What Does

Shifting Mean?

From a dictionary perspective to "Shift" means to move or cause movement from one place to another. It can also mean a slight change in position, tendency, or direction. In the world of printing, "Shifting" is a term used to describe how our prints can move slightly from our sheets to the next.

Shifting (Alignment)

As smart as our printing technology is today, there are still minimal imperfections that are just unavoidable when it comes to print. Shifting is simply a part of the printing industry when it comes to digital and offset processes.

As paper moves through our printers, the sheets are subject to move slightly or "Shift" from left to right which causes prints and graphics to come out printed on a slightly different spot every time on each sheet.

This is the reason why we printers require bleed, safety margins, and other artwork outlines to check and double check that the prints won't be affected by the slight "Shifting" during the print process.

The minimum tolerance 1.60mm of shifting. However, depending on the specific stock you want to print on. Some stocks may have larger shift tolerances of up to 3.20mm Read More about Bleed, What, Why & How?

Considerations - Digital Output vs Offset

Digital printing and offset printing are two different kinds of process. Basically the same output but with one paying more attention to detail than the other.

Digital printing presses are functioned by rollers to create the movement and alignment of paper during the printing process. Since it utilizes a roller, the paper never stops as it is processed through the press which results in shifting and movement with the sheets. The output for every sheet becomes slightly different in position as a result of the shifting with Digital printing.

Offset printing on the other hand, uses a head stop and is equipped with a side guide to align the sheets of paper accordingly. The sheets are aligned and printed one at a time resulting in a printed image with more precise positioning and consistent from sheet to sheet. Overall, Offset printing has the most minimal shifting and produces much more uniform and accurate prints.

Digital Printing

  • If you're looking to just print on regular paper and cardstock, the Colour quality is excellent and ink dries instantly.
  • Paper size options ate limited. Common sheet size is 320mm x 450mm, with a max sheet size of up to 330mm x 1000mm for our small format digital printing presses.
  • for low-volume projects, fast turnaround.
  • 20-1000 greeting cards or other printed copies are far cheaper

Offset Printing

  • If you want to printing on another material or need sizing larger that 13x19 inches for your print job, offset printing is best. The Colour quantity is perfect. The Ink takes longer to dry however.
  • You can print on many different type of papers and materials. You can also use gradients, mettalics and flourescents.
  • Offset Printing can handle high-volume projects, time needs to allotted for plating and ink drying time.
  • 1000+ A4 Flyers printed copies, while not always offset printing is often more economical. Greater volume lowers your price significantly. 

Paper Stocks

When it comes to paper stocks, the way paper feeds through our presses, shifting can happen more often with thicker stocks compared to thinner paper.
Ask us more about our paper stocks and we'll be happy to discuss the best stock to minimalise the shifting for your product.


Although shifting is usually not noticeable, with designs that include borders or perfect straight lines this may be pushed off center or may appear crooked from digital print process.

This is the reason why we don't recommend printing anything with borders as we cannot guarantee that they will be aligned for each print. This can also apply to fine foil designs.


Custom prints that require special finishes or additional production processes such as spot UV, foiling, etc. may appear to be misaligned due to the unavoidable shifting.

As mentioned there may be shifting during the initial printing process and then once passed on to the next production stage for the special finishes, these shifted prints may be shifted again resulting in inconsistent design alignments and movement up to .04" in any direction.

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