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When you work with Mid-Atlantic Packaging to create custom bags and boxes for your brand, you’ll quickly discover that you have many options from which to choose.

For instance, you’ll need to decide which printing technique makes the most sense for your packaging. Our packaging design experts can provide useful guidance for your specific situation. In the meantime, let’s explore offset printing, and why its use frequently is the best choice for packaging applications.

What Is Offset Printing?

This printing press technique is a popular one that has been around for a long time. Accordingly, the associated technology is highly developed and perfected, which means that you can be certain of excellent results every time you choose offset printing for your packaging.

Why is offset printing “offset?” It’s because the printing ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber roller, or blanket, before being applied to the printing surface. Sometimes called offset lithography, this technique frequently is used on custom printed boxes, especially when a large number of these boxes is needed. This is because offset printing provides outstanding quality for minimal expense.

The History of Offset Printing

Way back in the 18th century, inventors developed lithography as a means of reproducing artwork and texts from the theater. The printing plates were made of limestone in those days, hence the name “lithography,” which translates to “printed from stone.” Lithography’s innovators took advantage of the fact that oil and water do not mix. Accordingly, parts of the image that require ink attract ink while other portions of the design attract a film called “fountain solution” that is water-based, thereby preventing ink from coloring these areas.

By 1875, inventor Robert Barclay had patented a rotary offset lithographic printing press. Using tin instead of limestone, the machine married traditional lithography with a rotary printing press, which was first developed in 1790.

Ira Washington Rubel expanded on Barclay’s invention, though he did so unintentionally. Through a lucky accident, Rubel discovered that the introduction of a rubber blanket to the process made the resulting images much sharper and clearer.

Rubel’s discovery came about just after the turn of the 20th century, and it would prove to be a watershed event. Prior to his discovery, lithography was falling by the wayside in favor of photography, but Rubel’s revolutionary method brought offset printing surging back to popularity.

The technique remains popular today, with brands choosing offset printing when they need items printed in high volumes and with excellent print quality.

How Is Offset Printing Used Today?

Many ordinary items are printed using this technique. Among these are:

  • Books
  • Brochures
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Stationery

Why do so many mass-produced printed items take advantage of offset lithography? It’s because offset printing produces high-quality finished products in a timely manner. Moreover, there’s no need to babysit the offset printing process. Little maintenance is required once the printing has begun. Much of the ease of using offset printing is owed to the fact that most offset presses today rely on computer-to-plate systems, reducing the need for hands-on work while still providing outstanding quality.

How Does Offset Printing Compare to Other Printing Methods?

Some of the reasons why the packaging design experts at Mid-Atlantic Packaging frequently recommend the use of offset printing are:

  • The technique offers consistently high-quality images.
  • Producing printing plates is now quick and easy.
  • Printing plates now last longer than they used to thanks to improvements to the technique.
  • This technique simply is the most affordable method for achieving high-quality images in commercial quantities.

How is offset printing able to offer such consistent image quality? It is mostly because of the rubber blanket, which perfectly conforms to the printing surface, unlike other printing techniques.

Making new plates for a project is much easier and less expensive than most companies realize. Once they are made, each one can be used to make in excess of one million impressions.

What About Digital Printing?

Representatives from brands that need new or updated packaging frequently come to us with a decided preference for digital printing or offset printing. The reality is that either of these methods are excellent choices for the right applications.

It’s necessary to understand that digital printing and offset printing are two separate processes. While offset printing requires wet ink and printing plates, digital printing is accomplished directly from electronic files on a computer, making it more akin to “copying” than actual printing.

Initially, it takes longer to get started with offset printing because the plates need to be made, and it is necessary to allow some drying time before the resulting packaging is complete. Despite the extra startup time needed, offset printing is the more economical choice, especially if you need to print large quantities of a desired image or design.

Let’s say that you order new boxes from Mid-Atlantic Packaging, each of which will feature a design that is transferred to the box using offset printing. You may pay extra to have the plate or plates made, and this process will take time. However, if that particular box design is incredibly successful, then you won’t need to have other plates made for a very long time. You can simply keep reusing the plates.

Brands may opt for digital printing when ordering things such as posters, business cards, or brochures. Basically, digital printing is a more sensible choice for shorter production runs. Moreover, it’s worth noting that although offset printing and digital printing can produce images of similar quality, you have far more color options with offset printing than you do with digital printing.

In a side-by-side comparison, the image quality produced by offset printing is always superior to that of digital printing. You’ll see typography that is clean and distinctive as well as images that are incredibly vivid. Offset printing also is the way to go if getting the colors of your design precisely right is critical.

Keep in mind as well that offset printing can be used on virtually any material. If you want your custom design to be applied to various print mediums, then offset printing is definitely the way to go.

What Is Your Timeline?

If you are up against a tight deadline, then offset printing may not be the perfect solution at the present time. Creating plates and getting other portions of the process underway does take extra time. Consequently, you may want to consider digital printing or another option if new printing plates are needed.

Of course, if your brand already has printing plates, then completing a large run of custom packaging with a really short turnaround time will be much faster and easier. Remember that once printing plates are in place, large jobs completed with offset printing are far more economical than just about any other printing option.

Does Material Matter for Your Project?

Some printing techniques excel when they are used only on certain materials. However, that is not the case with offset printing, which can be used on a surprisingly wide variety of materials. If you are hoping to print on a packaging material that will really stand out from the crowd, then offset printing truly is the way to go.

Ask the experts at Mid-Atlantic Packaging about all of the material options that are available and how they can be customized to suit your brand’s personality and values.

Is Color Important?

Some brands place an extremely high value on a specific color. Think of Tiffany Blue and Target’s signature red, which the company has registered as a trademark.

These brands and others can be recognized almost solely based on their use of color. Digital and other printing methods cannot really hope to achieve the precise shade of blue, red, or any other hue that may be essential to your brand’s identity. This means that it is essential that you take the time to choose offset printing. It’s simply impossible to duplicate the incredible array of colors that is available to you with this tried-and-true printing technique.

How Many Finished Items Do You Need?

Whether you need boxes, bags, or some other kind of packaging, size matters. Specifically, if you require 500 or more pieces, then offset printing just makes more sense. Although creating new plates may represent an additional upfront expense, when you need large runs of packaging, offset printing is the more economical choice.

Is Offset Printing Right for Your Project?

Do you still have questions about offset printing and whether or not it is the right choice for your upcoming project? If so, just give us a call. At Mid-Atlantic Packaging, we specialize in helping brands to distinguish themselves through custom packaging solutions. Our design team can help you make the choices that make the most sense for your business.