We use the word "shifting" to describe how a printed image can move slightly from one sheet to the next. As paper moves through a printing press, the sheet itself may move to the left or right which causes the graphic to be in a slightly different spot on each sheet. Shifting in print is minimal but unavoidable in digital and offset processes. Shifting is the main reason why bleed, and safety margins are necessary for many designs.
The standard acceptable tolerance is 1/16" or .0625" of shifting. However, some specific stocks will have larger shift tolerances of up to 1/8" or .125
Digital Output vs Offset
Digital printing presses use rollers to move and align paper during the printing process. Because the paper never stops as it travels through the press, shifting and movement can occur. The least amount of shifting takes place with offset printing. Offset printing uses a headstop and a side guide to squarely align the sheets of paper one at a time so the printed image stays consistent from sheet to sheet. Offset printing has minimal shifting overall and produces more uniform prints overall.
On average, thicker paper stocks will cause a print to shift more than thinner papers.
Our exclusive line of stocks such as wood, pulp, and thicker stocks (20pt+) are more prone to shifting as they are more rigid compared to standard papers.
Although shifting is usually minimal, designs with thin borders or perfectly straight lines can sometimes appear off center or crooked from our digital print process.
Custom products that require additional production processes after printing (such as applying spot UV, foil or emboss) may appear misregistered (misaligned) due to uncontrollable shifting in the previous production stages. In other words, registration of multiple printing techniques cannot be guaranteed - shifting of up to .04" in any direction may occur.
For example, if "Jukebox" from "Jukebox Print" needed to be foiled, we would print the word "Print" first, and then foil "Jukebox" after. The two words may not perfectly register (align) because the paper may shift during printing and foiling, which causes the position of the words to vary on the paper.
Registering printed artwork to a score line may also cause the artwork to appear misregistered (the artwork may shift slightly onto the next panel). This is due to unavoidable shifts between the trimming and folding processes. We recommend a safety margin of at least 0.125" from the folded edge.