Understanding Printing: Flat printing, Digital vs. Offset Printing
Flat printing is exactly what it sounds like, flat. While this is not as glitzy as Foil Stamp or Letterpress it is usually a lot more affordable. I think it is ideal for something like a wedding program or a menu. There are two types of "flat printing" commonly used, "Offset Printing," or "Digital." Which is better? Well, it depends on what you are doing and most importantly, how many pieces you are printing.
Digital Printing- Think of it like an oversized color laser printer. The advantage is that it is quick and usually pretty cheap. But, like all things, you get what you pay for. I think digital is ideal for menus, seating charts, programs or even directions cards (within your invite suite), something you don't want people to necessarily keep forever. With digital you can do full color printing at no additional charge and the colors are bright and clear. The downside is that the printing tends to be shiny and you are limited to the type and thickness of paper you can use (ie. think about what you could put in a home printer). Digital color, while pretty good (see above!) tends to be a little on the dark side, and cannot be 100% Pantone matched. Also, you cannot print metallic colors. So shimmer is out. A gold digital print might as well just be tan. Digital printing is great for small run jobs (under 500) but larger quantities may be better served with Offset...see below!
Things you should know about choosing Digital Printing:
-Limited choices of paper stock available.
-Affordable and usually fast turnaround.
-Print can look shiny, even on matte paper.
-Cannot match color 100%. All colors are approximate, but usually very close.
-Good for doing small runs (wedding programs, etc) or one-of-a-kind pieces like a seating chart.
Offset- This type of printing is going to have a very similar look- flat. This type of printing is widely used for everything from newspapers to restaurant menus. It is a 4 color process- CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black. Each color is printed separate, first yellow, then magenta, etc. and the finished product gives the illusion of full color. For large quantities this is a high quality, affordable way to go. The other advantage to offset is that you can use "spot color," or Pantone colors for perfect matching and you can use metallic. The images above are pictures of metallic ink on matte paper. It is not as blingy as foil, but can still give a more subtle and beautiful shimmer result.
Things you should know about choosing Offset:
-Will have a flat feel to the paper and the printing
-Can be accentuated with "spot colors" or metallic inks, but will not be foil shiny.
-Can also be given various varnishes to be shinny or matte all over or just in select areas of the print.
-Reasonably priced, becomes more so the more pieces that you print.
- Can be used on a wide variety of papers and thicknesses.