Tip – 2 Color Offset Printing vs 4 Color Digital Printing

By: Shawn Nag  |  Posted In: Marketing  |  December 27, 2017

So, should you print your job 2 color or 4 color?

Back in the day, this question would never have been asked because 2 color offset printing was the only option available. With the growth of digital printing and technology, we now have new high quality options available for commercial printing.

4 color printing is the most cost effective option for all businesses in the 21st century but the innovation has left people confused on why 2 color is even an option. For this, its best to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both print processes.

2 color offset printing is one of the most common for high volume printing. This process requires the image to be inserted on a plate and then transferred from the plate to a rubber blanket, which is moved again to the print surface. Ink rollers supply the required ink to the images while the non printed area attracts a film of water. The film of water keeps the non printing area free of any ink. In the 4 color digital print process, the mechanical steps such as manually stripping the pieces to create a plate and making films for color proofs are not needed.

Now let’s look at the advantages of both print processes to compare:

4 Color Digital Print Advantages

  • Provides a shorter turnaround since it does not require much manual work.
  • There is less wastage, accurate counts and the colors remain constant as there is no need to balance the ink and water during digital printing.
  • High volume printing costs less now. Even though the unit cost is higher than offset printing, you will find that four color printing costs much less nowadays as the there is no setup cost in digital printing.
  • There are customization options in 4 color printing without slowing down the print speed. The information stored in the databases can be used to provide unique copies every time, such as ones for personalized letters used in marketing. That process is called Variable Data Printing.

2 Color Offset Print Advantages

  • Can print on many types of surfaces other than paper such as cloth, metal, wood, plastic, leather, etc.
  • If you order larger quantities then the unit cost goes way down.
  • Modern 2 color or 4 color offset presses use computer to plate technology which assures higher quality.

If you’re still not able to make up your mind? Then use this checklist:

  • Quantity: If you are ordering for a large number of prints then the cost per unit would be considerably less via 2 color offset printing, but if you are looking for short run printing then 4 color digital printing is your definite choice.
  • Print Medium: If you need unusual printing surface, special type of paper, unique size, etc. then offset printing is the better choice. Though the options are gradually increasing with four color printing too.
  • Color: If you require only black and white prints then the 2 color process is a choice you can make. While if you want many colors to be used in your prints then the 4 color or digital printing is your cup of tea.
  • Turnaround: 4 color printing is totally automated and controlled by the computers so it will give you a faster turnaround. If you have a time constraint, 4 color printing should be your choice.
  • Proof Checking: 4 color digital prints offer better proofs as they produce a hard copy sample of how the actual printed piece would look like.

All in all, choose based on your requirements. You may also ask for suggestions from the experienced service providers such as PrintPapa. They have expertise in offering high quality printing for various promotional materials such as rack cards, greeting cards, posters, short run books, NCR forms, etc.