What Is The Difference Between Lithography And Digital Printing? 

Difference Between Lithography And Digital Printing view


In the world of printing, there are two main methods of production – lithographic printing and digital printing. Each method uses a completely different technology and process, both of which have their own advantages and disadvantages.

It is important to understand the difference so you can decide which one will work for you and your printing needs.

Litho Printing

Lithographic printing is a wet ink process that uses fast-moving rollers, using printing plates as stencils on the printing paper. Litho printing is a traditional printing method that has been used since the 1700s. 

Today, litho printing has been modernised. Although there are still very few printers who use printing plates made from the traditional photographic process, most printers nowadays use the modern Computer-to-Plates system or CTP. 

The ink is transferred to the roller so the roller distributes the ink evenly to the paper. The ink used in litho printing is the thick liquid type instead of the toner powder type used in digital printing. 

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a dry powder process that uses a modern printing machine much like the printers we have in offices except they print much faster and to a very high quality.

It uses laser and heat transfer to infuse the toner powder into the printing paper. Digital printing produces high-quality images, vibrant and life-like colours.

LithographyDigital Printing
Lithographs are considered artwork that is printed using stone or metal platesA pictorial image (more than one copy exists)
Based on the principle that water and oil do not mixPrints are done by mechanical devices
Shows signs of irregularities in the dot pattern (can add character)Shows signs of mechanical reproduction with no irregularities in the dot pattern
Original pieces typically have signaturesPrints and reproduction will have no signature

Difference Between Lithography And Digital Printing machine

Which Is Faster?

Digital printing is by far quicker than lithographic printing because:

  • It requires minimal setup
  • It does not need print plates and inks
  • There is no drying time
  • After printing, the digital sheets can be sent straight to finishing, binding, lamination or packaging.

Which Is More Cost-Effective?

  • For short runs – for small scale printing, digital printing delivers substantial savings because it can be printed ‘on demand.’ Customers only need to buy the exact print quantities that they need. 
  • For large scale printing – Litho printing requires a minimum print quantity for it to be viable. Costs are all up-front not cost per item so the more copies you print the cheaper the cost becomes. 

Flexibility And Personalisation

Because digital printing uses modern technology, digital data is easy to change, edit or update. This means you can print an infinite number of personalised or customised versions of an image or design in one batch. 

Print Quality

With litho printing, you will need a high-resolution image to produce a high-quality print. The irregularities in the dot pattern can give the print character which can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time.

Digital printing can produce a high-quality print from low-resolution images. Digital prints offer vibrant and life-like colours and high-quality images.

Range Of Colours

For colour accuracy, Lithographic printing beats digital printing hands down. It can use gold and silver inks for a better finish too.

Although digital printing is now getting better at matching certain Pantones, it still has a long way to go when it comes to colour matching.

Difference Between Lithography And Digital Printing color range

Lead Time

Digital printers can make copies much faster than litho printing. Because there is no need to prepare plates and manually setup everything, digital printing can make 1 to 5000 copies in a very short time.


  • Digital Printing – offers a sharp and precise finish. 
  • Lithographic Printing – offers a softer finish.
Cost per copy is lower than digital (set-up charge)High setup cost (startup cost)Cost-effective for short print runsNo protective coating
Not limited to four colour processNot suitable for short print runsQuick turnaroundMore liable to crack when folded or creased (due to toner) 
Solid single colour (no pixels)Easily CustomisedMay cause bubbling or not adhering properly when laminated

Do you need help in deciding which is a better fit for your personal and business printing needs? Do you need assistance from design planning to print and packaging? Impact Digital is here to help you. 

Impact Digital has over 10 years of experience in delivering high-quality, fast turnaround, and environmentally sustainable printing.

If you are looking for the best quality digital business card printing with the most competitive prices, please contact us at Impact Digital today on (03) 9387 0999 or email us general@impactdigital.com.au 

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