Perhaps the most familiar example of digital printing is using a desktop inkjet printer. For larger quantities and even better quality, there's commercial digital printing which could be inkjet, laser, or other methods. Digital printing also offers cost-effective print-on-demand and variable data printing.
What is Digital Printing?
Unlike offset printing and other commercial methods that utilize printing plates and presses, digital printing prints directly from the digital file sent to an inkjet, laser, or other type of digital printer.
- can be less expensive and less time-consuming for producing short runs and doing smaller print-on-demand jobs.
- eliminates the expense of plate-making and setting up the presses.
- makes it easier and less expensive to make last minute changes to a print job or print multiple variations.
- file preparation can be less complicated for those unfamiliar with commercial printing methods.
- may be of slightly less quality than offset printing but the difference is often negligible.
Types of Digital Printing
- Dye sublimation is favored by some graphic designers for high-end proofing and by some businesses who want to produce the best possible color materials in-house.
- Solid ink is low cost (no inkjet photo paper needed) but not as high quality as inkjet or laser.
- Thermal autochrome is aimed primarily at digital photographers.
- Thermal wax works well for businesses that need to produce large quantities of transparencies for colorful business presentations — for those using overhead projectors in lieu of the oh-so-prevalent PowerPoint presentation.
Most homes with a computer have some kind of inkjet or laser printer. Preparing files and printing to a desktop printer is generally less complicated than commercial offset printing. Explore choosing a printer, calibrating a printer, print options, and choosing paper for desktop digital printing.
- Prepare digital files. Find out if your printer prefers PDF or do they want your original application files?
- Sending fonts. Unless you are embedding fonts in a PDF, avoid problems with missing fonts, corrupt fonts, or the wrong fonts.
- Sending graphics. Graphics file type issues, color, compression, complexity, and completely missing images can jeopardize your digital printing job.
- Delivering the file. Send it on disk or upload online? Your printer may need a proof or a mockup.
Unlike offset printing, you don't have to deal with color separations and plate-making when doing digital printing. However, things like color calibration and using printed color guides can be important to getting the kind of results you want from color digital printing. Some issues could be handled by your printing service, but at added cost.
Publishing With Digital Printing
While you can choose digital printing for almost anything, there are some types of projects that lend themselves especially well to digital printing.
- Personal, low volume: consider deskop printing
- Proofs: even when using offset printing, you can get digital proofs
- Signs, posters, fine art prints: digital printing is a popular choice
- Books: offset printing is generally best for large volume but short runs and print-on-demand often turn to digital printing
- Business cards, letterhead, envelopes: other processes including offset, engraving, lithography, and gravure may produce more elegant results but when cost and/or low volume is more important then consider digital printing