If you are contacting a professional printer for the first time, you may have heard of several different kinds of printing processes, but may not have been sure how each actually works. The good news is that you no longer have to wonder about the differences between them; simply read on and learn more.
Understand This First
It is important to consider that there is much more to the printing of anything, including inkjet labels than simply transferring images and words to paper. Paper is, in effect, a carrier of a message. However, it also offers an experience; one of holding and feeling of the paper. There are many types of paper, and choosing the right one for your needs is crucial for a successful printing run.
Gravure is a printing process whereby an image is transformed into tiny dots that are halftone in colour. Gravure printing is most commonly used where long runs are needed, such as those of packaging and publications. Gravure printing consists of a plate cylinder with tiny ink-holding cells. Excess ink is scraped off of the plate with a blade as the press runs, which leaves ink in the cells only.
Offset printing is by far the most popular type of professional printing due to its high cost-effectiveness. This type of printing involves roller plates being run through water before they are run through ink. Water adheres to the white spaces of a layout, while ink adheres to image, design and text areas. The plates are pressed to a rubber plate prior to printing on paper. Although high quantities can be printed much faster than with other types, changes are not easily made once the plate has already been made.
This printing type is exceedingly versatile. Today’s screen printing process allows for longer production runs and produces accurate and brilliant colours, as well as consistency in each. In this process, the ink is shot through a mesh fabric with a squeegee type blade onto the material being printed.
This type of printing only needs zinc oxide-coated paper, and not plates or ink. Short print runs work best with electrostatic printing, and can print faster than an inkjet printer. The zinc oxide provides insulation in dark conditions and acts as a conductor when exposed to light.
Letterpress printing used to be the standard. Today, this type of printing is often chosen where speciality printing is needed, such as that for posters, fine art prints and books. In letterpress printing, the image area is raised above the rest of the plate, causing the image to make a physical impression.
Engraving involves raising or engraving the images being printed for a more attractive and defined image. This process is usually reserved for speciality items like invitations or corporate logos due to its complexity and high cost.
Also known as flexo and flexographic printing, this process uses plates that have been photo-etched to remove non-image areas, which are then transferred via ink to the material being printed. Flexography works best for media that exists in roll form, such as plastics, newsprint and foil.
The once-meticulous process of printing has been transformed since 1439, when Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type. Since that time, there have also been numerous advances in technology, which resulted in the several printing processes above. Whether it’s a book or corporate logo, it cannot be argued that there are many types of printing to choose from. Understanding each type can help you to make a more informed decision about the printing type that’s best for you.