Offset Printing: What Is It and How Does It Work?

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Are you a business looking at your commercial printing options? There are some available printing methods such as offset printing, digital printing, screen printing, flexography printing, and more.

Among all the techniques mentioned, offset printing is one of the most popular commercial printing techniques, existing since the 20th century! Also known as offset lithography, companies can also use it for labeling packages like cartons and boxes.

Let’s delve deeper into what offset printing is and how it works!

What is Offset Printing?

The printing technique is called “offset” as it doesn’t transfer ink directly on packages and paper compared to other printing methods. Rather than going from the plate to paper in two steps, the ink will first transfer to a rubber cylinder, which will then print on paper.

This three-step offset printing method will reduce the wear and tear on lithographic printing plates, thus prolonging the lifespan. There are three cylinders located in an offset printer:

· Plate

· Offset blanket

· Impression

Both image and non-image areas exist on the same surface in offset printing. It works on the similar principle of water and oil separation. The plates are treated to have the image areas attract ink, while any non-image areas will attract water, repelling ink.

Once water and ink are applied from the rollers to the plate, oil-based ink will stick to the image, while the water sticking to non-image areas will repel it. Offset printing presses utilize silicone layers, which repel ink rather than water. Such systems are known as waterless or dry offset presses.

Offset printing presses would use four primary colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The colors are applied separately, with one plate for each color. Tiny dots of the colors will be pressed in particular patterns, forming a wide variety of colors.

You can also find specialized offset printers using pre-mixed inks like Pantone or metallic colors, creating hues beyond the standard print color range.

How Does Offset Printing Work?

The plate cylinder is the first cylinder used for the printing process. It’s a thin cylinder with an aluminum or plastic plate. Every plate is customized based on the text or images printed on the paper. The plate cylinder is pre-treated for the images to attract ink and repel water. As the plate cylinder spins, it meets with the rollers applying water and ink.

The offset blanket cylinder is the second one used. It has a rubber blanket, turning in opposite directions from the plate cylinder. As both cylinders roll against one another, water squeezes away while the ink transfers to the rubber blanket. That will create a mirror image of the design.

The impression cylinder is the third one used, made out of clean steel. This cylinder will turn in the opposite direction of the second cylinder, transferring ink while pressing paper on the rubber blanket.

These fast and efficient printing presses can print up to 18,000 folio-sized sheets hourly. And take note that each sheet can contain up to 16 pages of letter-sized or A4 content. Offset printers also work just as quickly for printing jobs on packages!

When Do You Need Offset Printing?

Offset printing is suitable if you require high-quality printing with larger run projects of over 400 sheets. It’s also an ideal option if you need specialty ink or a custom paper. With bulk orders, offset printing becomes an affordable printing technique in the long run.

Here are some of the benefits offset printing offers:

· You receive superior image quality, with clean and distinct images without spots or streaks.

· Receive better color fidelity. This refers to the color accuracy and balance in your design. Offset printing mixes custom color inks for every project, naturally getting all the colors right.

· Offset printing works well on almost all types of materials.

· While it does cost a lot to begin offset printing projects, you get the bang for your buck when you’ve got a large volume project. You’ll spend less than digital printing when you invest in offset printing and have all your materials prepared.

However, if you have a smaller project, it’s best to go for digital printing. In the next section, we’ll talk about the difference between offset and digital printing.

What’s the Difference Between Offset and Digital Printing?

You’ve probably come across digital printing, another printing technique to choose from. What makes offset and digital printing different, though?

Offset printing is produced on printing presses with plates and wet ink. There’s a slightly longer setup time and drying time before finishing. That said, this printing technique will produce the highest quality prints among different options.

Digital printing, on the other hand, was once called copying. However, this term is outdated. Rather than copying original hard copies, most digital printing comes from electronic files, hence the name. This printing technique is the fastest way to produce your short runs, mainly when there are a lot of originals.

Today, the quality of digital printing goes close to offset printing. However, there are still specific projects and papers where offset printing is better. Digital printing won’t use plates the same way an offset printer would, but it uses options like toner or larger printers using liquid ink.

It’s the reason why digital printing is an economical choice if you only need low quantities printed, such as 25 greeting cards or a hundred flyers. One benefit of digital printing is the variable data capability. If every piece requires a unique name, address, or code, then digital printing is the optimum choice, as offset printing can’t provide this need.

Wrapping It Up

There are different printing techniques to choose from, making it a bit confusing over what to choose! If you’re a business with a massive project requiring at least 400 copies printed, then you’ll want to consider offset printing. With the many benefits it offers, you’ll save more in the long run while achieving the best-quality copies.

We hope this article helped you out! Feel free to contact us for your printing and packaging needs now and find out what services we can offer.


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