What is Digital Printing and what is Litho Printing ?

what is digital printing and what is Litho 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

For those who don’t know the difference, Litho printing use impact to put down information on the page and is used normally for high volume print runs. These high volume print runs of brochures etc are normally very much cheaper per copy than an equivalent digital print.

Also Litho is used for business stationery as there is no heat used in the process of putting down the ink. If your headed paper was printed digitally there is a chance that when you put it in your business laser or desktop laser printer, the heat used in these printers will possibly reactivate the toners and you end up with a nice mess and possible damage to your printer.

Digital printing has over the years been biting at the heels of Litho printing as it steels more of the traditional print market year on year.

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. Shanowen files 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).


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