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Online Printing Explained: Digital vs Lithographic printing

24th November 2011


What is Digital Printing and what is Lithographic Printing?


These two terms relate to the two main printing techniques/processes used in the print industry. They both deliver near enough the same product but they simply go about it in different ways. Digital printing takes digital information in the form of design files (PDFs, JPEGs, PNGs etc), converts that design into a print map then lays ink directly onto the paper. Commercial digital printing is essentially the same fundamental technique as the process used by your domestic DeskJet printer...commercial printers just do it to a higher standard!

            Lithographic printing is a completely different method of printing. The digital design you send into your printer is actually engraved onto a metal plate. That plate is then covered in ink and rolled onto paper during the print process leaving a near perfect replication of your design. Modern lithographic printers are fundamentally very simple but very technologically advanced in practice. A decent litho printer is likely to set you back millions of pounds, not including the constant upkeep and other running costs.

            Why do you need two different printing techniques is the results are essentially the same? Well as far as you, the customer is concerned it comes down to price. Digital printing has virtually no setup costs. Lithographic printing on the other hand has very large setup cost because of the engraved metal plates we mentioned above. So if you were going to print 100 A5 flyers it would be substantially more cost effective to use digital printing because of the reduced setup costs. However, digital printing is a more expensive print process in unit terms i.e. each individual, flyer, poster, leaflet etc. So when it come to doing print runs of 1000 copies plus, the setup cost starts to pay for itself and litho printing becomes substantially cheaper.

            It’s worth noting that Lithographic printing is a far slower process than digital printing, mainly because of the plate engraving required. offers a 4-5 working day turnaround on our lithographic printing and a 1-2 working day turnaround on our digital printing (standard delivery tiers).
 provides cost-effective rates on a wide range of diligently printed print marketing materials, including premium brochures, booklets, menus, leaflets, flyers, posters, stickers, letterheads, calendars, roller banners and business cards.


A couple more articles.

Design your sticker for maximum brand impact. This article shows you how

Designing a calendar for print? This article has our top 5 tips for producing a calendar

Getting your leaflet design bang-on is important. This article goes over some helpful tips

Which products will you be paying VAT on? A handy list can be found here

Printing a booklet? This article helps with some of the cover options we offer