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How Offset Printing Is The Perfect Solution For Artwork And Beyond

If you’re looking for consistent, high-quality printing results, offset printing may be the perfect solution for you.

Whether you’re interested in reproducing artwork, printing fine art on a canvas, or taking your photography portfolio to the next level, offset printing is an excellent choice.

This popular and versatile printing method has been used for decades, but modern technology has helped to make it even more effective.

If you’ve ever delved into the world of printing, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘offset printing’, ‘giclee’, or ‘lithography’ before. But what are they and which solution is best for your printing needs? Let’s find out!

In this article, we will unpack:

➡️ What offset printing is.
➡️ The offset printing process.
➡️ The differences between offset, lithography, and giclee printing.
➡️ How you can use these processes to elevate your printing.

Offset Printing for Fine Art: Serigraph, Lithograph & Giclee

What Is Offset Printing?

Offset printing is a service typically offered by a printing company like ours. 

Known for its ability to produce fine details and vibrant colors, offset printing is used by artists, publishers, advertisers, photographers, and businesses worldwide.

Dating as far back as the 19th century, this method has revolutionized the printing industry, making printing faster, more affordable, and of higher quality than ever before.

Offset printing works differently from digital printing techniques and can often offer better results in terms of color accuracy and image consistency.

Usually, offset printing is ideal for printing large quantities of materials, but the process can also be used to print a single product.

The reason this technique is referred to as ‘offset’ is because the ink isn’t applied directly to the paper or another material as it would be in traditional printing. Instead, the ink is applied to a rubber blanket first—more on this shortly.

What is the history behind offset printing?

In the 19th century, offset printing began when printers started experimenting with different ways to transfer ink from a printing plate to paper.

At the time, traditional printing methods involved ink being transferred directly from the plate to the paper. This meant there was significant pressure on the paper, and only a small range of paper types could be used.

In 1903, the first offset press was created by Washington Rubel, an American printer who started using a rubber roller to transfer ink from a plate to paper rather than directly from the plate.

He found that the image quality produced by this process was far higher compared to other methods and allowed him to use a wider variety of paper types.

Of course, offset printing has continued to evolve and improve with new innovations optimizing each step of the process.

Although it may seem that this type of printing is outdated, the use of newer technologies makes it one of the best printing solutions available today.

What is the offset printing process?

Interestingly, the first step in the offset printing process starts digitally. However, the rest of the process takes additional time and effort to set up.

Step 1: Preparing the image

The image that needs to be printed is prepared digitally and then transferred onto a printing plate, usually made from aluminum. The plate will have a slightly raised image of what is being printed. 

Step 2: Plate treatment

The areas of the plate that don’t form part of the image are then covered with a water-repellant treatment to prevent the ink from sticking to them.

Step 3: Transferring ink

This plate is mounted on a plate cylinder, which rotates as the press runs. These plate cylinders pass through several ink rollers that apply ink to them.

The plate cylinder then transfers the ink to a rubber roller—also known as a blanket cylinder. 

This rubber roller is larger than the plate cylinder to help it distribute the ink evenly, resulting in higher-quality prints.

The printing material is sheet fed through the press, passing between the blanket cylinder and an impression cylinder. 

Step 4: Applying ink to a surface

The ink is then applied to the printing surface, which could be anything from paper and cardboard to canvas and glossy photography paper.

When the plate is pressed against the blanket, the ink is only transferred from the raised image areas, which are transferred directly to the chosen printing material.

What is the difference between digital and offset printing?

Digital and offset printing are two different types of printing methods. Their primary differences relate to the technology used and the costs involved.

  • Technology: Offset printing uses printing plates and rollers, whereas digital techniques rely on a digital press.
  • Cost: Offset printing costs less per unit for large print runs, while digital printing costs less per unit for smaller runs.
  • Quality: Offset printing usually produces a better-quality image than digital print techniques.
  • Materials: Digital printing is typically limited to certain papers and synthetic materials, whereas offset printing can be done on a wider range of materials.

Digital methods involve using digital files to print onto a material. It is ideal for smaller runs—such as less than 500 copies—and offers far more flexibility than offset methods.

Additionally, digital printers offer faster turnaround times, as no offset presses and much lower setup costs are involved compared to offset printing.

However, the quality and color accuracy of digital printing typically won’t match that of offset printing, especially when you need a large number of prints.

Why should I choose offset printing?

There are several reasons why you should consider an offset solution for your printing needs.

  • Consistent high-quality: As the printing process is carefully prepared and monitored, you can expect each print to be of higher quality than traditional printing techniques. Each print will be identical to the previous one, providing consistent results.
  • Perfect resolution: Offset printing can capture even the finest artwork details and produces clear and sharp images. 
  • Variety: Offset printing can be used on various materials, not just paper.
  • Affordability: Offset printing is cost-effective, especially for large runs.
  • Color accuracy: There’s nothing worse than the colors of your print not matching the original artwork. Offset printing offers high color accuracy thanks to its four-color printing process.
  • Fade-resistance: Archival inks are used in the offset printing process, which is a type of ink that is long-lasting and resistant to fading. This makes your printing last a lifetime, making it a worthwhile investment.

What is offset printing for?

Your imagination is really the only limit when it comes to offset printing. 

Products and services can include: 

Books and magazines.

Flyers and brochures.

Catalogs.

Posters and banners.

Packaging.

Stationery

Postcards.

✅ Original art.

Source: Pexels

Our offset printing services can be applied to just about any medium you like, and our friendly printing experts will help you choose the best materials to suit your needs.

What Is Offset Lithography? 

One of the most modern offset printing techniques is called offset lithography.

Lithography has existed since the late 1700s. Although the process has been mechanized, it has changed little in that 200-plus-year span. 

Offset lithography is a printing process that uses a flat printing plate made of metal or plastic. A treatment is applied to the plate to create a negative image. The treatment hardens the areas of the image exposed to light, creating a plate with a raised image of the design.

If this process sounds familiar, that’s because it’s essentially what we now refer to as offset printing.

Lithographs are a form of high-quality printing, meaning they can be cost-effective if you need a larger run.

What Is Giclee Printing?

Also known as fine art printing, giclee printing is a digital printing technique that uses high-quality printers to produce fine art prints.

A giclee print is an ultra-high-resolution digital rendering of an original work of art.

Tiny drops of archival inks are sprayed onto various surfaces, including canvas or paper.

One of the benefits of giclee for fine art reproduction is that you can do a short run—even a single piece if you prefer—rather than the large runs associated with offset printing.

While the giclee printing method differs from offset printing, it can produce superior results with vivid details and intense colors. It also offers a wider selection of mediums to print on.

If you are interested in printing art, giclee printing may be a better solution for you than offset printing.

Although this approach costs more per piece than lithography, you can order them as needed rather than in large quantities. 

What is the difference between a canvas print and a giclee?

Canvas prints and giclee are two different printing methods. However, it’s worth noting that giclee can also refer to a canvas print that has been produced using a giclee method.

Typically, a canvas print is a reproduction of an existing image that is then printed onto canvas material. Canvas prints are stretched over a wooden frame to be displayed as artwork. A canvas print is suitable for reproductions of artwork and photography.


Source: Pexels

Giclee, on the other hand, is usually used to print fine art in a large format with high resolution. Usually, giclee prints are made on high-quality archival paper, which is made to last a lifetime.

Canvas prints can also be achieved through giclee. In this case, the image is printed onto canvas rather than archival paper.

What Are Serigraphs?

A serigraph is made using screen-printing techniques. Traditionally, this approach was called silk screening. Today, however, the screens are typically more durable. 

To make this type of fine art print, the artist must create multiple screens to push paint through, resulting in high-quality reproductions.

The process takes time and precision, meaning serigraphs are some of the most expensive types of fine art reproduction. 

They can’t typically be done by a printing company unless that company also does screen printing.

What to Consider When Choosing a Printing Technique

Now that you know more about digital, offset, lithography, and giclee printing, you need to decide which printing process is best for your specific needs.

Here are some factors to consider when making your decision.

➕ Quantity

The printing method you choose will depend largely on how many prints you need. 

Offset is best if you need more than 500 copies, especially if you need them to be perfectly identical.

Digital solutions are more appropriate for smaller quantities.

🔎 Quality

If you only need to print a few text-only documents or simple graphics, digital solutions are probably your best bet.

However, if you need the result of your print to be excellent quality with exceptionally fine details and vivid colors, offset printing is the solution for you.

📃 Printed materials 

When choosing a printing solution, you need to consider the material you want to print on.

If you want to customize your delivery packaging quickly and effectively, digital is the way to go.

However, if you want more options to choose from when it comes to printed materials, offset printing may be a better choice.

Offset printing can be done on paper, plastic, metal, and even fabric.

🔁 Turnaround times

How quickly do you need your printing to be completed?

Offset printing results take longer to produce as there is an extensive setup process, including plate creation.

Digital solutions are much faster—so if you’re on a tight deadline, this would be best.

💸 Budget

Although we aim to make our printing services as affordable as possible, offset printing can sometimes be more expensive than digital solutions, particularly if you only need to print a small number of items.

If you only need a small number of prints or you’re on a tight budget, digital is the way to go.

🌈 Color quality 

The inks used in the offset printing process provide beautiful results. Prints will be sharp, vivid, and highly detailed. They’ll also be identical to one another—each piece is produced perfectly.

If it’s critical that the color of your printed products is absolutely perfect, offset printing is what you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if color accuracy isn’t particularly important, digital options would be more suitable.

📦 The order process

Each printing company has its own unique order process. Some offer online shopping, others provide you with instant quotes, and some will require you to visit a physical store. 

You need to make sure you choose a company that’s order process suits how you’d like to have your prints produced.

Choosing the Perfect Printing Solution 

There’s plenty to consider when choosing the type of printing solution that is right for you.

The printing method you choose will depend largely on the material you want to print on, how many prints you want to be made, and the quality you want to achieve.

Our printing experts are highly trained and will be able to provide you with the best advice as to which printing method is best for the results you want.

For over 75 years, we have provided exceptional offset printing services to clients in Utah and Intermountain West, and we would love to assist you with your printing needs. 

We also offer packaging, fulfillment, and direct mail services.

If you can dream it, we can print it for you.

Give us a call at (801) 972-6120 to get a quote or for offset vs digital printing advice.

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