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What is Small Format Digital Printing?

According to Wikipedia* digital printing refers to the printing process that transfer images directly onto a media. So unlike traditional and more costly offset methods requiring a metal printing plate, digital deposits the ink or toner directly onto the desired substrate. ‘Small Format’ refers to the physical sheet size the machine can handle, usually restricted to an oversized A3.


Traditionally, digital has been the ‘go to’ for smaller printed quantities. Depending on the dimensions, flyers and brochures of up to a few thousand copies, and books to a few hundred, but we think choosing to print digitally based only on quantity is selling yourself short of its real capabilities.

Ever considered personalising your print? Because of the direct transfer process in digital, every sheet can potentially be different, either with variable text or variable images. These campaigns stand out from their static competitors and see higher response rates and better return on investment. Variable Data Printing (VDP) is one of the often overlooked benefits exclusive to digital.

Newer machines like Printcraft’s HP Indigo 7500 also have a few extra tricks under the bonnet. White ink, and a clear raised varnish add an extra ‘tactile’ dimension.  Watch out for our upcoming White & Clear promotion highlighting this elegant varnish and white ink option.


There are however some considerations if you’re planning to print your work on a small format digital press.   

PAPER – not all paper is the same and the water content and surface make some stocks more suitable for digital printing than others. It’s best to check with your supplier what can and can’t be used on their specific equipment but there are several ranges produced exclusively for digital print purposes. Check out KW Doggett for paper stocks suitable for small format digital presses.

PRINT QUALITY – although machines like the HP Indigo have taken us long way from the waxy, gloss finish of the early days, it’s important to understand the differences in quality between digital and offset printing. Solid colours, gradients and very fine text can be tricky to reproduce, and images can often look ‘over saturated’ with colour. Generally print is CMYK only and any PMS critical colours should always be discussed with your supplier.


SHEET SIZE – if you’re looking to print a short run of books or presentation folders something to note is the sheet size of your supplier’s digital press, as most run an oversized A3.  One of the few digital presses on the market with an extra large footprint is the Xerox Igen with a 660 x 430mm sheet.

FINISHING – Again, technology has put almost all finishing and embellishment options within the reach of small format digital presses, but it’s still important to discuss these with your supplier before you hand over the artwork. Some laminates and foils may not adhere to the toner on digitally printed sheets, and others lay down a silicon coating making them unsuitable for glue based binding methods.


To recap, here are the facts to consider when it comes to digital printing and when it should be the recommended print choice.

  • Run size

  • Personalisation and variable printing

  • Binding and finishing requirements

  • Print quality or special PMS ink colours

  • Size of your product

Printcraft has two small format digital printing presses. A HP Indigo with white ink and raised varnish options, producing our premium quality work; and the ‘larger sheet size’ Xerox Igen. Contact us for pricing, samples or just to understand more about the benefits of choosing the digital option for you next print job.

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