Digital printing is an increasingly popular production method that involves making prints from electronic files. Essentially, it takes artwork from a computer (i.e., from a fundamentally digital format) and prints it onto a range of available materials. In contrast to traditional analog printing—which includes gravure and flexography—digital printing has some distinct advantages in today’s modern technological landscape.
In a nutshell, digital printing eliminates a significant portion of the manual steps that are inherent to analog printing, including manual stripping, the construction of color and film proofs, along with making a stencil or plates as well. So if you are thinking about going the digital route for your next promotional printing endeavor, here are some things you should know.
How Digital Printing Works
Here’s how digital printing works. First, a formatted image is sent to a printer. These files are typically in EPS or AI formats. Keep in mind that digital printing works best with highly detailed images. In contrast to analog printing, digital printing instantly transfers the digital image to a printed one, there is usually no formatting required whatsoever. Additionally, you can forget about using things like photo chemicals or film plates. Yes, it really is that easy.
Digital production adheres to the following stages:
- First, the person overseeing the process must make sure the file meets the resolution and size requirements to ensure it comes out looking as sharp and crisp as possible.
- Next, any bleed is trimmed and crop marks are added wherever is necessary, if at all. Crop marks are the lines occupying the corner of the print. Their purpose is to ensure that unprinted edges are not present in the final print.
- Once crop marks and bleed are added, it is time to ensure that the image occupies as much of the material as possible. Known as an imposition, this stage ensures that the job is completed as efficiently as possible with little waste.
- The final stage is conversion. This is where you will need to make sure the image or text is converted into an appropriate file format—such as AI or EPS. You could also print a PDF file, though this is entirely dependent on the software you use.
Digital Printing Is the New Baseline
Digital printing is a relatively modern development. As such, it is equipped with many conveniences that are not available with analog printing. Now more than ever, clients expect their prints to be as accurate as possible. As such, the printers used need to be able to accomplish high-quality printing in an expedient time frame. Unfortunately, it can be somewhat difficult to zero in on what process is best for the specific job you are working on. So before you finalize your design decisions, there are a few considerations that will make your life easier.
The Up Sides of Digital Printing
The most noticeable aspect of digital printing is quality. If digital prints signify anything in and of themselves, it is quality and consistency. This means that colors print perfectly and there are no splotches or obtrusive lines. The entire process is so cohesive that the very last print should bear the same impeccable quality as the first.
Another convenience afforded by digital printing is timeliness. As a whole, the process entails far fewer steps than traditional analog printing, which means turnaround times are much quicker. Additionally, digital printing does not require printing plates, which makes setting up jobs much quicker and more cost effective.
If your project involves short to medium print runs, digital printing is most definitely the way to go. In addition to being more reliable than analog printing, it is also one of the more affordable printing solutions.
Additional Advantages: Variable Printing
In addition to expedient turnaround times and exemplary quality, digital printing also allows for complete customization. So if you need to reach a diverse audience, digital printing is definitely something you should consider. It will enable you to tailor each piece to a specific customer, which is simply not possible with analog printing.
Known as variable data printing (VDP), this convenient form of digital printing allows for certain elements to be altered without stopping the design process. These elements include images, color, names, and the headline. When used in tandem with the right technology, high-quality results can be produced very quickly. This is particularly advantageous for direct mail pieces.
VDP And Personalization
VDP is subject to three different levels of personalization. The first and most basic pertains to the recipient’s name and address. Essentially, the name and address can be altered in accordance with the intended recipient of each item, which makes the entire process that much faster and saves the recipient’s time and yours.
There are a variety of ways to push personalization even further. The most useful involves the personalization of transactional information, which pertains to specific dollar amounts, charts that reflect specific information, and graphics and numbers that can really capture a prospective client’s interest.
The final and arguably most useful aspect of VDP is image personalization. Any seasoned marketing expert or psychoanalyst can tell you that images help the brain retain information much more efficiently than other mediums. Consequently, personalizing images for each recipient based on psychographics or other gleaned information gives you a much better chance of forming a genuine connection that could lead to increased sales down the line.
Digital Printing and Accuracy
One of the most convenient aspects of digital printing is its razor-sharp precision. It is relatively easy to print samples to check the accuracy of various elements, such as color, to ensure your print matches exactly what you are picturing in your mind. To that extent, altering font sizes, image properties, as well as colors and their associated properties is synch. Again, this level of precision and convenience is not possible with analog printing.
Digital Printing Has Environmental Benefits
As you could probably guess, digital printing is environmentally friendly. For one, it reduces waste and prevents further pollution. Although it still necessitates the use of paper and related materials, it uses much less than other approaches. This is because digital printers and associated equipment do not need to be set up in the same manner. Further, digital printers place ink using electronic charges, which significantly reduces waste.
Another convenient and environmentally friendly aspect of digital printing is the ability to send and approve prints electronically. Before digital printing, pressing proofs required significant setup time, including preparing the plates, stringing the paper, printing it, then cutting it. Fortunately, technology has made the entire process much quicker and more efficient. There are a wide array of programs that will give you a good idea of what your image will look like before you print anything. However, there will still be times when you will need to proof your images. For example, spot colors, unique finishes, or different materials should be proofed to ensure they appear exactly how you envisioned.
Compared to traditional printing, digital printing uses far less toxic chemicals. While it still needs to make use of solvents to remove its oil-based ink, it does not use anywhere near the amount required for analog printers. Overall, this results in a positive environmental impact while giving you cost-effective, high-quality images that are sure to capture the attention of your target audience.
Digital Printing and Graphic Design
Digital printing is capable of producing vibrant and detailed images. Therefore, if you are using custom images you will need to ensure that they are appropriately designed and detailed. Do not fret if graphic design is not your forte, there are plenty of efficient designers out there that are likely more than happy to assist with your project. Our experienced designers provide proof changes up to 3x without charging prior to production? They can also re-create certain files like text and vector artwork for as little as $30 or up to $90. *Not applicable to detailed illustrations or photos.
When searching for a designer, try to find someone who specializes in what you are looking for. Once you zero in on one, be sure to communicate with them as thoroughly as possible so nothing gets convoluted in the process. Unfortunately, this is an area that can end up costing you more money if you are not careful.
Selecting the Right Colors for Your Digital Prints
Adding color to your digital prints is absolutely worth it. Materials printed in full color tend to achieve a much higher response rate than their back and white counterparts. This is likely because vibrant colors subtly communicate a sense of professionalism and commitment, which is something that will make customers feel at ease when doing business with you.
When it comes to digital colors themselves, you should be aware that they are known for their crispness, beauty, and generally engaging qualities. Needless to say, this combination puts them heads and shoulders above other forms of color printing. So if you are in the process of selecting a company to handle your digital printing needs, Super Cheap Signs deserves your attention. In addition to their high-quality printers and vibrant inks, their team of printing experts will assist you every step of the way with any questions or concerns you may have.