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Litho printing at printed.com

We’re a pack of proud digital printers here at printed.com, but being passionate about print means being excited by all forms of ink slinging. When our customers asked us for larger quantities of print at lower prices, we couldn’t help but delve into the world of lithographic printing to give them what they wanted. But what is litho and what can it do for you?

What's ‘litho’?

Before you can truly launch into the benefits of litho printing, take a quick pit stop here and get into the nitty gritty of what it actually is.

A little bit of history mixed with a dash of ‘how it works’

Lithographic printing (also known as ‘offset printing’) has evolved from rather simple 18th century beginnings to the process we know today. Instead of painstakingly wetting and inking limestone like the printers of yesteryear, we now have the luxury of a much simpler printing process. Litho printing is achieved by burning flexible aluminium plates with the desired text/design and fitting them to rollers so we can produce large quantities of print, fast. No limestones needed.

It’s one of the most common forms of printing and—although its thunder was stolen briefly when digital printing was born in 1993—it still remains a favourite for those printing large volumes in long runs (like books, for example).

John, our litho champion here at printed.com, says:

“We are always exploring the latest litho technology to make sure our customers see the benefits of improved choice and offering. The option of a litho service allows us to provide our customers with great prices and product selection across all quantities. It becomes a lot cheaper to produce larger volumes using litho presses instead of digital ones, so we can pass savings onto our customers.”

What’s the difference between litho and digital?

We’re glad you asked. Litho printing uses the plates and rollers mentioned in the section above, which can often be costly to create, but if you’re printing 100,000 magazines, it becomes very cost-effective indeed. You’ll get far more for your money and will be able to use those plates to keep making prints in what we printing folk like to call a ‘long print run’.

Digital printing ‘digitises’ the matrix of dots that computers use to create images on screen (also known as pixels), and transforms them into print via a complex dance of ink, toner and electromagnetic energy. It is the 90’s baby of the printing world and is perfectly tailored to individuals that want typically less than 1,000—the kind of jobs we’d call ‘small print runs’.

Litho champ, John, says:

“The level that litho becomes more cost-effective is constantly evolving as technology improves. The initial production set-up cost for litho is more expensive than digital printing, but once the job is on the press, the unit costs are reduced. That means litho is cost-effective when we have a number of jobs or run length to divide the start-up costs into. On the other hand, litho is more expensive than digital when the job being printed is absorbing all the start-up costs, and when the job size could be run on a digital, smaller format SRA3 sheet.”

Long story short? Litho printing is a better way to get large quantities of print at low prices and digital printing is better for small quantities at low prices. This means that when you print with us, you can always get affordable prices, regardless of how much you need.

Litho print products

To be as helpful as possible, you can order larger quantities on a selection of the products you guys buy the most, like leaflets and flyers, brochures and stationery. You know—things you’d typically order a lot of. You can find them all collected together below, so if you’re in the mood to shop, just click on through and get started.

Sheet counts and quantities and litho, oh my!

When placing a large quantity order on the site, you may notice that each product and size becomes a ‘litho job’ at a different quantity—for example, you’d need to order 15,000 A7 leaflets before it goes to the lithographic presses, but you only need to order 1,000 A3 leaflets to go litho. So why is this? Because each product and each size takes up a different amount of space on the paper.

John says:

“The ‘litho threshold’ of a product is dependent on the different production method used for and the number of production sheets used. So for example, 500 saddle stitched brochures with 20 pages may use the same amount of production sheets as 5,000 A5 flyers.

Litho presses are also used dependent on the size of product ordered. This is because you fit more A7 (74mm x 105mm) in one litho sheet compared to A3 (297mm x 420mm) so litho will kick in on a larger quantity of A7s vs A3s.”

Finishes, papers and products

If you frequently buy large quantity print jobs with us at printed.com, you might have noticed that you don’t have access to as many paper stocks and finishes as you would on a digital job. So what’s that about?

John says:

“Although litho presses are capable of running an almost limitless range of stocks, there are higher set-up costs. In order for us to provide affordable prices using the litho presses, we need either long quantity runs on which we can absorb the higher set-up costs (plates and waste paper) or lots of orders so each job shares its own percentage of the overall set-up.”

John’s not wrong, you know. Picking the most popular paper stocks for each of our litho products means that we can keep the costs as low as possible, which mean you get to keep more of your pennies while still getting as much print as possible. Excellent work, John!

So now you’ve been suitably educated in the world of digital vs litho print, put your knowledge to good use and get shopping!