The Pros and Cons of Digital Label Printing
The good, the bad and your custom printed labels
Pros of digital label printing
Smaller Quantities – Since digital presses do not require plates and the prepress time is less by virtue of the digital process, the initial setup cost is minimized which makes it more cost effective to print a short run of labels. This is ideal for small businesses, startups, labels with multiple, unique versions or labels with dates or elements that will change frequently.
Design Options – Digital presses enable full-color, vibrant CMYK printing, as well as custom shapes and sizes at a fraction of the cost to produce these labels via the flexographic method. Registration is much tighter and gradients are smooth and seamless. Graphics can be supplied in either high-res raster or vector formats, which is helpful for those working in Photoshop (although vector is always the preferred format for print output)
Faster Timelines – Digitally-printed labels are often turned around faster than flexo CMYK or multiple spot colors because plates do not need to be created and there is less set up time at press.
Less Waste – Due to the precision and functionality of digital printers, it’s easier to arrange unique sizes and shapes to fit the material within the web thereby reducing substrate waste.
Cost – Although custom printing is never “cheap”, digital printing can produce four color process labels for less cost than flexo CMYK labels. CMYK flexo plates are expensive and there is more time spent by the press operator to prepare them for printing.
Cons of digital label printing
Color Variance – Due to the nature of CMYK printing, color output can vary from printer to printer and run to run, so there may be ink shade differences on labels from different digital printers or even on repeat orders from the same printer. Press operators can color test and make adjustments to ensure consistent output and match specified PMS colors, but if color is paramount to you, be sure to provide a printed sample or the PMS values for your label. It’s important to match print to print and not rely on computer screens for accurate depiction of color.
Fewer Substrate and Ink Options – Although many paper and poly options exist for digital printing, the full gamut of substrates that are available for flexo printers may not be available for digital labels. As well, metallic inks that are achieved through foil or resin are not compatible with most digital printers. If what you desire is a full color label with a shiny cooper leaf, this would have to be produced on a flexo press and it will be pricey.