Modern printing methods such as laser and ink-jet printing are known as digital printing. In digital printing, an image is sent directly to the printer using digital files such as PDFs and those from graphics software such as Illustrator and InDesign. This eliminates the need for a printing plate, which is used in offset printing, which can save money and time.
Without the need to create a plate, digital printing has brought about fast turnaround times and printing on demand. Instead of having to print large, pre-determined runs, requests can be made for as little as one print. While offset printing still often results in slightly better quality prints, digital methods are being worked on at a fast rate to improve quality and lower costs.
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 self-mailers, brochures or postcard campaigns.