Business owners who need sales or marketing materials (such as brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and manuals) printed often turn to commercial printing companies to receive this service. The commercial printing process is complex and contains many distinct steps. Here is a close look at this process and how organizations can benefit from it.
Printing Process Basics
There are several types of printing processes, each one characterized by the technique for transferring images and the type of plates used. For certain printing methods, the image is transferred to the substrate (surface) directly; for others, the transfer is indirect. Additionally, four different types of plates or “carriers” can be used in printing:
- Relief: The image is raised above the other areas of the item.
- Planographic: The image and non-image regions are on the same level.
- Intaglio: The area that is not meant to be printed shares a common surface with the substrate. The printing region, meanwhile, is built into a recess.
- Screen: This type of plate is used in “porous printing”, where the image is moved to the substrate by pushing ink through a permeable mesh.
Printing Process Stages
Although each printing method has certain unique characteristics, the general process always features three stages:
This step consists of converting a design for a printed image into a carrier such as a screen, cylinder, or plate. The pre-press stage also entails typesetting and composition, photography, color separation (if necessary), and preparing the carrier. Photo-processing chemicals and solutions are often used during this stage. (These should be handled carefully, as some are potentially harmful to the environment and human health.)
The actual printing process is carried out. The printer uses ink to transfer a digital product into a printed format.
All the printed materials are assembled and binding and finishing services are completed. Adhesives are sometimes used during post-press operations, especially when books and other similar materials are produced.
Offset vs. Digital Printing
Digital printing and offset printing are highly distinct printing methods that produce high-quality results. Let’s examine the differences between these two printing processes.
Also known as offset lithography, offset printing is ideal for mass production. The fundamental principle behind offset printing is that water and ink cannot mix. This process begins with placing an image on metal plates that are dampened by ink and water. Once the oil-based ink adheres to the image region, this area is transferred to a rubber cylinder called a “blanket roller” (and subsequently onto the paper). This is where this process’s name is derived from: the image is indirectly transferred or “offset” to another surface. Before the offset printing process begins, a practice run may be performed on scrap paper to verify that the ink is properly blended on the steel plates.
There are multiple advantages to offset printing, including:
- High image quality
- Cost-effective for high-volume orders
- Can be performed on several materials (paper, leather, metal, fabric, etc.)
- Wide variety of colors are available (different plates are typically used for each color)
- Sheet-fed offset printing presses can produce pages of many sizes
Instead of metal plates, digital printing involves using toner, inkjet or laser printers, and other advanced technologies. This method is the best option for small-scale print jobs. Here are the primary benefits of digital printing:
- High image quality
- No need to balance ink and water
- Fewer waste prints
- Allows for large-format printing
- Images may be edited as many times as needed
- Turnaround time is shorter compared to offset printing
Keep in mind that digital printing is typically more expensive than offset printing. Additionally, cracks may appear, and prints of solid areas, tints, and gradients are not always accurate. The disadvantages of offset printing include the fact that it cannot be performed instantly and that new plates must be used after any change, no matter how minor. Also, remember that digital printers and offset printing presses both use four essential ink colors: cyan (blue), magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). If your image is in a red-green-blue (RGB) format, you will need to convert it to CMYK.
Get High-Quality Commercial Printing With Professional Graphics
Reach out to the specialists at Professional Graphics Inc. in Norwalk, CT to receive high-quality printing services. Since 1979, we have been dedicated to providing complete commercial printing at competitive rates. Our services include both offset and digital printing, die-cutting, foil stamping, and embossing. We can print a variety of materials, including brochures, flyers, pamphlets, and manuals. We use modern equipment and always deliver our work on deadline and according to your budget. Call Professional Graphics Inc. today at (203) 347-0215 or contact us online to request an appointment.