Digital printing. What is it? Types and applications

Impresión digital

Digital printing, what is it?

Digital printing, what is it?

Digital printing is the process of printing digital images on a variety of substrates directly. No printing plate required. Digital documents such as PDF or desktop publishing documents can be sent directly to the digital press for printing on paper, photo paper, canvas, fabric, synthetics, cardstock and other substrates.

The prices of digital printing, at the beginning are cheaper than in the case of traditional printing, achieving a better price for low quantity prints. Additionally, with digital printing you can have greater personalization, also allowing the use of special inks, embossed, metallic, fluorescent, etc.

Digital printing history

 Johannes Gutenberg

The history of digital printing is short compared to printing in general, dating back to 1439, when German businessman Johannes Gutenberg developed a printing press that began volume production of books. The first digital printing presses were on the market in the early 1990s.

In 1993, Benny Landa launched the first digital printing press, his E-Print 1000 digital press. This created a great revolution in the world of printing as customers could opt for short-term, personalized and high-quality printing directly from the desktop.

Types of digital printing

Types of digital printing


Inkjet printing uses a printer created to copy an image from a computer or digital device and reproduce it on paper or plastic. The printer works in a complex way, sending hundreds of small jets of ink on the paper to achieve the desired image. Recommended for printing brightly colored text and images. This category is part of modern digital printing systems.


Laser printing is created to reproduce an image from a digital device using a laser. As it is being processed, the laser is moved back and forth by means of a table inside the printer. This develops static electricity, which releases ink on the page and prints the desired image. This category is part of modern digital printing systems.

Digital press

This type of digital printing is the digital counterpart of the traditional press and is created to handle high volume orders immediately while offering high quality finishes but is a more expensive printing than inkjet printing.

Some additional types of digital printing include:

Dye sublimation

Dye-sublimation is a process that supports printing on fabric, plastic, and synthetic material. Which is based on transferring heat to apply an image on the predetermined substrate.

Solid ink

Solid ink is a digital printing mechanism used in computer printers and multifunctional devices. The printer cartridges are filled with solid ink sticks and loaded into a solid ink printer. When printing is done, the bars are heated to the melting point with the ink and then passed onto the paper to generate the desired print.

Thermal wax

It is a type of print that uses heat to transfer a print to paper.

UV Digital Printing

It is a new type of printing that consists of using ink on the materials (plastic, wood, metal, ceramic, etc.), with the ability to dry almost immediately using a burst of ultraviolet light through the LEDs of the printing machine. . This technique can be used for small volumes without color limits and with high quality.

Large format printing

Large format printing is a type of digital printing that covers any print between 18 “and 120” in size such as a poster or larger. If a print is larger than 120 ″, it can also be called “large format”.

Without large format printing, be it analog or digital, printing most architectural plans, banners, posters, trade show graphics, paintless murals, backlit displays, and wallpapers would be difficult or impossible.

Large format printing can be done on two different types of devices: roll printers, suitable for flexible substrates such as vinyl, and flatbed printers, for rigid substrates that can be laid flat on a table, (anything from paper , foam board, cardboard and PVC to less conventional printed materials like wood and metal).

Small format printing

Digital printing is cost effective and time efficient, generally when printing small amounts of content. In particular, small-format digital printing is the best choice when you require flexibility to make constant changes to your design, as you can avoid the setup fees associated with producing a new offset printing plate.

Digital textile printing

Digital textile printers use digital technologies, just like your home printer. The digital textile printing process has many similarities to that of conventional textile printing: the fabric is selected and pre-treated, then it will pass through the printer at high speed and finally it will be steamed, washed and dried.

Although instead of pressing the different pre-mixed colors of dye onto the fabric through rotating screens that each have their own engraved pattern, the digital textile printer uses an image or design from a graphic data file, it reads the color information using a LAB or RGB system and then it will print the desired color onto the fabric with tiny drops of ink.

Digital printing advantages and disadvantages

Digital printing advantages and disadvantages


  • One of the most important advantages is the high quality finish.
  • The process is much faster than most traditional printing methods.
  • Shorter response time and minimal configuration requirements help speed up the entire process.
  • Consistency is another advantage. Every print is the same when you use this method. Very few variations and less waste are found as a result of not having to balance ink and water during printing.
  • Ecology of the process. No need to use film plates and photographic chemicals as there are no prepress steps.
  • It is very strong in on-demand production
  • Short prints run fast and cost-effectively
  • It is ideal for customization. If you want to easily modify images and messages using variable data printing (VDP), then digital printing is the only way to go.


  • Although the price of digital printing is quite low, when it comes to a high volume of prints, this method is very expensive.
  • Despite having a color palette that supports a wide color gamut, digital printers do not support metallic inks.
  • Digital printing still does not match the color quality of traditional offset printers as they use a four-color process, while traditional offset printers use PMS and inks to provide color accuracy.
  • Although most inks fade in direct sunlight, inks used in digital printing fade much faster.
  • Although there is no initial setup involved and no labor costs, digital printers must be periodically checked and kept up-to-date to function properly. This ends up being worth more than the actual print.
  • Digital press inks are not fully absorbed into the paper, which means cracks in color can appear along the edges when the part is bent. This is not a problem in traditional offset printing.
  • Digital printing presses do not offer the full range of paper, ink and finishing options like offset printing.

Digital printing examples

Some applications or examples of digital printing are described below:

  • Desktop printing – includes affordable home and office printing
  • Commercial – Stationery – Includes business cards, letterheads
  • Variable data printing – use database-based print files for mass customization of printed materials
  • Exhibition prints from real photographic paper and giclee prints on watercolor paper with pigment-based inks.
  • Personalized printing, for example personalized children’s books with a child’s name, photo books (such as wedding photo books) or any other book.
  • Advertising on outdoor banners and event signage, at trade shows, in the retail sector at the point of sale or point of purchase, and in personalized direct mail campaigns.
  • Photo printing revolutionizing the ability to retouch and correct the color of a photo before printing.
  • Digitally printed wall murals and floor graphics to transform indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • To add foils, holographic effects, or glossy and opaque finishes through digital ink adhesion. This is done by digitally printing a black area where the user wants the elegant design to occur. The printer records this and only sticks to this specific area.
  • Digital printing of personalized banners.
  • Digital printing of personalized catalogs.

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