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What is digital printing?

Digital printing is the process of printing digital-based images directly onto a variety of media substrates. There is no need for a printing plate, unlike with offset printing. Digital files such as PDFs or desktop publishing files can be sent directly to the digital printing press to print on paper, photo paper, canvas, fabric, synthetics, cardstock and other substrates.

Digital printing vs. offset printing

Digital printing differs from traditional, analog printing methods – such as offset printing – because digital printing machines do not require printing plates. Instead of using metal plates to transfer an image, digital printing presses print the image directly onto the media substrate.

Digital production print technology is evolving quickly, and digital printing output quality is improving continuously. These advancements are delivering print quality that mimics offset. Digital printing enables additional advantages, including:

Digital printing vs. screen printing

Digital printers print an image directly onto the desired surface. Screen printing is a more manual process where ink must be applied to a mesh screen that is then pressed onto the media substrate. Digital printing is faster and capable of more detail, two reasons it’s often used to print packaging, direct marketing flyers, and books or magazines.

Digital printing technology

Most digital printing presses have historically used toner-based technology and as that technology quickly evolved, the print quality rivalled that of offset presses. 

See the Xerox range of digital presses

In recent years, inkjet technology has simplified digital print accessibility as well as the cost, speed and quality challenges facing print providers today.

See how professionals can’t tell the difference between inkjet and offset

High Fusion Inkjet vs. Offset Challenge YouTube Video

Learn about the Xerox range of inkjet digital presses

Digital printing advantages and disadvantages

Digital printing technology excels at producing on demand and short print runs quickly and cost-effectively. Digital printing is also an ideal platform for personalization. If you want to easily modify images and messages using variable data printing (VDP), then digital printing is the only way to go. With advancements in print quality and speed, digital printing’s previous disadvantages are quickly disappearing, and digital printing machines are closing the gap on offset output.

See how XMPie can enabled personalized communication in print and other media

Watch a video about effective, personalized messages

Digital printing inks

Digital printing inks include cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) toner and ink, as well as extended color gamut inks such as orange, blue and green as well as specialty dry inks for metallic, white or clear effects.

Explore the creative possibilities enabled by an extended gamut and specialty colors

See the Xerox digital presses that can print with an extended gamut and specialty colors

Types of digital print media

Digital printing machines can print on everything from thick cardstock, heavyweight papers and folding cartons to fabric, plastics and synthetic substrates. T-shirt printing is a very popular digital printing application, and some digital printers can print on other fabrics besides T-shirts, including linen and polyester.

Learn how the Xerox iGen 5 can handle card stock and extra long sheets

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