Digital Printing v. Offset Printing: What's the Difference?

Basic Definitions, Advantages & Disadvantages

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You've just designed a beautiful wedding invitation and you'd like to get it onto paper. Understanding all the printing options can be overwhelming. Which choice is right for you: digital, offset or printing at home?

This article will share with you the advantages and disadvantages of the various printing choices. With our help, you can feel confident in making the best choice for your wedding stationery. First of all, some basic definitions:

Offset Printing

This form of printing is used for newspapers, magazines and many commercial print jobs. The process is fascinating, albeit a bit complex. Also known as lithographic printing, offset printing uses metal plates made from films via a photochemical process.
  • Available From: If you order your invitations from a professional designer, this is likely the printing process they'll use. You can also bring your file to a printer and request this technique, or even order it online.
  • Advantages: This process produces very high quality results with a clear, crisp definition between the ink and the page. In other words, there should be virtually no "bleeding" of the ink into the paper to spoil your special look. Another plus is high-end printers also have the ability to use the die-cut process (cut shapes into the paper), emboss or even complete elaborate folding. It's also easier in terms of "handing over the project" and not stressing about the results.
  • Disadvantages: Since setting the printing process is labor intensive, it's slightly more expensive (though prices are coming down!). It's less forgiving -- if you make a mistake and want to reprint the piece, the printer must start all over again. Because you're paying for time as well as materials, you'll incur labor charges too. Lastly, orders of a certain size -- say, under 100 or 150 invitations -- will cost more per invitation.

Digital Printing

This form of printing involves creating or utilizing a digital file and using a laser printer. This is the most common printing style and the one that you use at home or in the workplace.
  • Advantages: It's easy, requires no proofing of the printing run and last minute changes are a snap. The equipment is readily available; you can even print these at home! Paper choices are plentiful and your results often are indistinguishable from offset printing.
  • Disadvantages: Printing purists used to complain that digital printing just didn't have the same crisp feel and definition and that the ink sometimes blurred. New technology has made this less of a problem.

How Do You Decide?

The decision is ultimately one that you and your groom will make together based on the style of your wedding, your budget and the number of pieces you need. Unless you are planning a traditional, invite the-entire-town, event-of-the-season formal wedding, most couples do not need offset printing.

The Printable Wedding suggests you handle the printing yourself, either at home on your printer or using a printing shop like Kinko's. First of all, it can actually be less of a risk than going the professional route. While you're limited as to the amount of test pieces you can have run at the printer's, at home you can run page after page off your printer until you're satisfied with the final look and feel of your invitation.

Another benefit of creating and printing your own invitations is that you can really get creative! Specialty orders at a printing house, or non-standard changes, may cost you more or in some cases may not be available at all in exactly the style or colors you want. Naturally, when you do them yourself, no such charges will apply. You'll only be paying for a wedding invitation template (easily downloadable off the internet), paper, ink and envelopes.

At-home invitation making can be a creative, satisfying and professional-quality venture. Ultimately, the decision is yours, so take all these factors into account -- and then get started on your gorgeous wedding invitations!


Written by: Dawn Applegate