The Difference Between Offset and Digital Printing

Offset Printing

The main difference between offset and digital printing is in its method used to transfer images and text onto paper. The differences for customers are that offset printing can often be more suited for higher volume printing, which begins to be economical at about 2,000+ copies. On the other hand, digital printing may be used more for short-run print jobs. Other differences include sheet sizes and colour capabilities. Both types of printing produce incredibly high-quality products fit for professionals or businesses. However, most companies who need frequent, fast, and often changing print items choose digital printing. Therefore, the volume of printing is a fundamental difference between digital printing versus offset printing. So, let’s have a closer look at both printing methods, so you know the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.

Handing someone your business card is in effect handing them a sign.

Does yours convey who you are? Is the digital print clean, crisp and professional?

Does the design reflect your business?

At Glenbrae Signs, we answer all those questions in the positive. 

That’s our job. 

Digital Printing

Digital Printing

Digital printing used to be called ‘copying’, but that’s outdated. Today, rather than copying an original, most digital printing is produced directly from computer files. For short runs, digital printing is the fastest, especially if there are many different original copies. The quality of digital printing is now almost the same as offset printing. While offset printing still performs better for some jobs and papers, but there are also some in which digital printing will perform as well as, if not better.

Rather than using plates, as is done in offset printing, digital printing uses choices such as toner or larger printers that use liquid ink. When a client needs a lower number of copies, say, a run of 30 greeting cards or 100 brochures, digital printing shines. More benefits of digital printing include its capability to deal with variable data. For instance, offset printing can’t accommodate a project if each copy needs a name, address or unique code, so digital printing is definitely the best option for those tasks.

While offset printing produces fantastic print projects, many people and businesses simply don’t need 500 or more copies, so digital printing is by far the best solution. To apply the toner to paper, digital printing uses ‘drums’ or electrostatic rollers, one per colour, and an electrostatic charge will attract the correct amount of toner. The is applied to the sheet and put through a high-heat unit to fuse the toner.

Digital Printing’s Advantages:

  • Prints only the number of copies needed
  • Lower setup costs for short runs
  • Can print as few as 1, 30, or 60 or more items
  • Cheaper black and white digital prints
  • Capable of variable data
  • Digital quality has improved through new technology
  • Quicker set up


  • Some inks can fade in direct sunlight
  • Digital doesn’t print metallic colours
  • Large numbers of prints can be expensive

Glenbrae Signs in Melbourne has the experience, skill and expertise to supply large and small companies with the digital print and designs they need.

With over 100 years of collective experience in the signage industry, our dedicated team of signwriters, designers and production staff are a one-stop- shop for signage and custom graphics.

Offset Printing

Offset Printing

Traditional offset printing is done using a printing press, wet ink and printing plates. Modern offset printing produces text and images on a plate mounted on a cylinder with print rollers applying the ink to those cylinders. The cylinders transfer the ink onto rubber rollers or ‘blankets’ that set the image onto the paper. It takes time to set up and do a job, and the final product has to dry before it can be finished. But offset printing does produce the highest quality on the widest variety of stocks. It also gives the most control over colour.

Offset printing is used for a variety of print projects such as magazines, posters, books, stationery, and corrugated board. As mentioned, it’s usually more expensive and time-consuming to set up an offset printing job. There is one plate for each colour and they have to be etched and applied to the rollers that transfer the ink to the paper. The press then has to warm up by running on scrap paper for a few minutes until there is enough ink on the rollers. This is a waste of paper.

Offset Printing’s Advantages:

  • Dependable superior image quality.
  • Fast and simple creation of printing plates.
  • Great for large numbers of copies.


  • Anodised metal printing plates can become sensitive due to chemical oxidation causing unnecessary backgrounds that can damage the look of the project.
  • Lengthy setup times making it more expensive.

For all your digital signage and printing needs, Glenbrae Signs is the place to go. Call us on (03)9761 9999, email, follow us on Facebook, or feel to give us a call or stop by for a chat with one of our friendly staff so we can best determine how we can help.