Digital Vs Offset Printing for Packaging: Which One to Choose?

A certain color or printing quality is frequently expected to match exactly what is shown on a screen, especially if you are new to printing and packaging. Based on the RGB vs. CMYK color output theory, the truth is that the printing output cannot exactly match what we see on the monitor.

Yes, the output quality can be calibrated to closely resemble how it should appear, but this will depend on the technique and technology you decide to employ. This is where a lot of business owners, designers, and marketers make mistakes and put your brand’s quality appeal at risk.

Remember that this doesn’t obligate you to select more expensive options. Making decisions that are both cost- and quality-effective is possible in a variety of ways. Here, we’ll discuss how to select the best printing techniques for your custom packaging project.

Making the best decision to maximize your branding opportunities requires a solid understanding of the differences in output based on artwork objectives, costs, and capabilities.

What are Digital and Offset Printing?

Offset lithographic printing or digital printing are the two primary printing techniques you can use for your packaging.

Print on demand.

Offset printing uses metal plates to quickly layer color onto sheets that are stamped onto paperboard. Furthermore, this is the typical method used to create newspapers and magazines.

For large print runs, it provides superior image quality and is more economical, but it is more expensive and takes longer to complete most low-volume projects.

digital printing.

Your home office laser or inkjet printer, on the other hand, uses digital printing. Low-volume jobs can be affordably completed with quick turnaround times. A digital printing press makes the process of producing print runs with variable data simpler.

Digital printers, on the other hand, fall short when compared to offset printing in terms of color fidelity and material versatility. In terms of value, digital printing represents 16 point 4 percent of all print and packaging worldwide, but only 3 point 9 percent of total print industry volume, according to Smithers Pira.

That digital printing is the best option for low-volume printing seems to be supported by this. However, the issue is more complex than simply comparing print volumes. When picking the best printing technique for your packaging material, keep in mind the estimated print volume.

Printing Techniques and Supplies.

Usually, offset printing is needed for rigid packaging. In order to get the best quality when printing on luxury boxes, you should print in offset. Due to production setup costs, rigid packaging is typically used for high-end goods or as gifts and has a tendency to be more expensive. Digital or offset printing both have advantages for corrugated packaging.

For designs that need more than 1000 units in volume and require additional procedures like spot UV and foil stamping, offset is preferred. Digital is the best option for e-commerce packaging with smaller runs and simpler designs. For cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and small retail packaging made of paperboard, offset is typically necessary.

Because offset printing produces smaller texts and designs with greater clarity and vibrancy. If you want to effectively convey important information to customers, your packaging must always contain clear and concise information.

Printing Techniques and Production Times

Digital is the fastest option when it comes to turnaround time for short runs of corrugated. Even though offset printing is frequently more efficient for runs with higher print volumes, this does not imply a longer turnaround time.

Comparing Color Depth

Despite sometimes being more expensive, offset printing performs better than digital printing in terms of brightness and color depth.

In contrast to digital printers, offset printers can precisely match inks using the Pantone Matching Color System, while digital printers can only approximate these colors using color calibration.

Digital printing produces excellent quality for more straightforward designs (ideal for packaging for e-commerce), whereas offset printing creates the neat, clear, and appealing color output you see in retail stores.

Offset printing options for coating.

Furthermore, a wider range of coating options is possible with offset printing, including;

  • laminate in both matte and gloss
  • UV
  • soft touch
  • AQ coating

Digital printing, regrettably, does not support these options.

  • Prototyping techniques and printing techniques.
  • In most packaging orders, these two printing techniques can be combined.
  • A cost-effective way to maintain high-quality printing opportunities is to use digital printing to create packaging prototypes before choosing offset printing for the production process.
  • In order to confirm printing, it is advised to request a physical CTP proof.
  • Although it takes more time and money, offset prototyping is a possibility.
  • Best Order Quantities.
  • Offset is preferred for folding cartons and rigid boxes, regardless of quantity.
  • However, if you are producing corrugated, you should consider digital for orders under 500 pieces due to cost-effectiveness, and offset for orders over 1000–2000 pieces due to better quality and cost optimization.