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Digital print and how the process works

By Steffen Andersen · 12. May 2020

Digital print is the most used printing method due to almost all commercial printers using this process.

Because it allows you to print in the sizes and needs you have, no matter if it is at home or the office.

The printing process is also used by a lot of smaller printing companies for flyers, posters, and other more common printing work.

In this article, we are going to cover how the process works, what it is primarily used for, and compare it to the other printing methods. 

How does it work?

The digital printing process does not use printing plates as all the other printing methods, which means the start-up cost is very low.

The digital printing process can be used for a variety of different materials such as paper, foam, plastic, and etc.

There are two types of digital printers and how they create the print.

There are inkjet printers, which is the primary one used for large format and used by printing companies, and then there are laser printers. 

The inkjet printer makes your print by dropping tiny ink droplets onto the material that needs to be printed.

The droplets of the ink are often smaller than a piece of hair to make sure that the correct amount of ink is added all the time.

The inkjet printer normally uses CMYK colours🔵🟢🟡🔴 and the ink for CMYK colours, so the colours can be mixed directly on to the printed object.

The inkjet process for digital print is often not as quickly as other printing methods when it comes to larger quantities.  

The laser printers combine a laser mechanism with electromagnetism to create the print.

So the laser copies your graphics or image onto an electromagnetic canvas, where the toner is attached to via electrically charged particles.

Toner is only used by laser printers and is unique for this printing method.

The primary problem with toner is that it cannot replicate the images and colours just as precisely as when using ink. This is the reason why it is not as commonly used by printing agencies.

Laser printers are though faster when it comes to printing larger volumes, which makes them great documents. 

Rollers move the material through the printing and colouring process whereafter the print will be heated and cooled directly after.

It will then, in the end, de ready to use just as when you take the papers from your printer. 

What is it used for?

Digital print is primarily used for printing on paper and especially paper promotional articles such as flyers, letters, and etc.

The reason why it is not used for printing on plastic and other materials is that it uses CMYK colours, since the colours need to be mixed together to show the wanted colour.

This can make the print lose quality when not done on the proper materials.

Due to the digital print not having any high start-up cost, there is often no minimum order quantity for making the product, which is the reason why many industries are trying to use this printing method with their products.

We are working with paper cup manufacturers that print paper cups with digital print.

Digital print vs offset printing

Digital print and offset print is the two primary printing methods for printing on paper. As digital print does not use printing plates, it is great for smaller quantities and fast production.

But Offset printing uses printing plates and the set-up cost is a bit higher, and it is used more for larger quantity prints.

Offset printing is a quite adaptive printing method and it can both be used with CMYK🔵🟢🟡🔴 and Pantone colours, and on other objects than paper.

The digital printing process is more limited since it can only be used with CMYK colours, and to ensure the printing quality, it is only used for printing on paper as well.

Interested in offset printing? Learn more about the process here. 

Digital printing vs Tampon print

Digital print and tampon print are the two most popular printing methods when it comes to printing lower quantities.

What separates the two printing methods is what colour scheme can be used and which objects they are suited for printing on.

Digital printing can only use CMYK colours and is primarily used for printing on paper, where Tampon printing uses Pantone colours and primarily prints on more concave surfaces and plastic, metal, and other surfaces than paper.

How does Tampon print work? Learn it all here. 

Digital printing vs Flexo Printing

Digital print and flexo print are not much alike, and the printing methods will be used for different projects.

Digital printing is best for printing on paper in small quantities and making sure they are delivered quickly.

Flexo printing is for printing on more complex surfaces such as plastic and metal, and the set-up cost is rather high so it is used for printing high quantities.

Digital printing uses CMYK colours and Flexo print does mainly use Pantone colours, but it can be set-up to use CMYK colours.

If you want to learn more about flexo printing, then we have made an article describing the whole process.

Digital print vs Letterpress

Digital print is the newest printing technology and Letterpress is the oldest printing method, so even though they are both primarily used for printing on paper there are a lot of differences.

Letterpress print can both use Pantone and CMYK colours, but it does primarily use Pantone colours and it is a very manual printing method which makes it rather expensive to use.

Letterpress is though a lot easier to adapt to different kinds of paper than digital printing is.

But Digital printing is a better and faster printing method for small quantities on the most paper materials. If you want to learn more about the letterpress printing method, then read this article. 

Digital print vs Rotogravure

When comparing rotogravure printing and digital printing, the most significant difference is that digital printing is best at smaller quantities, and rotogravure is used for very large quantities.

This is because rotogravure uses printing cylinders to make the print, that can last for many millions of prints.

The other thing is that rotogravure printing does primarily use Pantone colours for printing where Digital printing uses CMYK colours.

They are though both mostly used for printing on paper materials, rotogravure can though also print on textile and other more luxurious materials.

If you want to learn more about rotogravure printing then we have this guide for you. 

Content and Marketing Manager at Limepack

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