What’s the difference between litho and digital printing?

Litho and digital printing – how to work out what’s best for you:

For many people, it can be hard to work out which type of printing is right for their budget and the type of materials they need to print. They might even call a printing company for advice but leave the call none the wiser! Here we run through the differences between litho and digital printing – we hope this makes it clearer. However, if you have any further questions and you need jargon-free advice – please do contact us.

About litho printing
Litho print by KMS Litho

We recommend you choose litho printing when you have high volumes (over 1000 copies) of materials to print. Once the printing plates and machines are set up, litho printing is far more cost effective than digital due to the litho press production speed.

Litho printing is also ideal if you have chosen a particular uncoated or relief type of paper. The types of paper that can be used on digital printing machines are limited so if you have a specific type of paper in mind, litho is probably right for you.

Litho is often seen as providing a better quality print than digital printing although as digital printing improves over time, this is less often the case. However, if print quality is critical to you, we always recommend litho printing.

Finally, if you need to use metallic inks or UV varnishing, we suggest litho over digital printing. It’s also great for printing large areas of solid single colour because it appears very smooth with no visible pixels. Special Pantone® or spot inks can be included to enhance the print when using litho printing so it is not limited to a four colour process like digital printing. Think about your logo for example – you need to get the colours consistently right which is where litho printing can really help.

It’s also important to know that litho printing will take longer to set up and dry so if you need an urgent job, digital printing is the better option.

In a nutshell: Use litho printing for print jobs where you don’t mind paying a little bit extra to get your larger printing volumes exactly right. Litho offers the highest quality print alongside a wider variety of colour and paper options.

About digital printing
Digital print by KMS Litho

Digital printing is great if you want to get your materials printed quickly and cost effectively. It’s ideal for smaller print runs and also personalisation of your copies. If you have a database or a spreadsheet of contacts for example, you can use digital printing to personalise letters or direct mail pieces.

Digital printing is great if you need your copies in a short timeframe. There is no setting up of colours or plates so it’s quick and easy to turnaround. It’s more environmentally friendly than litho printing and it can handle longs sheets for landscape prints.

Getting a proof (a few copies to see how your actual print would look before going ahead) is also far more cost effective than litho printing because there’s no need to set any plates up.

However, digital printing is not so great on coloured or textured paper and the quality might not be as good as litho in these circumstances.

In a nutshell: Use digital printing for urgent print jobs, printing work that has a limited budget and smaller print runs. If you need anything of a very high-quality and outside of the norm paper-wise, we recommend litho printing. Digital printing is right for you if you are less concerned around quality (although the quality will still be high), if you’re in a rush or if you want personalised materials to send to clients.

We hope this has clarified the differences between litho and digital printing. It always helps to ask the experts about each job however, so why not call us or drop into our litho and digital printing studio in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire for some friendly advice.