Monday September 23, 2019




Printing Process - Commercial vs Gang Run Offset vs Digital


The printing process simply put is the addition of ink and coating over a substrate (mainly paper) to create a finished product that is within industry color standards. This is also referred to as “Pleasing Color” by many printing professionals.


There are basically 3 types of print shops:

• Commercial Color Shop

• Gang Run Shop

• Digital Shop

A Commercial Color Shop would be used for projects that utilize spot colors or there is a demand for critical color matching. A commercial print shop will have web or sheet presses for offset lithography and other commercial printing processes and may have machines for digital printing. 

CMYK color bars


Gang run printing is a method of taking several printing jobs and placing them on a common paper sheet in an effort to reduce printing costs and paper waste. Gang runs are generally used with sheet-fed printing presses and CMYK process color jobs, which require four separate plates that are loaded into the press. Gang-run printing has been one of the driving forces in the large drop in the price for full-color printing.

Gang run printing gives you an economical press run as you are completing several print jobs on one set of plates and printing passes. Due to the nature of this process it is nearly impossible to color match previous jobs that were not printed by the gang run printer. Spot colors and spot color matching is also not an option as the graphics of each card somewhat affect the color of the cards surrounding it. Depending on the design you will want to reach out to your shop and determine their methods for the printing process.

Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media, such as paper, labels, card stock, etc. . It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers.



Press sheet


Advantages of Gang Run Printing

• Extremely economical—many print jobs share the same print run, which reduces manpower, plates, prep time, and press washup labor.

• Reduces waste—less paper goes unused.


The cards below show you how in a gang run situation the color can be affected by the surrounding cards. The top row is printed with darker cards and the final card on the right appears dark. The bottom row is printed with lighter cards and appears lighter due to having less ink being put down before it. In this type of gang run situation the cards placed  around others impact the color greatly. Prepress operators are aware of the differences that can happen with certain colors next to each other, so if they are able, they plan accordingly.


Gang test


Offset and digital printing are two of the most commonly used methods of printing. Though they produce similar results, these two methods are quite different and depending on your project requirements, one or the other would be a better choice for the best results.

Digital offset


What is Offset Printing?

Offset printing, also known as offset lithography, is a common printing technique where the inked image is transferred from an aluminum printing plate. The printing plate is laser etched using information from a digital file and then transferred to a rubber blanket on press, then finally absorbed into the paper.


The color application process of an offset press involves a measured amount of ink being applied to a printing plate, which is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a sheet of paper via a rubber blanket. This process is based on the simple principle that water and oil do not mix. The images to be printed are burned onto a plate, then dampened by water and ink on the press. The ink is attracted to the image area and the water to all other areas. This method is best for large runs and provides pleasing color reproduction resulting in a professional product. Most print runs are then coated for protection.


Press Ani


Aqueous coating is a clear, fast-drying water-based coating that is used to protect printed pieces. It provides a high-gloss or matte surface that deters dirt and fingerprints. ... Aqueous coating provides substantial scuff-resistance.

UV or Ultra Violet coating is a very glossy, shiny liquid coating applied to a printed paper surface and cured on a printing press or special machine using ultraviolet light. The coating hardens, or cures when it is exposed to the ultra violet radiation. Any print product can benefit from a rich, glossy and dramatic look.


Offset printing prices decrease as the product print quantity increases. This is because of the initial cost of press setup and plate processing, as the machine has to be washed between print jobs for color changes. A longer run will be more cost effective in this case.

Digital press


What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is a printing process that involves printing from a digital image directly to paper, cardstock or labels, etc.  It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing uses electrostatic rollers, more commonly known as drums, to apply toner to sheets of paper.

The printing process uses toner in a combined mix of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black to create the image.


Toner cartridge


Digital printing favors projects that require a lower volume of copies or when customers need a job printed on an uncoated paper so it can be written on. Perfect for projects that need a quick, same-day turnaround, or the customer wants to send out personalized mail using variable data, which is printed on a digital press. Variable data printing is possible with digital printing, meaning the information printed on each printed piece comes from a database telling the printer what to put on every individual print. This makes sense for greeting cards, logos, envelopes and other print jobs where the business wants to include personalized information about their customer such as their name, address or birthday.

Digital printing is cheaper for short-run printing because it has less of a setup cost, but a higher cost per unit.  As a general rule, digital printing is a more cost-effective option up to roughly 500 units.


Paper in hand


What about Paper (see previous blog post about Paper)

When it comes to color, it’s important to understand how the print method and the stock choice work together.  When working with uncoated stocks, there is the possibility for high ink saturation. Sometimes this can cause rub off or smudging, and a lamination on covers is a good way to protect your print. Since uncoated paper is so efficient at holding on to ink, colors tend to appear a little duller, and the spectrum of color becomes more limited. Alternatively, a coated stock does less absorbing of color, so it sits nicely on the surface and makes the colors more vibrant and bright.  





Turnaround Time

Due to the setup, maintenance, and generally higher order quantities, turnaround time for offset printing can be slightly longer.

Digital printing is typically for smaller quantity jobs and does not require the same involved setup or maintenance between print jobs which enables a quicker turnaround. has Offset and Digital capabilities to meet all of your printing needs. Contact our Customer Service department to determine which type of printing is suited for your project. 


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