Printing Press

Our definitive guide to commercial printing presses

Let’s start with a quick overview of types of printing presses that are used by commercial printers for the majority of print today. You’ve got Digital, Sheet-Fed and Web-Offset. We’ll look at each one individually to give you a more comprehensive idea of what and how they produce.

Digital Printing Press

Digital printing is a fast and cost-effective way of printing items but at great quality. Its ideal for your smaller print runs and for items with variation, like peronalisation in what is being printed. Items such as advertising mailers with individual names and addresses are projects suited to digital printing.

The way digital printing works is through the use of toners, injet heads of lasers. Toners are fused onto the paper, inkjet heads use droplets of ink dotted onto the paper and lasers use an electrostatic plate. Advances in digital printing technology means that quality is improving all the time and is comparable to sheet-fed and web offset results.

Digital printing is fantastic for quick turnaround items, as it can take as little as 24hrs. There is no need for lengthy set up of plates as digital technology is used instead.

Sheet fed printing Press

Sheet fed printing is good for heavier paper and will allow for additional spot colours and varnishes to be applied (e.g. pantone or gold detailing) which makes it perfect for printing covers. Despite its name, sheet fed can use paper reels (cut-star) and sheets and lends itself to volume printing such as leaflets and brochures using paper weights over 115gsm. In comparison, there is typically less waste generated than there would be if using the web offset printing process. Because the ink is not heatset on the paper, the ink oxidises to bind into the paper to give a more matt finish than in heatset web offset. Also, because in sheet fed printing each part of the process is independent, printer issues don’t hamper cutting or binding which can be the case for web offset printing.  


Web offset – Heatset or Coldset

Web offset printing is a fast and economical print process for high volume or high pagination print products. Typically magazines, direct mail catalogues and holiday brochures are printed using this process and tend to use a lighter weight (sub 70gsm) paper stock. Its a great process for larger print runs or higher paginations because both printing and folding happens in-line. Web offset presses can be configured to produce press finished (trimmed and bound) magazines or catalogues.

Heatset web offset uses an oven to dry the ink on the paper as it is printed, which creates a glossy finish because the ink isn’t absorbed into the paper.  The heat can cause the paper to flute or ripple slightly and web growth can occur after the paper has been cut to size.  Web growth happens over a period of time, occurring as moisture is reabsorbed by the heatset printed paper . This can lead to the paper expanding slightly in comparison to a sheetfed printed cover.  

In coldset web offset the ink is fixed as it is absorbed into the uncoated newsprint paper.  Coldset web offset is typically for newspapers. 

This guide is a ‘rule of thumb’ so please contact us on 01323 419701 to discuss your project or email

Whether you are looking for catalogue printing, brochure printing or a professional magazine printer we can advise you on which options will provide the quality and pricing you require.   

Feel free to look at our other blog posts on Brochure Printing, Fulfilment, Direct Mailing, Paper and Printing