Monday, June 14, 2010

Green printing tip no. 49: When do you print offset instead of digital?

We are back today with a new tip on our weekly series of green printing tips, where we bring you information on green printing in collaboration with Greg Barber, an experienced eco-friendly printer.

Today Greg is discussing one of the key elements in printing and the question it brings up:offset or digital?

When do you print offset instead of digital?

Tip #49

Printing environmentally encompasses a lot of printers and a lot
of printing presses. The key is how you use those presses and
when to use them. I start off by asking you, what is your job look like, and then I offer to run your job on the correct press.

Let's start with a few questions I might ask you.

Is your art work in CMYK or spot colors? If your art is 1 or 2 pantone
(spot) colors, I might ask, "Are these your corporate colors?"

If your answer is that you do have corporate pantone colors, than I may decide that your job belongs on a 2 color, offset press. Offset printing uses soy or vegetable based inks. Offset presses can run the correct pantone color by buying that color ink from an ink company, like Superior Ink.

We have a better chance to hit the color you want by printing 1 color at a time. Digital printing creates your color, by printing 4 colors to create your 1 color. We are basically printing 4 colors on top of your font to create the 1 color you chose.

If you have small type and we needed to print 4 colors to achieve your 1 color printing, the registration is tougher to achieve printing in CMYK versus 1 spot color.

We have seen art work given to us that is in 5 point type and later the client complained that they can't read the copy. Maybe the job they needed would have printed better on a spot color press.

How do we go Green on our spot color press? We buy low VOC Soy or Vegetable Based inks. We use recycled paper and encourage 100% post-consumer waste paper. We buy our paper from certified mills that use renewable energy, like Wind Power or Biogas. We will offer direct to press technology.

What is the disadvantage of printing, using spot colors? It usually comes down to price. Digital printing is getting better each year and we are really good at digital printing. If you needed business cards, we can print them cheaply converting your spot color to CMYK. But, sometimes it is a lot
better to hit the exact color every time you print, by using the same ink from the same can of ink.

Sometimes, you need to print your type using 1
color and not 4 colors for perfect registration. Sometimes, you need to realize that your clients can't read the copy as well as you can, and small
fonts need perfect registration. Sometimes, when you print heavy solids in pantone colors, the ink lay down is better on an offset press.

Let us decide if we feel you should print on an offset press. We don't want our clients to be disappointed and we want you to come back again for another job. We may ask you to make your font bolder and larger. We may say pay another $100 and use our two color press for this job. We may say it is worth it to wait an extra day for your printing.

But, also like all printing jobs, once a job needs more than 500 sheets of 13 x 19 paper to achieve your quantity, offset printing will be less money than digital. The break even point is around 500 sheets. So if you need 10,000 postcards, I would say you are on our offset presses for both quality
of your pantone solids and for the best price.

Again, let me advise you, which way is best. Let me balance your budget and your quality expectations. But, whichever way you go, I will encourage you to use the most environmental paper, and the best inks or toners, and FSC paper and Green E energy.

For additional information, please visit and You're also invited to contact Greg via email at

You can find links to all the tips at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting
green printing!