Lithographic Vs Digital Printing

Published on: September 17th, 2018 | Category: General News

Here at Cambrian printers we use a wide range of printing techniques and technologies to produce high quality products that meet your expectations. No matter if you need us for catalogue printing, brochure printing or for the production of books and magazines we will always suggest the best method of getting a beautiful final result. In a nut-shell lithographic printing is more suitable for longer print runs and uses wet ink and printing plates. Digital printing, on the other hand, uses toner and a press and is very similar to an office printer, just on a much larger scale.

Lithographic printing

Lithographic printing, also known as “Offset Printing” is our speciality at Cambrian printers and we have been doing it for over 150 years. The process works by transferring an image from a printing plate to a rubber blanket which in turn transfers the image to your chosen paper. The vast majority of the time the printing is done using the standard four colour process (Cyan, Magento, Yellow & Black). These four colours combine to create the broad spectrum of colours on a print project A large proportion of the cost of lithographic printing is associated with making the job ready. This involves making the plates and running the spare material until all of the plate images are in register. Once the project has been set up, however, the cost per print is cheaper than digital on longer runs.

You are not limited to four colour process with lithographic printing as an exercise called “Spot Printing” can be undertaken using special inks, for example, metallic or fluorescent. If you are printing relatively large areas of block colours, then lithographic printing is superior as the finish will be far smoother with no visible pixels. We are now able to control the plate making process using a computer which has significantly improved colour control and getting plates to accurately register.

Turnaround times are usually longer with litho printing as it is necessary to allow the ink to dry completely before any finishing or transporting.

Digital Printing

Digital printing uses computer created files as a reference to print from. The printing press uses dots of colour to create the image using toners or inks. There is very little preparation required and as a result can be the economical choice for shorter run print jobs. Digital print jobs also tend to have shorter turnaround times as the job finishes with the ink dry and ready to finish and transport. There is also more flexibility with digital printing as you can easily print pages with variable data for example page numbers.

Some of the downsides of digital printing include the potential for cracking when folding the pages of the job. Digital printing also can not produce tints and large solid areas of colour as accurately as Litho printing.


There is a huge amount to think about when deciding between the two technologies Why not give us a call to see how we can help you decide on the best course of action. Speak to our friendly team on 01970 627111 or email us on