What is Offset Printing & When Do You Need It? (With Video)

If you are a business looking into commercial printing options, you've probably heard of Offset Printing by now. And at this point, you've probably come across this blog looking for answers to one or more of the following questions:     

  • What is Offset Printing
  • How Does Offset Printing Work? 
  • When Should You Use Offset Printing? 
  • What's the Difference Between Offset and Digital?       

As your premier offset printing equipment dealer, Advanced Print Technologies has provided answers to all of these questions below: 

What is Offset Printing?

Offset Printing is the most commonly used printing process in the world. 

Also called Offset Lithography, Offset Printing is designed for mass production and is used by most businesses and organizations printing high volumes in need of consistent quality and low costs. 

Generally, Offset is the ideal choice for runs of 500 or more, but other advantages of Offset Printing include:

  • Cost effective for larger quantities (lower marginal costs)
  • Highest possible quality 
  • Variety of paper and ink types can be used 

Watch the video below for an easy-to-understand explanation of Offset Printing: 

History of Offset Printing

Offset printing has a long and interesting history. Beginning in 1798 in Germany, the first version of offset printing was discovered by Alois Senefelder. Senefelder used stones sketch on with a greasy substance, then rubbed with fountain solution to print some of the clearest images of the era.

France eventually began using a steam lithography press which featured lithographic stones and a blanket used to transfer images on the paper. This technology would later make its way to America in 1868. Offset printing as we know it today was discovered almost accidentally in New Jersey in 1904 when Ira W. Rubel built a press that printed an image on a rubber cylinder and then transferred the ink to paper.

Different Types of Offset Printing

There are a few types of offset printing: Web, Sheet-Fed, and Quick Set.

Web Offset uses a continuous paper feeding mechanism. The pages are cut and separated after they are printed. This type is most useful for high volume orders, like newspapers, books, or magazines.

Sheet-fed printing uses precut pages, making it less ideal for large quantities. However, sheet-fed allows for printing on different materials like cardstock, plastic or metal.

Lastly, Quick Set is the type offset printing you’ll need if you want the highest-quality images, like trademarks or periodicals.

How Does the Offset Printing Process Work?

The offset printing process is actually quite simple. There are three cylinders that work together to print the image on the paper. The first cylinder has the printing plate and ink on it. It then transfers the image to the second cylinder.

The paper is then fed between the second and third cylinder where the image is transferred to the paper. This process is repeated with all the colors from the CMYK model to get a layered full-color image.

Here's a great video that explains the process: 

Offset Printing vs. Digital Printing: What’s the Difference?

With the rise of Digital Printing, many people have started to wonder: what's the difference compared to Offset Printing? Well basically, digital printing lacks the plates that offset printing uses, making it a poor choice for high-volume jobs. 

This means that digital printing is best when the quantities are low, or if the printed content features variable data. Offset printing can only accommodate one design at a time. However, for a more quality print job, offset is always the way to go.

This is not to say that it is inferior though, as Digital Printing has many advantages including: 

  • Lower set up costs for shorter runs
  • Print only the amount you need 
  • Higher quality because of better technology for more use types

Learn more about the key differences between offset and digital

When Should You Use Offset Printing?

Bottom line: Offset is a great option for high quality, larger run projects of 400+. It's also ideal if you need custom paper or specialty ink. It doesn’t make much sense for smaller projects as the equipment is a significant investment, however, once the systems are in place, offset printing can be a very a very affordable option in the long-run. For smaller runs opt for digital printing. 

If you have further questions about whether or not Offset Printing is right for you, contact Advanced Print Technologies today, or check out our inventory of pre-owned offset printing machinery