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:

  • personalized, variable data printing (VDP)
  • print-on-demand
  • cost-effective short runs
  • fast turnarounds

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What is a digital printer?

There are many types of digital printing machines, including production printing presses such as sheet-fed production printers, cut-sheet digital presses, production inkjet printers and continuous feed printers. Some recognizable brand names of Xerox digital printers include Xerox Color, iGen, Versant, Nuvera and D Series production printers and digital presses, as well as Xerox Brenva, CiPress, Rialto, Trivor and Impika production inkjet and continuous feed printers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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