Knowing what happens after you send your files to the printer and how to choose the appropriate printing method for a job is just as important. The main distinction in printing technologies is between those that require a master (conventional printing) and those that do not require a printing plate, otherwise known as non-impact printing (NIP).
Letterpress means the printing elements of the printing plate are raised above the non-printing elements. The printing elements are coated with a layer of ink (directly or indirectly) followed by the transfer of ink to the substrate whereas the non- printing elements are recessed and remain ink free. In practice, letterpress also includes other forms such as wood engravings, photo-etched zinc “cuts” (plates) and linoleum blocks, which can be used alongside metal or wood type. Offset printing is the major lithographic technology, which falls under the category of indirect printing meaning ink is first transferred from the printing plate onto a flexible intermediate carrier or blanket and then onto the substrate. It’s called offset because the image does not go directly to the paper from the plates.
The printing elements are the areas where ink is forced through the printing master – in this case a screen. The non-image areas are made impermeable to ink by a blocking stencil. The screen is generally made of fine fabric such as silk, plastic or metal fibers and threads which is then stretched over a wooden or aluminum frame. It is placed on top of the substrate (fabric, paper etc.) that is held in place. Ink is placed on top of the screen, and a squeegee (rubber blade) is used to push the ink evenly into the screen openings and onto the substrate. The ink penetrates the open spaces in the screen onto the substrate. The frame is then lifted away and then the squeegee is pushed back across the screen.
As a graphic designer you will come across a client in need of a design for print. Knowing the printing process, the costs, and limitations can help you as a designer to not only create amazing designs, but also answer any questions and guide your client to give them the best possible solutions that are affordable and effective.
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