Litho or offset lithography is one of the most popular printing technologies for high volume print runs. There’s more set up time involved with litho print but, once up and running, it’s much more cost effective for larger runs. As a rule of thumb, we usually say, use litho for anything over 1000.

So, “How does it work?”, you ask. First, the image is lasered onto a metal plate and loaded into the printing press.

Next, the image is offset (or transferred) onto a rubber blanket and then onto the printable surface, typically paper.

The print is created by splitting out the standard four colours; that’s CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). The artwork to be printed is split into four different printing plates which all apply a different colour. The colours combine to make a full colour print.

When it comes to litho print, a significant cost is required for ‘making ready’ the job. This involves the process of creating the plates and ensuring the images are in register so that the job can run correctly.

With that in mind, if the print run is below 1000, we would recommend digital print, which requires far less set-up time and associated costs are only made back on bigger runs.

 When to choose litho

  • For larger runs, it’s more cost-effective than digital.
  • Litho is flexible. Special inks such as metallic and fluorescent can be added to print spot colours.
  • For large areas of solid colour, you’ll get better results with litho. The colours will come out smooth with no visible pixels.

When not to choose litho

  • If time is of the essence. There’s a greater turnaround time with litho. You have to allow for the ink to completely dry before finishing. Also, longer runs have to be scheduled in on the litho presses.
  • A greater cost is required for the set up of a litho job but the cost is made back on larger runs, due to the speed of litho printing. For anything less than 1000, go digital.