Printing Techniques

I explored different printing techniques which would aid me when making my pages for my zine. I looked at the history of printing and the different techniques used:

Wood Block – The oldest for of letterpress, wood block printing has a long history in both Europe and Asia. An image is carved into wood in reverse, inked up, and paper is then pressed down on top, to transfer the image onto the paper. I looked at an interesting resources to gather information about wood block type

Moveable Type – Invented in the 15th century, moveable type is individual characters being arranged to make meaningful words on a letterpress. The type can be made of either wood or metal, and is hand crafted by craftsman. This technique meant that that printers could publish multiple copies of lengthy printed materials and books. It remained the most common printing technique until photo typesetting was invented around the 1950s

Letterpress – Still alive today, Letter presses work on a much smaller scale these days normally by specialty shops. A relief printing technique, where many copies are produced by repeated direct impression of inked, raised surface against sheets.

Phototypesetting – A process that became redundant after the invention of the personal computer and desktop publishing software. A photographic process to generate columns of type on a scroll of photographic paper

Offset Printing – Still one of the most commonly used methods of printing and is often called lithography. Its created by using plates generated for each colour in the printing proccess, CMYK. Some projects may require only two colours, where as 4 colours may be used for others. Offset printing is a lithographic process, based on the repulsion of oil and water.

Flexography – Doesn’t work with the standard plates of offset printing. Instead of repelling water, it uses water based inks which dry quicker and allow for faster production times. Essentially is the modern version of the letterpress that can used to print of almost any material such as plastic, metallic films, cellphane and paper.

Engraving – One of the most expensive and time consuming of all the printing techniques. The engraved image is first carved by hand or machine onto a metal plate. The engraved grooves are filled with ink and then paper is pressed onto it. The result is slightly raised, crisp images and saturated colours that are nearly impossible to reproduce with other techniques.

Thermography – This process involes laying ink down, adding thermography powder, then using heat to raise the image slightly off the page. The result is similar to engraving, though the final product has less finer details than the engraving process that are hard to spot to the untrained eye, but other professionals would pick out, however this proccess is more cost effective than the engraving technique.

Silkscreen Printing/ Screen printing – A design is laid on top of a screen (originally made of silk, although many different materials are used now) which is coated with photo emulsion and exposed to light. The exposed emulsion hardens, and the rest can be washed away, leaving a stencil that ink can be pulled through using a squeegee.

Inkjet – Most common solution within the modern day household, inkjet is the most feasible solution for small print runs. The process involves the printer communicating with a computer to digitally retrieve the image. The printer sprays ink onto the paper, usually using 4 to 8 inks in a CMYK process and can produce richly saturated colours on a variety of materials.

Digital – Uses toner, which instead of being absorbed into the paper, sits on top. while the quality of print has increased significantly since the original concept came about, it can’t match the quality of offset lithography in small details and colour-matching


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