing style will help you make the right choice.
The simplest difference between the two is that Litho (Offset) needs to create printing plates, and Digital allows you to upload custom artwork directly to the digital press.
While Litho can be a better choice for a single-design large volume choice, Digital has changed the game and brought about new marketing possibilities.
Table Of Contents
Litho Lamination (Offset Printing) is a traditional printing method, and was the most popular choice until recently. Litho is the process of printing onto paper liner board, and then laminating that onto corrugated.
Using oil and water, it creates a positive and negative plate, to transfer high quality color graphics onto suitable substrates.
Offset lithography is based on the concept that oil and water repel one another. Lithographic presses utilize two print plates – a positive and a negative – to transfer high quality color graphics onto a suitable substrate.
There is a smooth surface of the positive plate that embraces oil-based inks and repels water. The negative plate has a rough texture that absorbs water and repels oil. Rubber rollers then transfer the image from the plate to the corrugated.
A separate print plate is needed for each color to print (CMYK).
Corrugated a sometimes prove to be a challenging surface to print on, but Litho prints to a separate surface and is then laminated to it - making it easy to print high quality images.
It can be extremely consistent, even for long runs. In fact, the more you print the cheaper the costs become for Litho. If you need tens of thousands of an identical design, then Litho might be the right choice.
Litho Printing Advantages
The biggest issue with Litho is the project lead time, and tooling costs. Because of the printing plate design process, a unique design must be created and manufactured. This takes several weeks and costs thousands of dollars before you even get your first print.
If you have enough time and budget, and a large volume of a single design, then there shouldn’t be an issue.
What Litho doesn’t give you is exactly what Digital does, customization. More on that later.
Litho Printing Disadvantages
Digital printing is the process of printing digital images directly onto corrugated substrate, using a single pass, direct-to-corrugate technique.
Instead of needing to pay for or create printing plates, digital printing allows you to upload files directly to the press and print.
This simplifies the process, and opens up numerous marketing and design possibilities!
Traditional printing methods like Offset Printing have been the status quo for some time, and one of the biggest reasons was at large volume, it wins on cost.
But that’s if you plan to use a single design for all of your packaging - those days are over.
Offset Printing needs the time and money to create a Printing Plate, while Digital Printing allows you to simply upload an art file (as many as you want) to the Press. For every design, product variation, or promotion, you’ll need to create a new plate which will skyrocket cost.
Digital Printing Advantages
If you have a single design for your project, then Litho might be a better choice to the scaling costs of production. There are other reasons to choose Litho, but as mentioned earlier, the days of a one-size-fits-all design are over.
Digital Printing Disadvantages
Related: Printing Coating Options
Customers are searching for more personalized expertise in today's fast changing industry. That implies that all brands need ASAP to adjust their approach.
When they buy their goods, customers have an appetite for marketers to create this personal experience for them - and digital helps you to do this.
Today, most brands underuse print personalization because they are simply not conscious of the practice's possible advantages and that digital printing is the way to get there.
A variety of digital printers are available on the market, but we were one of the first to invest in technology, and we chose the Barberán Jetmasters. These are some of the most dependable, and efficient digital printers on the market.
This method enables many benefits, including:
Digital printing inks include orange, blue and green and specialty dry inks for cyan, magenta, purple, and black toner and ink and expanded gamut color inks.
The UV inks used are more durable and dry out faster than for example, the water-based inks used in industrial flexography.
As UV inks dry immediately, they are less absorbed by the paper than those dependent on water.
No print plates are needed for Digital Printing.
Digital’s biggest strength is a lack of minimum prints needed for a cost-effective run. Print 1-1,000.
Are there sudden market changes there? Still. Always! Now, think that you could alter your package template by the end of the day for a new print design?
Digital lets you print at the pace of thought. You should change your messaging and style, no matter what's going on on in the industry, to be the first to pounce on a new concept.
Based on "Single-Pass" technology and inkjet printheads, our printers can directly print digital images with a single pass, without contact, on multiple foil types and weights.
That means one print station, not a station for each color pass! That’s a faster and cheaper production.
While our largest printer allows you to print Super-Wide designs, you can also divide the printing area up and 4 simultaneous print queues. That means you can upload 4 unique art files and have them print at the same time, and change the work on the fly.
No other printing technique allows you to do this!
The Jetmasters print with UV inks that dries quickly and can print on low-quality and/or low-weight paper such as testliner or recycled paper, achieving excellent print quality.
We obtain printing results with a broad chromatic range, but using the minimum amount of ink, by optimizing the size of the drop and the processing of the image.
The fact that there is no direct contact with the substrate means that the printing is of higher quality, without contamination or compression; it is also possible to print in both directions of the wave.
Choosing between Litho Lamination and Digital Printing really depends on your specific project needs. Digital is on its way to take over the industry, mainly due to the customization.
If you create a display, why not create a new look every time you need a new production run? That will let you look brand new at retail every time! Did I mention there are almost no more additional costs to do that?
If you have a single design for an entire campaign, then maybe Litho is right for you. But remember, you’re up front budget and lead time will have to be taken into consideration.
Need help deciding which printing method is best for you?
Bennett is a premier packaging and retail displays manufacturing company striving to protect and promote our clients' products with customized corrugated solutions. When you work with us, you’re part of the family. We will partner with you every step of the way.
With our fully-integrated design-to-delivery process, we can be the single supplier source. We are an award-winning manufacturer of virtually anything corrugate. We offer everything from plain brown shipping boxes to sophisticated, high-graphic printed point-of-purchase displays, and everything in between.
A Digital Press is designed to print digital images using digital ink onto various substrates. They vary in size and technology, but they allow you to upload art files directly to the press, instead of creating printing plates.
Digital Printing is when you print a digital-based image onto some form of print media. It allows a more versatile printing style compared to traditional methods, and it allows you to create unique designs for different product sizes.
Variable Data Printing (VDP) means printing completely custom designs for your customers. This is only possible with Digital Printing, and it leads to a new level of personalization.
Litho Lamination (Offset Printing) is a traditional printing method, and was the most popular choice until recently. Litho is the process of printing onto a paper liner board, and then laminating that onto corrugated. Using oil and water, it creates a positive and negative plate, to transfer high quality color graphics onto suitable substrates.