A great deal of our black and white work is now going to our high-speed copiers. It is often faster and more economical than using offset printng, and the quality is comparable.
For envelopes (even black and white), one-color or multi-color letterhead and business forms, offset printing is still the best way to accomplish the job.
When you need full color work, you open another entire set of issues, the primary one being quantity, or run length. Full color digital imaging can be very cost effective for short runs (less than 500). Digital imaging uses the laser printing process and the same four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) that are used in offset printing of most full color work. Digital imaging costs more per image, but does not require printing plates or any setup at all, so it has a much, much lower fixed cost per job. That is why it is a great alternative for short, full color work.
When you start talking 1,000 pieces and more of full color printing, then offset printing is most likely to be the best approach. Hot Spot Printing will help you understand these choices.