In the last few years there have been enormous improvements in digital printing methods, but modern litho printing still remains the main way of printing long-run jobs.
Although expensive and very time consuming to set up, it has a cheaper and faster print speed than printing through digital technology. Printing plates must be made which take time, money and effort, the colour carefully controlled which takes more time and paper. Add to this the maintenance/cleaning and the highly skilled operators, you can now see how these costs mount up.
Once the above have been overcome, litho printing is much cheaper than digital on runs of 5,000 plus as there are no costly click charges for each sheet that is printed as in digital.
Registration is better on a well maintained 4-colour press, giving less potential issues with alignment at the end job. The colours, solids, gradients and halftones also tend to be “truer”.
Digital printing on big laser printers has a very low first print cost, thus making it ideal for short-runs. Unlike litho, you do not need to print set-up sheets for position and colour, the operators can be trained quickly and there are no expensive plates or daily maintenance to do – apart from colour calibration of the digital press first thing every morning – making digital printing a far more economical means of printing low quantities up to 2,000 sheets.
Quality wise, litho is superior, but some customers prefer the brightness and gloss/sheen that the digital press puts onto the sheet.
Digital does allow for variable data from sheet to sheet (numbers, names or even small images can be changed from sheet to sheet), and there is also a very fast output of first print , with all the following prints being exactly the same as the first one.
The quality of digital printing equipment and litho printing presses can depend on the paper/card used, the maintenance performed and the skill of the operator, these all contribute to the quality of the finished item.
In general terms, if you require a run of 5,000 A4 Double Sided Leaflets, then it will be cheaper to print litho, but a run of 1,000 will be more economical to print digitally.
The choice is ultimately your to make.