How Printing Works

There are many different styles of printing, and we know it can be daunting to dig into. For this reason, we have made it a little more clear cut for you.

Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

Offset Printing

Typically reserved for higher quantity orders or definite re-orders, this style of printing is a little different than your typical printer. Offset Printing uses etched metal plates (typically called a plate/blanket) that apply ink onto a sheet of paper.

The setup for offset printing is generally significantly more time consuming and expensive than digital printing, as there is labor and hard costs involved with this style of printing. The blanket has a hard cost (per color), and there is more setup time needed as well. Once the setup and blankets are paid for, the cost to print each sheet is actually less than that of digital printing. This is why this style of printing is typically reserved for higher quantity orders, or definite re-orders with no change in artwork (colors can change, but a change in physical graphics means a new plate/blanket needs cut).

Digital Printing

Typically reserved for smaller quantity orders or full color printing. This style of printing is closer to your home printer than any other style of printing.

The ink is applied directly to the paper rather than a plate/blanket, which means you save in setup costs. This is especially desirable for shorter press runs, as well as fast-turnaround times. Due to the nature of digital printing using 4-color process inks, the colors can vary ever so slightly from the original artwork. Not a big deal if you’re running small runs or own a small business as almost no one would notice how slight it is, but if you’re a large corporation or business that wants to retain consistency across all media, then Offset Printing would be a more viable option utilizing PMS colors (discussed further down).

CMYK vs Pantone

CMYK (Process) Printing

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). These are the primary colors for print. CMYK colors are great for printing full color or anything with a lot of imagery. There are thousands of different possible CMYK color combinations that makes printing images with CMYK colors a breeze. Each color produced is essentially a ratio of each color typically based on percentages. Also, because CMYK only involves 4 inks, printing with CMYK colors tends to be cheaper than printing with PMS colors–especially for smaller projects.
Pros: Full Color, Millions of Color Options, Cost Effective
Cons: Inconsistent Large Area Color, Bright Colors Can Appear Dull/Dirty, Color Variance

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

This is a worldwide standardized swatch book of pre-mixed and 100% accurate colors. By standardizing the colors, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match. PMS colors are precise, sharp and consistent. They are often used in corporate identities, logo designs and stationary designs because they are always consistent. Despite there being less color options than CMYK, there is still usually a Pantone color to match a CMYK color extremely close.
Pros: Consistent Color, Metallic Inks Available (cost-effective solution for substituting foil stamping), Sharp and Bright Colors, Excellent for 1-3 Color Jobs
Cons: Price vs CMYK on small runs, Less Color Options than CMYK

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