Digital Printing vs. Litho (infographic)

Digital vs Litho printing

Here at Firstpoint Print in London, we supply both digital and lithographic (‘litho’) printing. But which is right for your particular printing project? Well, it all depends on a few factors, including how urgently you need the finished result, what the specification and budget are, and whether or not you need absolute optimum quality, or perhaps something very close will be sufficient.

The Price & Speed Tipping Points

When it comes to both speed and cost, there is a tipping point between digital and litho printing, which makes the decision as to which to use fairly easy, as the following graph illustrates.

Litho vs Digital printing - infographic

The Benefits of Digital Printing

So you can see that digital printing is more suited to print jobs which require a fast turnaround and/or when the desired print quantity is low to medium. Digital (a.k.a. ‘Digi’) printing requires no printing plates, so your artwork files are output direct to the printer via computer, and it is this factor which saves time and costs for low-to-medium print quantities.

Another useful benefit of Digi printing is that it allows ‘on demand’, economical, printing even if you only require one or just a handful of print-outs — that would simply be cost-prohibitive using litho and also means that just the right quantity of printing can be ordered without the need for storing extra marketing collateral unnecessarily.

Related to this is another major benefit of digital i.e. the possibility of printing variable data. So, in other words, if you want to personalise every individual print-out to a different end-user, then that suits digital printing perfectly (we can supply guidelines regarding artwork set-up for use with variable data, on request).

In-house digital printing is also very useful as it allows us to supply one-off printer’s proofs to clients who want to physically check how things look, accurately, before committing to a full print run.

The Benefits of Litho Printing

You can also see from the graph above that litho printing comes into its own for medium to long print runs. The exact tipping point between digi and litho depends, however, upon the nature of the job in question (factors include quantity, format, number of pages, size, paper specification and finishing requirements) however when that tipping point tips in litho’s favour, significant savings – and time – can be saved when compared to digital printing. While litho might be slower and more costly to set up initially, once running on the press, litho jobs eventually overtake digital printing because, for example, the actual machine can print more copies per minute. Also litho printing machines can generally print on larger paper, allowing us to ‘gang up’ several duplicates of the print job and print them all at the same time, for example four-to-view. Clearly this creates more work initially, and latterly during the ‘finishing’ stages, but all the time the machine is running you are, in this example, able to print at least four documents for every one which you can print on the smaller digital presses. So the bottom line is that litho can save both time and money if the desired print quantity is large enough and/or if the other factors such as document format and paper type suit it better — litho also allows you to print on a much wider selection of paper stocks.

Aside from speed and cost, the other major factor with litho is the fact that it is the quality benchmark by which other printing methods are compared, as we’ll see below.

Quality Considerations

As intimated above, litho printing is generally accepted to be the ultimate in printing quality, i.e. we would score it as 100% if we’re scoring it purely in terms of quality. Digital printing is excellent too, but is not quite up to the same high standard as litho although its quality has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, so much so that most people outside of the profession will not know the difference unless they were shown one litho job sitting right next to its digital equivalent. So we could say that digital printing scores 97% on the quality scale, and often refer to it as ‘near litho quality‘.

Litho vs Digital Printing Quality

At Firstpoint Print we have both in-house digital and in-house litho printing presses so our customers get the best of both worlds. They can choose either (or, more usually, we’ll advise) depending on the required speed, quantity, quality, specification and budget at play for their particular piece of printed literature. So if you’re looking for a digital or a litho printer in London, you are in safe hands with Firstpoint Print. We have branches in Clerkenwell, London Bridge and Victoria. Contact us or request a printing quotation from your nearest branch, without obligation.