Designers work collaboratively with writers or other content creators in order to finalize a design that suits client needs. Printers assume primary responsibility after the initial design is finalized, at which point they are responsible for elevating the design to a masterpiece of color rendition. This is so complex that there are actual degrees available for those who wish to pursue a career in the printing field, which combines the finesse of engineering with the skill of art. These skills are used to employ offset printing, as opposed to the letterpress and screen printing types that most people are familiar with.
Offset printing is most widely used for printing full color photos or artwork on paper, and it is absolutely essential to the commercial printing world. Offset printing works so well as a modern printing technique specifically because it operates on the premises that water and ink do not mix – and they don’t.
In ages past, lithographers would first engrave their image on a stone. Depending on the type of stone, they would then vary the use of water and ink to achieve a printed look, where the image would stay in one place without smearing to other areas of the stone.
Today, offset printing transfers an image from a printing plate to a rubber blanket. From the rubber blanket, the image is then transferred to the paper or other surface that may be printed on. During this process, printers apply a coating that is highly ink receptive. Afterwards, the plate is wet by water rollers, followed quickly by ink rollers, which allows the ink to stick to the image area and the water to stick to everywhere that is not the actual image. Printers carefully transfer this image to the rubber blanket.
Lastly, the paper is fed between the rubber blanket and the cylinder. This is the actual final “printing” process, as it transfers the image to the surface it will ultimately appear on.
One of the benefits of offset printing is the fact that it has almost no limitations. Tonal decisions can be customized for each project, including incredibly small fonts and highly detailed images. This makes it ideal for modern printing, and has ultimately led to the evolution of highly complex printing jobs. Thanks to offset printing, today we see are able to produce not only more, but greater quality images than ever before.
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