You may have already heard of litho and digital printing techniques, but are unsure about how they differ and which method you should use. This article will explain the differences between the two and which is best for leaflet printing.

Lithographic Press

Lithographic printing is the older of the two methods of printing, using similar principles to Gutenberg’s press in 1450. However, the latest litho printing presses are very modern and fast, being able to print thousands of pages per minute.

Lithographic printing is perfect for leaflet printing projects that require high numbers of copies. This is because there is an initial set up cost associated with this method, where a printing plate needs to be created before any pages can be printed. However, after this initial cost, printing is very cheap. After a certain point, litho printing becomes a very cost effective method of printing large numbers of leaflets.

Digital Press

The digital press is a newer type of printing press developed in the 1990s. It is essentially an enlarged industrial sized version of the colour laser printer you probably have in your office or at home.

Digital printing is perfect for leaflet printing projects that only require small runs. This is because there is no set up cost associated with digital printing, unlike lithographic printers. This means each page costs the same amount to produce. Per unit, it shouldn't cost much more to print one page verses 1000. However, the cost per page is higher than litho printing beyond a certain point, where litho becomes more cost effective.

Digital printing is also great if you need to produce multiple versions of the same leaflet. For example, you may have three shops in different locations, and want a brochure for each. Digital printing makes it cheap to print different versions of this leaflet with different maps or contact details.

Leaflet printing is more popular than ever due to their low cost but high ROI, however there are three important things to consider to make sure your finished leaflet is perfect for printing! We’ll look at what colour format you should use, what resolution, and why you need to add bleed area on your design.

Colour Format

Picking the right colour format is very important when it comes to printing. Most digital designers use RGB colour, which is designed specifically for use on-screen. However, when it comes to leaflet printing, a different colour format has to be used. This is because RGB is a ‘subtractive’ colour format and only works on screens. Using this on print would result in the wrong shade colours being displayed once the design was printed.

Leaflet designs should instead use CMYK colour, which is an ‘additive’ colour format specifically for printing. This will ensure your colours will look right once they are printed, which is especially important when your brand’s image and look needs to remain consistent.


Another important thing to consider is resolution. Print designs can use might higher resolutions than what is usually used on web or computer graphics. Resolution for print is measured in DPI or dots per inch. Web designers usually design at 72DPI, or 72 dots per inch, however printing out a document at this resolution would look horrific on paper. Leaflet printing projects require 300DPI, which is nearly four times the quality level. This is because unlike a computer screen, paper has no pixels. As a result quality can and should be much higher than images designed for the web.

Bleed Area

The final thing to consider is bleed area. This is important because when pages are printed and then cut, the exact location of the cut can vary by between 1 and 5mm per page. As a result, you need to include some tolerance on the edges of your design so that if there is any variation in where the page’s cut is made, the design won’t be affected.

A bleed area is essentially a blank area with no design on it. The best thing to do is to avoid adding any kind of border to your design and make sure there is no text within 5mm of the edge of your page’s border.


    Desmond Daniels

    Desmond has worked in the printing industry for over 30 years. He has a wealth of knowledge on everything from home inkjet printers to screen printing and industrial litho printers. Desmond currently works as a domestic cleaner but likes to print documents in his spare time.


    April 2013