Digital printing and litho printing. What’s the difference?

Published by Northside • 30th May 2018

The Different Between Digital and Litho Printing

We’re often asked about the difference between litho printing and digital printing. They’re by far the two most common forms of print used in marketing and each uses completely different methods to produce your finished, printed job. Litho printing has been around for much longer, dating back to 1796 in some forms. Digital printing became popular towards the end of the 20th century and in recent years huge leaps in technology have seen digital print widely used for everything from flyers, stickers and leaflets to brochures or books. So what’s the difference and why choose one over the other?

Print quality

Traditionally, litho printing was said to be better for printing large blocks of solid colour. However, with the advancements in modern digital printing technology it’s often hard to tell the difference between jobs printed digitally and those printed using litho.

Litho and digital printing each use different finishing techniques. In litho printing the ink soaks into the paper whereas digital presses print on the surface of the paper. This means the same colour might appear slightly different when printed litho as the ink takes on some of the appearance of the paper used.

Turnaround time

Turnaround is generally faster with digital printing because there’s no set up or drying time. When printing very large quantities on a litho press the process runs more quickly than with digital. However, there will still be time required for drying and the entire litho process from set up to completion can take several days compared to digital print which can take as little as one working day.


Litho print uses plates that are used to apply cyan, magenta, yellow and black to a rubber roller which in turn applies the ink to the paper. This means there is time and cost involved in the setting up of your job before print.

Digital print works like an exceptionally high quality laser printer or photocopier in that there is no set up required. The job is simply loaded and the cost only begins when the operator presses “print”. The customer is charged based on the amount of copies and ink used.

When you go digital – choose Northside Graphics

Launched 30 years ago, Northside Graphics is Northern Ireland’s oldest and largest digital printing company. We use only market leading HP Indigo presses that produce exceptional colour and image reproduction every time. We’re based right here in Belfast and our team are dedicated to delivering professional quality print when and where you need it. Visit our website to see the range of products we supply or contact us for a quote on 028 9022 2111 today.