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Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small run jobs from desktop publishing and other digitalsources are printed using large format and/or high volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods but this price is usually offset by the cost saving in avoiding all the technical steps in between needed to make printing plates. It also allows for on demand printing, short turn around, and even a modification of the image (variable data) with each impression.The savings in laboUr and ever increasing capability of digital presses means
digital printing is reaching a point where it could match or supersede offset printing technology's ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price

The main differences between digital printing and traditional methods such as lithography, flexography, gravure, or letterpress are that no printing plates are used, resulting in a quicker and less expensive turn around time, and typically a loss of some fine-image detail by most commercial digital printing processes. The most popular methods include inkjet or laser printers that deposit pigment or toner onto a wide variety of substrates including paper, photo paper, canvas, glass, metal, marble and other substances.
In many of the processes the ink or toner does not permeate the substrate, as does conventional ink, but forms a thin layer on the surface that may be additionally adhered to the substrate by using a fuser fluid with heat process (toner) or UV curing process (ink).

Digital printing has many advantages over traditional methods. Some applications of note include:

DESKTOP PUBLISHING – inexpensive home and office printing is only possible because of digital processes
that bypass the need for printing plates
VARIABLE DATA PRINTING – uses database-driven print files for the mass personalization of printed materials
FINE ART – archival digital printing methods include real photo paper exposure prints and giclée prints on
watercolour paper using pigment based inks.
PRINT ON DEMAND– digital printing is used for personalized printing for example, children's books customized
with a child's name, photo books (such as wedding photo books), or any other short run books of varying page
quantities and binding techniques.
ADVERTISING – often used for outdoor banner advertising and event signage, in trade shows, in the retail
sector at point of sale or point of purchase, and in personalized direct mail campaigns.
PHOTOS – digital printing has revolutionized photo printing in terms of the ability to retouch and colour
correct a photograph before printing.


Variable-data printing (VDP) (also known as variable-information printing (VIP) or VI) is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file. For example, a set of personalized letters, each with
the same basic layout, can be printed with a different name and address on each letter. Variable data printing is mainly used for direct marketing, customer relationship management, advertising, invoicing and applying addressing on selfmailers, brochures or postcard campaigns.

VDP is a direct outgrowth of digital printing, which harnesses computer databases and digital print devices and highly effective software to create high-quality, full color documents, with a look and feel comparable to conventional offset printing. Variable data printing enables the mass customization of documents via digital print technology, as opposed to the 'mass-production' of a single document using offset lithography. Instead of producing 10,000 copies of a single document, delivering a single message to 10,000 customers, variable data printing could print 10,000 unique documents with customized messages for each customer.
The returns for variable printing vary from double the normal return at the basic level to 10-15 times the return for fully variable jobs (needs source). This naturally depends on content and the relevancy of that content, but the technique presents an effective tool for increasing ROI on marketing campaigns.
There are several levels of variable printing. The most basic level involves changing the salutation or name on each copy much like mail merge. More complicated variable data printing uses 'versioning', where there may be differing amounts of customization for different markets, with text and images changing for groups of addresses based upon which segment of the market is being addressed. Finally there is full variability printing, where the text and images can be altered for each individual address. All variable data printing begins with a basic design that defines static elements and variable fields for the pieces to be printed. While the static elements appear exactly the same on each piece, the variable fields are filled in with text or images as dictated by a set of application and style rules and the information contained in the database.