Conventional Offset

The value of the offset model primarily resides in cost savings realized in larger volume runs, as well as finishing, inks and paper stock options.
When asked recently about the future of digital and offset printing, Printing Impressions Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief, Mark Michelson commented, “When you look at the headlines in our industry, digital printing and more recently production inkjet tends to get a lot of the headlines. But when it is all said and done, the vast majority of page production is done in an offset printing process.”
Strengths
Quality While it is often hard to tell the difference between digital and offset, offset remains the preferred printing method for graphic designers, particularly when image quality is concerned. Quality is also more apparent in special effects such as embossing, foiling, and metallic inks.
Low Cost at Higher Volume Offset printing is front-end loaded, and cost per piece decreases as volume increases. Larger quantities are likely to have a lower unit cost with offset printing. Offset also offers the ability to gang run projects with other jobs to drive prices even lower.
Speed at Higher Volume Offset printing presses also allow you to print larger sheets and can print many pieces quicker than digital printing presses.
Paper Stock & Finishing Options Despite digital’s advancements in substrate options and special effects, offset remains the leader in offering more choices when it comes to print materials. Specifically, offset production can accommodate a wider range of paper thicknesses from lightweight bond to board stock.
Color Control The combination of the Pantone Matching System and the Pantone inks makes conventional offset printers the best choice when complete color control is needed.
Weaknesses
Variable Data or Versioning Why? Offset does not allow for variable data within a print run. The plates loaded on the front end of the offset printing process cannot be changed throughout the process to customize different print pieces.
Higher Cost on Lower Volumes Why? Offset printing has a front-end cost load, which means short runs (low quantities) may have a high per-unit cost.
Higher Cost on Higher Volumes Why? The cost-per-piece in digital methods remain rather consistent as volume increases which do not allow you to leverage volume to gain efficiencies.
Slower Throughput on Lower Quantities Why? Conventional printing is slower and more costly for lower volume print jobs than digital printing due to the required setup.
Bottom line: When is conventional offset right for your project?
  • Higher volume (> 1,500 is a good rule of thumb).
  • No variable data requirements.
  • Unique special effect or strict color matching requirements.