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Litho and Digital Printing

What are the key differences between Litho Printing and Digital Printing? Friars Print of Watford can provide you with the correct print solution.

Digital is more suitable for shorter runs and Litho for longer runs.

Litho printing requires an intermediate, such as a plate, whereas Digital prints direct from the file to the machine and each copy comes off the machine already collated.

Digital set ups are generally quicker and more simple than Litho setups which are more complex and take longer.

Our services take advantage of both technologies so that we are able to pick the correct technology for each particular job depending on weight and type of stock, turnaround required, run length [number of copies] & quality required based on the original file supplied. We will make this decision on your behalf in order to deliver to you the quality you expect at the price quoted and within the time frame that you expect.

Weight of Stock

In general, most Digital machines will run on stock weights between 70 gsm and 300 [sometimes 350] gsm. Offset presses will run onto both lighter weights and heavier weights.

Type of stock

Digital machines are generally more limited in the types of stock onto which they can print although the ranges are increasing all the time. It is still safe to say however that the ranges of stock for Litho presses are still wider and generally cheaper if selecting a specialist stock. Some digital presses also do not image particularly well onto stocks which have had a finish applied to their surface e.g Laid.

Run length [number of prints per image]

For full colour printing Digital presses are more suitable for the shorter run lengths, generally from 1 up to around 500 although this last figure may vary depending on the particular job requirements.

If you are printing in only one colour black, then this figure of 500 will increase considerably.


It is generally accepted that Digital printing is faster than Litho printing since no complicated setups are required nor is there a need to make plates.


Historically, it has been said that Litho printing produces the best quality and that is still true today. However, Digital printing quality is now so good that to the average layman, in most cases it is hard for them to tell the difference, if not impossible. The use of graduated tints and large solid blocks of colour would tend to lead to Litho being selected as the preferred process however.


See Run Length above. Digital is generally less expensive for the shorter runs and Litho for the longer runs. Prices reduce significantly for the very long runs.

Range of colours
If a number of specific spot [Pantone] colours are required to a high level of accuracy, then it may be best to specify Litho printing although Digital presses are now very good at matching some Pantone colours.

Original Image Quality
Digital is slightly more forgiving in that it will produce good quality from images as low as 150dpi. Litho needs considerably more resolution.