Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

You've seen and heard that PDQ is a full-service printing company that offers both offset (lithography) printing and digital printing...So, you wonder, what does this mean?

The truth is that lithography has been around since the mid 1400s. There have been some technological advances since then, yet the underlying method remains the same. While offset remains the most common high-volume commercial printing method, digital printing is becoming more and more utilized.


Offset Printing in a Nutshell

All lithography begins with creating plates, typically flexible metal sheets, for each color that is used. PDQ uses computer-to-plate technology. This means that thermal lasers are used to remove areas of coating on the raw plate for the image area.

These plates are then affixed to a cylinder in the printing press. The cylinders are then pressed against a dampening roller, which actually transfers the image to the paper. Each sheet moves through the printing press through each of the colors (with its own unique plate and roller) until the final image is produced.


  • High Image Quality sharp images with perfect color matching through the Pantone® Color Matching System.
  • Unit Cost decreases as the quantity increases. This is because the cost of preparing and making the plates is distributed over a large run.
  • Volume Many impressions per hour are possible using this method.


Digital Printing in a Nutshell

The process for digital printing is more familiar to most of us. Simply stated, a digital file is "ripped" using publishing software and is printed directly onto the page with digital presses.


  • No Plates translates into shorter turn times. Additionally, for shorter runs digital printing may greatly reduce your cost.
  • Uniformity All impressions are exactly the same in quality.
  • Variable Data is possible. This means that portions of your printed piece can change with each impression. Want to address your recipients by name, or provide personalized maps, directions, etc? Digital printing makes it possible.


Things to Consider

It is usually quite evident which printing method is ideal for each specific job. You and your client care representative may consider many different variables while building the job, but the most important factors are usually:

  • Quantity Larger runs will generally go on the offset presses, while shorter runs tend to be printed on the digital press.
  • Turn Time The faster you need the completed piece, the more likely the digital press will be your solution. This eliminates the need for the platemaking process.
  • Customization Is each piece homogeneous, or will each piece require variable data?


We cordially invite you to discover the unlimited possibilities with PDQ Printing. See for yourself what so many others have known for years...

The PDQ Advantage