Rolls Royce among screen

Magazine printing machines

Simple artwork comparing relief, gravure, and offset printing.

What is printing?

Printing means reproducing words or images on paper, card, plastic, fabric, or another material. It can involve anything from making a single reproduction of a priceless painting to running off millions of copies of the latest Harry Potter. Why is it called printing? The word "printing" ultimately comes a Latin word, premĕre, which means to press; just about every type of printing involves pressing one thing against another.

A potato print of a red cross.Although there are many different variations, typically printing involves converting your original words or artwork into a printable form, called a printing plate, which is covered in ink and then pressed against pieces of paper, card, fabric, or whatever so they become faithful reproductions of the original. Some popular forms of printing, such as photocopying and inkjet and laser printing, work by transferring ink to paper using heat or static electricity and we won't discuss them here; the rest of this article is devoted to traditional printing with presses and ink.

Printing is hard, physical work so it's usually done with the help of a machine called a printing press. The simplest (and oldest) kind of press is a large table fitted with an overhead screw and lever mechanism that forces the printing plate firmly against the paper. Hand-operated presses like this are still occasionally used to produce small volumes of printed materials. At the other end of the scale, modern presses used to print books, newspapers, and magazines use cylinder mechanisms rotating at high-speed to produce thousands of copies an hour.

Types of printing

The three most common methods of printing are called relief (or letterpress), gravure (or intaglio), and offset. All three involve transferring ink from a printing plate to whatever is being printed, but each one works in a slightly different way. First, we'll compare the three methods with a quick overview and then we'll look at each one in much more detail.

Type hammers in a typewriter showing metal letters in relief Solna offset printing press. A man operates an old mechanical offset printing press. Bottles of black, cyan, magenta, and yellow ink used for four-color printing.
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Source: www.explainthatstuff.com
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