In general, when you ask for a quote, your printer will select the most cost efficient option for you, but to give you a more in depth understanding of why and when they would choose Lithographic print or Digital print, here’s something of a beginners guide:
- Lithographic print is generally selected for large runs ie runs of 1000+ units.
- With lithographic print there are set up costs involved in that plates have to be made for each specific job, which is both costly and time consuming. That said, once the machine is running, costs are minimal as a lithographic machine has the capacity to print out thousands of sheets per hour so the only costs on top of the plates are ink and paper.
- This means that the more you print, the cheaper your unit costs become, as the set up costs get spread out. This also explains why there is often only a few pounds difference between a quote on 1000 and say, a quote on 2500 units, for example.
- Lithographic print is generally a higher quality finish, though with advances in digital print the difference is becoming less and less noticeable, certainly to anyone outside of the print industry, you would not be able to tell the difference.
- Digital print is generally selected for short runs ie under 1000 units.
- There are no set up costs with digital print as the artwork file is sent directly from the computer to the printer without any need for plates etc. This means that the cost comes purely from the ink, paper and man hours, so in general whether you order 10 or 100 units, your unit cost will remain the same. Because of this, there comes a point where the cost of lithographic starts to become cheaper than the cost of digital print, again your printer will be able to advise based on your specific job.
- Digital print also gives you the capacity to produce as little as 1 copy, whereas with lithographic print, there will always be a reasonable minimum order quantity.
As you can see from the images of our 5 colour Komori Press (lithographic printer) and our Canon Imagepress 6011 (digital printer), both are incredibly sizeable machines. These need to be housed in a large space with plenty of room to work around it and to store paper and inks, as well as to trim, finish and pack the printed products ready for despatch via our own delivery van, Royal Mail or courier service. Lucky then, that we moved into larger premises back in 2013, and were able to house our newest addition with minimal disruption to the rest of the team!
One final thing for you to consider when buying lithographic or digital print, is the location of the printer. As you have discovered a large amount of space is needed to house the machines required to produce a superior standard of print. With space being more expensive, and harder to come by, in major cities and popular locations, many printers have moved their operations outwards which has allowed them to keep their costs down by inhabiting warehouses in much cheaper areas. So, just because a printer doesn’t have a London postcode, don’t count them out just yet, it’s highly likely you’ll find them to be just as professional and progressive, and able to offer you quality and speed at vastly competitive prices.