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Digital vs Litho - Any Experiences?

Discussion in 'Printing & Print Design Forum:' started by andybdesign, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. andybdesign

    andybdesign Active Member

    Just recently I had some digital leaflets printed (HP Indigo 7500) as a comparison to the litho printed Print Handbook (Heidelberg Speedmaster XL75). It is amazing how far digital has come, but litho still beats it in terms of quality. I'd be interested to see what other people have noticed, maybe with other presses.

    A few things I noticed in the comparison:
    • The registration was so much better on the litho printed example
    • Very little difference in terms of colour quality
    • Text at small sizes was much better when litho printed
    • Solid areas of colour (especially tints around 70%) look less smooth with digital
    • Litho could manage smaller line weights (0.1pt & 0.01pt look the same with digital, but look different with litho)
    • 10% black looked a little darker with litho
    How long do you think it will be until digital is as good as litho?
  2. Katedesign

    Katedesign Well-Known Member

    I started in digital in 1992 and have certainly seen some changes! Digital presses are very different (to each other) and very often the quality you get depends on the engineer (to set the machine up really well - and the operator has to demand quality) and the operator (in knowing how to use it properly). Litho depends mainly on the printer (and not an engineer).

    By registration - do you mean front to back? That's also just as likely to be the operator not setting the machine up properly.
    Tints can vary on litho presses also - especially on the smaller B3 presses. That can be down to the operator...

    We once had to digitally print a leaflet we had previously litho-printed (time and run-length) and match it. Which was fine only we had had to match the litho print to a previously digitally printed (and not by us)copy! I use our copies to show how good digital can be! Most punters can't tell the difference anyway between litho and good digital.

    The trick is always to know how the leaflet etc might be printed and design accordingly. And find a couple of different digital printers with different machines to use who know what they are doing.

    I personally don't like the finish of a Xerox 1000 (too shiny - as are most Xerox colour) but on a gloss or silk paper it's fine.

    But short-run, speed and variable data are why digital is so good. When will they be as good as each other? Who knows... probably the boffins at Xerox and HP - they are already testing the machines of the future!
  3. TDesignCo

    TDesignCo Member

    Great post Andy!

    Your comparisons seem pretty fair to be honest Andy:icon_smile:

    Im slightly biased in my reply, as I am an Indigo Operator on a 7500 press as my day job, having run Indigos for over 10 years!

    The colour gamut on a 7500 can be wider than Litho, giving a brighter more vibrant print. This is dependent on the artwork though....

    Depending on what screening your leaflets were printed at I'd say generally you can get very close to Litho text sharpness, but like you say the digital will struggle with very, very small type.

    Im surprised the solid colours did not stand up to Litho, they are normally pretty good these days.

    I don't think it will be too much longer before a 'match' is achieved, indeed Indigo have a Litho size B2 press in Beta test now....
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
    andybdesign likes this.
  4. andybdesign

    andybdesign Active Member

    Awesome. That's some great feedback.

    By registration I was meaning between each of the colours, not front to back.

    I think you're bang on when you say "know how the leaflet etc might be printed and design accordingly". Understanding what the strengths and weaknesses of digital are and using those to your advantage.
  5. InkOn

    InkOn New Member

    we have both litho and digital presses at our facility, the main benefit is speed of turnaround on very short run work. We have an Oce machine, quality is great, but we still suffer a little banding hewre and there on solids.
    It is still a little way off litho quality, we have a B3 Heidelberg which we price in line with digital and punters always opt for litho even if delivery meand a day or two extra.
  6. SDGSteve

    SDGSteve New Member

    That's the critical thing, I needed something done urgently recently and my regular was backed up with work, I went to someone else and the prints that came back looked like web jpgs, really awful quality, turned out they didn't know what a bleed was for and decided to get rid of it by shrinking the picture and somehow mixed up dpi for pixels in Photoshop or something, I still don't understand how they screwed it up so badly, they just knew nothing at all about handling images.

    A long time ago I supplied art in RGB to another printer by mistake and the in-house "design" team CMYK converted for me and then colour corrected rather than just requesting the image again, came back with all the skin tones looking like people had impetigo. Partly my fault for sending the wrong file, but all they had to do was ask, and how do you f up a CMYK conversion when you're a professional graphic designer anyway?

    My regular guy is fantastic, really puts the time and quality control in and knows what he's doing; the issue with digital always will be that anyone thinks they can run a digital print shop, in the right hands it looks great, I haven't printed litho in a long time.
  7. LovesPrint

    LovesPrint Member

    Did they colour correct? Or did they just put it through a RIP and auto convert without checking it? Did you have a proof?

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