Offset vs Digital Printing for Packaging Boxes: Best for You

Posted July 8, 2022 Offset Printing vs Digital Printing

When you choose custom boxes for your products, you will probably know what you want them to look like, including the size, design, and more.

But have you considered the type of printing that will be used?

If you’re new to all this, you may think that the printed package will look the same as the colors on the screen. But it can never be 100% the same, which can lead to mistakes that affect the appeal of your product packaging and even impact your brand image.

Two of the most popular printing options are digital and offset printing. We look at both to help you decide which is best for your custom packaging.

Offset Printing

Offset printing transfers ink to a rubber roller from a metal plate, usually made from aluminum, and then applies the ink to the printing surface.

These Offset printing presses were first developed in 1875 to print on tin surfaces and were later used to print on paper. This printing technology has been popular ever since, and it’s now the printing method used for mass-produced items like magazines.

Image quality is excellent when using offset presses and is also a very cost-effective choice for large-volume printing.

The Offset Printing Process

Now you can read about the offset printing process that is the essence of such a production. These steps need care and experience to get more accuracy and better quality for your production. So, following these steps carefully can help you achieve great results in the production process.

  • It starts with an image, graphics, or text printed on a plate. For this purpose, you can use various sheet types.
  • The next part is to transfer a rubber to a roller or a cylinder. 
  • You can use two different plates in this process if you wish to print on both sides of the paper. 
  • The last step is to feed the paper into the press, and then the press prints the desired image onto the paper to achieve high-quality results.

Sheet-Fed Printing

Sheet-fed is another type of printing that you can try in the offset printing department. It is a great type of lithography printing that you can use with manually cut sheets. This printing type is considered different from web printing due to technical reasons.

The main reason is that web printing continually uses paper rolls fed into the printer.

Web-Fed Type of Offset Printin

So, if you seek a printing method to help you with more economical results, you can try web-fed offset printing. It is known for providing shorter covers as the end product may shrink due to the heating process.

You should know about the fiber direction in this kind of printing. You can make it parallel to the ridge of the product, making it easy to browse through a catalog you are creating or any other product.

Web-Fed Type of Offset Printing

So, if you want this printing, you should ensure that your fiber direction is right. One way to do that is to ask the printing company to send you a sample to ensure it meets your needs. Also, you should be sure that the quantity you want to print will be right for your budget.

The most standard format that goes well for web-fed is A4. But you can also change this format depending on your machine’s capabilities.

Digital Printing

Digital printing presses are very different. This process involves taking the electronic files and converting them directly into print. The best way to think about digital printing is how your digital printer works at home or in the office, including both LaserJet and inkjet printers.

It is popular for smaller print runs like brochures and business cards. It offers a good quality finish but has a lower spectrum of colors compared to offset printing.

Digital Printing Process

Digital printing is a great type of advertising or branding you can do. So, if you want to use this one, you can follow these steps to use this amazing technology. One thing is for sure: you should be looking to get these services from a company that deals in this type of printing. The process they follow looks like this:

  • It all starts with creating or choosing a design you want to print for your product. You should hire a company to do this for your product and let them know what kind of design you are looking for.
  • The second step will be for the company you hire, as they will save it according to the resolution requirements. 
  • It should be saved in the machine for the next steps.
  • The printer heads are cleaned with a special fluid type before we move to the printing itself. This process may be needed after every 100 prints.
  • In the printing process, the machine would create some waste collected in the side drum. The printing manager should make sure that you get rid of this waste.
  • Another precaution necessary is to make sure that you check the ink temperature during this process.
  • Make sure that your ink temperature is between 20 to 25 degrees. You can not print the right images or designs without maintaining this temperature.
  • You can move your design to the machine in the next step.
  • Different pallets are available in this process, and they help hold the product on the printer. 
  • The printing manager can choose the right product size and attach it to the machine.  

Digital Printing Roller

  • In the next process, you can lay your product on the printer and ensure you do not add creases.
  • The printing process starts in the next step as the printer moves from side to side. 
  • The next step is to remove the palette from the machine. Also, you should ensure you run the product through the dryer. Make sure to press the design properly in the medium.
  • The last step is to ensure that you get the right quality and can go and pack the product to deliver.

Digital Printing Types

Well, you can try two types of digital printing for your products: inkjet and laser. Before you go on to do either of the two, you should know about the whole process and what to take care of during the process.

Inkjet Digital Printing:

This printing process is simpler than other types and follows a 2D technique that helps add tiny drops of ink to the paper. 

  • The process starts with adding ink to the paper, and you can move to the additive process.
  • This process helps replace the ink with thermoplastic and wax materials. 
  • When the liquid drops of the materials cool, they make a part layer.    

This type of printing is simpler to conduct, so there are fewer chances of issues in it.

Inkjet Printing

Laser Printing Process:

Laser printing is another type for your branding or other printing needs. Such printers follow the following steps to give you a great design:

  • The process starts with sending data to a computer or printer that will capture the data to create and print an image.
  • In the second step, it removes the remains of the precious job with a rubber-cleaning blade. Also, the printer applies lubrication to the heat roller.
  • Next, a drum unit is changed, and the paper passes through a corona wire, which adds a static charge to the paper going through it.
  • The printer uses a beam on a drum, and the surface charge goes to 100 volts DC.
  • Next, the laser beam creates multiple rays of information. 
  • The next step uses a toner that is applied to the drum image. A negative charge is retained using zinc, chromium, and iron. 
  • The process moves to transfer where secondary wire works to transfer a positive charge to the paper. The toner heats up in this process. Also, the printer’s doctor blade levels the toner to a particular height.
  • Next, the printing job goes to the fusing process, applying heat and pressure to the toner. 
  •  The printer creates a permanent bond by pressing and melting on the paper. 
  • In the end, the latent charge is removed from the drum surface. 

Which is Best for Your Business?

These printing options are both suitable for different types of printing tasks. So which is right for you? Here are several factors to consider.

Project Size

In general, offset printing is better for larger print runs because of the quality and cost-effectiveness of large projects. This means printing over 500 pieces will work out as more economical, and you also enjoy better colors and quality.

If you only print a small number of items, digital printing is an option. With offset printing, more preparation involves creating the plates and other processes. So, for price alone, digital printing is a good choice for smaller projects.

But if you want higher quality results, offset printing is a better choice, no matter the size of your project.

Turnaround Times

If you need something printed very quickly, digital printing is faster. It could be a good option if turnaround times are short and you don’t have many items to print.

That’s not to say that offset printing is slow because an experienced printing company can still perform it quickly.

Image Quality

If the printing image quality is essential for you, which it probably is for your custom packaging, offset printing is the best option. Quite simply, nothing beats it.

Compared to digital print, the final result is clean, the typography is distinctive, and it produces rich images and vivid colors. No other level of precision can match it.


If you have a small print job and a low budget, digital printing may be better. But with a large print run and tight budget, you will save money using offset printing.

You may worry about the costs of creating the plates and die, which are additional costs you don’t have with digital printing. However, some companies (like us) do not charge for these and offer them as complimentary services.

Future Printing Plans

If this is your first time sending out custom boxes, offset printing may be the best idea, even for smaller print runs.

Why? Because if everything goes well, you can use the same design again and scale it up as much as you need. The first run accomplishes most of the work.

So, if you’re planning more custom boxes in the future, offset printing is a great choice.

Types of Materials

Offset printing produces stunning results on almost any material and is very flexible.

Digital printing can print on basic materials only. So, for simple ecommerce boxes, it may be an option, and digital can be used on corrugated packaging.

Often, you will want your custom boxes to stand out, and offset is much better for this. The design can be used on a vast range of materials, and it is beneficial for rigid packaging, like when you sell luxury products or gifts, to get the best possible quality.

For paperboard packaging, the offset is usually best. It has a more precise printing output and vivid colors, and it’s excellent for small texts to provide clearer information and communicate more effectively with customers.

Digital Printing

Pros For smaller budgets Faster than offset printing
Cons Does Not Work for All Materials May not work for bigger jobs

Offset Printing

Pros Better quality, accuracy, and colors For Larger Print Runs Works on several materials
Cons Expensive for smaller quantities Not a Green Solution

Color Depth

Offset printing has much better color depth and brightness. Offset printers can match inks perfectly, unlike digital printers. Color output is clean and crisp, just like store display packaging. While digital also produces a high-quality finish, it’s often more suitable for simpler designs.

Choose the Best Printing Method for Your Needs

These are some primary offset and digital printing considerations for your print project. Regarding digital vs. offset printing, there are advantages to both printing methods. However, we would generally recommend offset printing for your custom packaging.

You want your custom boxes to be attractive, stand out, and effectively convey your brand message. Offset has so many advantages over digital printing that it’s almost always the best choice.

Author Image
Steve Harsh
Steve Harsh, a packaging and printing expert who has been working in the field for over a decade. It has been my privilege to write on this topic, which I have been doing for years to help people learn about this essential field that helps millions achieve their business goals.

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