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Offset vs Digital Printing for Business Cards

Business Cards in NYC

Did you know that most people order and print their business cards from the first printer they see that quotes a decent price, without seeing how their business cards will be printed? While most people only look at the overall price tag, knowing whether your business cards are printed on an offset press or a digital press can help save you time and money in the long run. Both printing presses output different measures of quality, at a different rate and price tag, so it’s important that you know what you are getting for your money when you are looking for a printer. It’s important to know that each printing choice has its limitations and to understand that each option is more useful in specific situations.

Knowing the difference, and understanding which option of printing is best for your project can save you from developing any unnecessary headaches. Printing business cards on the correct type of press can not only save you money and time, but it can also save you from any unneeded frustration. If you are looking to get business cards in NYC printed but are not sure which direction to go, read on to learn the differences between digital and offset printing.

Digital Printing

In today’s digital age, this form of printing is much less complex than offset printing and allows for work to be printed at a low volume, without a high price tag. While offset printing has its fair share of labor associated with it, digital printing eliminates those extra steps. With digital printing, it’s the software that does the bulk of the work. During the digital printing process, an electric charge is used to apply a pattern to the material being printed on, and then showers it with toner or ink. The areas that are electrically charged permanently fuses the ink or toner to it, allowing the printed design to show. The downside to this technique is the color control and quality, as many digital printers use CMYK color, whereas offset printers use Pantone or CMYK colors.


• Fast and cheap
• Quicker turn around
• No drying time needed for the ink
• Can print just one copy
• Great for small printing runs under 500 units
• Is able to print variable data


• Size is limited. Usually, can’t print bigger than 18” x 12”
• Weight of paper being used is limited
• Cannot print Pantone colors
• Difficult to reproduce colors accurately
• Does not reproduce a matte finish. Results are limited to a semi-gloss or gloss finish
• Lower quality print/color consistency can be poor
• Expensive for large runs
• Cannot print light or white colored inks on dark paper

Offset Printing

Offset printing is an older printing method than digital printing. Offset printing utilizes a sequence of rollers and plates in order to apply ink to the surface of the material being used. Each roller has its own color associated with it, and as each roller passes over the page being printed on, layers of colors are built. These layers eventually result in images and/or text. Offset printing is very efficient and fast, so it is often the best solution for when you need to print at a large volume. However, the speed and efficiency of offset printing do come at a price, as offset printing requires a lot of labor to operate. Due to the labor-intensive tasks that are associated with offset printing, it is only worth it if you are printing a large run. If you wanted to print only a box of business cards, offset printing would be very expensive due to the labor that is involved. However, if the job is large enough, then it pays to use offset printing, as you can get the best quality for a good price.


• Large format size is supported
• Can use specialized colors and techniques
• Great for large printing runs over 500 units
• Fast and inexpensive when printing large runs
• Can print on a wide variety of paper
• Can print white or light colored inks on dark paper
• Better quality of ink
• Can do adjustments to ink density


• Labor intensive
• Ink can take long to dry
• More $ for smaller runs
• Time consuming/slower set up time
• Requires more attention to detail during the printing process

While both options are capable of giving you fantastic results, knowing the difference between the two main styles of printing will give you the know-how and will allow you to pick the printing solution that fits your needs best. Still unsure which type is right for your project? Contact us and we will be more than happy to assist.

Japan Printing and Graphics