Offset vs. Digital Printing:
What You Need to Know about the Differences

June 2003
by Ron Pramschufer

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Does the full color printing in USA Today seem as good to you as the color printing in GQ Magazine? Many consumers would say yes, and if you’re one of them, you will probably not notice any difference between a book produced in a digital plant and one printed by an offset book manufacturer. But lots of people will. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that digital printing is bad. I’m saying that it is different and that it looks different.


Cover Quality

The modern digital color cover presses are very good. Bearing in mind that I threw away my loupe (the magnifying glass used for checking registration and dot structure) years ago and that my eyes aren’t what they were when I got into the business in the 1970s, it’s still noteworthy that I can hardly tell the difference between a process color cover printed on a digital press and one printed on an offset press, as long as there is a film lamination on top of the printing. (Without the lamination, it is pretty easy to tell the difference, but no publisher in their right mind would sell a book without a laminated cover.) Where solids or gradated screens are involved, banding and other inconsistencies can be unpleasantly apparent. But still if I were to give digitally printed covers an overall grade for appearance, it would be a B+ (vs. an A for the offset covers).


Troubles with Images Added to Text

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