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There are an incredible amount of technologies out there that can print your marketing materials on all kinds of things like window cling film, car wraps, pens, umbrellas and so on. For the purposes of this blog we are going to look at good ol' fashioned paper printing, namely, your business card and stationery.
If you have ever had a business card or letterhead printed you may have come across the terms, "digital print" vs. "off-set print". What is the difference and which one should you use? Short answer, it depends. Long answer, see below.
First off let's look at digital print. This term refers to printing with a machine that uses four inkjet nozzles to spray little dots onto the paper, together these dots combine to create all the colours of the rainbow. This is the exact same way that most home inkjet printers work. This is referred to as a CMYK colour process digital printing. The CMYK stands for the four colours of the four inkjets; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Why is black denoted by the letter K instead of B you ask? Well, the black layer is called the "Key" layer and the three other colour layers are all aligned to this key layer. It's fast, efficient and can go right from the computer screen to the printer.
There is also another form of digital printing known as "Laser" printing. Instead of spraying little dots of ink on a page they use a laser to inscribe toner. The toner is still in the four colours of CMYK but it's not liquid ink. It's actually finely ground plastic that melts onto the page.
Offset printing, on the other hand, goes back to the very invention of the printing press .This method uses large tanks of ink that first go onto a roller and then are transferred, or off-set, onto the paper. This means there are no little dots. You still use four colours to combine and make up all other colours of the spectrum but you can also add what is known as "spot" colours. This is the same as when you go to the home paint store and select a colour from their fan-deck to paint your living room.
The paint store has a chemical recipe for the exact colour you picked and they mix up a batch for you in the back room. This means that no matter which store you go to that particular shade of oxford red will be exactly the same. This is the same thing for spot colours in printing.
The print shop reads the colour codes for your particular spot colours and actually mixes up the inks by hand by reading a recipe for making your specific colour. What is the advantage of all this extra work? Well, for corporate branding it is very important to get the exact right shade of your colours when marketing. With other printing methods, especially less expensive digital printing services like Staples, there is a large variation in the exact tones of colours. So what you get printed at Staples one day may look very different from a piece printed the next day and from printer to printer.
Now, bigger professional print shops spend a lot of time calibrating their digital printers to make sure the colours come out true every time but the smaller cheaper shops or your home printers can have large variations. That is why you really shouldn't use them for your corporate marketing materials.
What does all this mean? Well, up until recently off-set was a much higher quality printing process and yielded a superior final print piece with crisper, brighter images and truer spot colours. Ah but technology never sleeps and the digital print world has been catching up to off-set. There is a new digital technology out there called stochastic. This is when the digital printing process takes all those little dots and randomly spreads them around on the page. This causes the tones to be more gradual and a final product that is sometime hard to tell between off-set and digital.
If you have a small print-run, say under 1,000 you can use digital printing and get great results. The more you are looking to print the better the price becomes to go to off-set and of course the quality is just a little bit better. Also with off-set you can print on a wider array of materials, like wood, cloth, leather, metal and plastic.
So when you are taking something important like your business card or stationery to print, first of all don't use a cheap print outlet. It doesn't cost that much more to go to an actual print company. There are also many really good print companies on-line now that are easy to use and produce amazing work.
One website to check out is:
Have more questions? Just shoot me an e-mail or give me a call!