Choosing the Right Type of Printing for your Design

A Compete Guide on Sending a Print Design to Press | Part One

If you’re doing full design and development on a web design project, it is likely to take the project from concept to launch and be the only person on the project, however — if you’re doing a print project for a client, unless you have an offset in your spare bedroom, (and if you do, I demand photos!) you’re going to have to send the design off to a printer in order to make the project a reality.

Over the next 3 posts, I am going to share some of my knowledge and experience on sending design projects to press and I encourage any of your with experience in this matter to chime in with some comments if you handle things differently than I do, or if you disagree with anything I have to say! :)

Keith Brofsky Photography, Promotioal Book - Covers

Choosing the Right Type of Printing for your Design

If you really are interested in learning all the ins and outs of these options, check out the Wikipedia pages on each, but here I am just going to give a simple explanation of each and what you might want to use it for.

Offset Lithography

Offset Printers lay down solid colors of ink and different printers offsets may be able to do more (or less) colors. You can do a full color image (like Photographs) on presses that run 4 or more colors, or do spot color projects on presses that offer less that 4 colors. Offset printing gives consistent quality and had great color accuracy on spot colors and the for presses with more than 4 colors you can get stunning quality on full color images! The drawback is that small quantities of offset can be very pricey (especially full color work!)


This is the least expensive option, and you can find some really good quality digital presses — I had my very first business cards printed through JakPrints on their digital press and they turned out beautiful! But, a word of warning that I have also seen digital presses turn out awful stuff that looks like it was printed on an old ink jet desktop printer or something. So if you go this route, do your research! Request a sample pack from the printer.

CMD+Shift Design Business Cards - Close Up


With Letter-pressing, ink is laid down one color at a time. This is only used for spot colors – no full color photographs with this! In letterpress, each color of the design is made into a block that is then hit with the ink color and “pressed” onto the paper. (Imagine a high powered, automated stamp.) Letterpress created a look that cannot be achieved any other way, great textures and a “hand made” quality that just makes the piece feel so special! Because letterpress does requires blocks to be made for each color printing, it is a bit pricier than Offset or Digital, also it’s less automated than these other types of printing, which can cause for more variance and require more close monitoring (again driving the cost up.)

Press Check Part 2

Upcoming subjects in this series: Choosing Pantone Colors, Choosing Paper, Getting Estimates on printing and finishing, Getting a sign off on your print order, Reviewing a digital proof, Doing A Press check.

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