Lithographic Printing vs Digital Printing

So you’ve finally got the green light for that new marketing brochure that you’ve been working on for months on end. Now you need to agree on how you’re going to print it. The technical developments in digital printing technology in recent years means more options at your disposal and an exciting new range of features to go with it.

One question you might have is how do you tell the difference between digital and litho printing services in Ireland? An understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing and how these stack up against lithographic printing is key when it comes to making the right decision in your order.

What is Lithographic Printing?

Lithographic printing is the most common high volume commercial printing method. Here, the print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred from the plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface. Each plate needs to be manufactured for each particular job and up to four plates are required for full colour. Oil-based inks are primarily used in this method.

Pros of Litho Printing

  • High quality, consistent image
  • Compatible with a range of surfaces
  • Unit costs decreases as the quantity increases
  • Can withstand long runs without affecting quality
  • Special inks available

Cons of Litho Printing

  • Expensive setup for shorter runs
  • Longer turnaround times
  • No variable data option
  • Colours can be less bright

What is Digital Printing?

With digital print, no plates are required and the set up costs are significantly less. Instead it electrically charges particles in the toner. Digital printing eradicates many of the mechanical steps required for standard printing. With this method the weight and texture of the paper needs to be taken into account as too many variations may not be compatible with a digital press.

Pros of Digital Printing

  • Swift setup time resulting in shorter turnaround times
  • Bright images on a range of materials
  • Cheaper option for low volume printing
  • Personalisation possible without stopping or slowing down the press

Cons of Digital Printing

  • Expensive on longer runs
  • Less colour control
  • Not suitable for all printed surfaces
  • Can be difficult to match pantone colours
lithographic printing machine

Making your decision

We can help you choose the right technology for your project, but here is a handy checklist to help you decide which one is the most suitable for your needs.

Job quantity

Digital tends to be more cost-effective for running smaller quantities. As the cost per printed sheet is lower in litho than it is in digital, after a certain volume, litho printing becomes more cost-effective.

Substrate (Paper)

There are greater limitations on the weights of paper that can be run through a digital press, as the surface of the paper must be amenable to the toners

Number of colours

If your job has a distinct colour that does not print out of CMYK, for example Pantone, then litho printing will be necessary. It is not possible to print metallic or reflective colours on a digital press.


Overall we could say that litho printing offers that added quality, however, it is important to note that due to the technological advances in digital presses, digital print offers an equally impressive output. The quality of your piece will mostly comes down to the nature of the artwork provided.


At Codex we will happily discuss your requirements and help you in the right direction. Call our sales team today on (01) 88 22 082 to discuss your next print solutions project.