Jake Intel

Veronique Morrison

Printing Basics

  • By Veronique Morrison
  • December 19, 2008
  • Design

At Jake we realize the importance of selecting the right stock or finish for our print jobs —something so simple can have a great impact on the final piece. And with the printing industry constantly expanding, often times it is hard to keep up! For that reason, we want to make sure both our staff and clients are educated on the printing process, starting with the basics.

History of Printing

In 1440, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press process that, with refinements and increased mechanization, remained the principal means of printing until the late 20th century. The inventor’s method of printing from movable type, including the use of metal molds and alloys, a special press, known as the Gutenberg Press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first time the mass production of printed books.

Popular Printing Types

Offset Printing
Offset printing is a widely used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.

Digital Printing
Professional digital printing (using toner) primarily uses an electrical charge to transfer toner or liquid ink to the substrate it is printed on. Digital print quality has steadily improved from early color and black & white copiers to sophisticated color digital presses like the Xerox iGen3, the Kodak Nexpress and the HP Indigo Digital Press series. The iGen3 and Nexpress use toner particles and the Indigo uses liquid ink. All handle variable data and rival offset in quality. Digital offset presses are called direct imaging presses.

Inks & Colors

Pantone (PMS)
The Pantone Color Matching System is largely a standardized color reproduction system. PMS allows designers and printers to refer to a specific PMS numbers and make sure colors match and print accurately. However, they can vary based on paper finish, coated or uncoated. PMS colors are used in offset printing and vary can not be used with digital printing.

4 Color Process (CMYK)
The CMYK process is a method of printing color by using four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The vast majority of the world’s printed material is produced using the CMYK process, and there is a special subset of Pantone colors that can be reproduced using CMYK. 4 color can be used with both offset and digital printing, but the output may vary from press to press.


Common Print Terms
  • Emboss:To press an image into paper so it lies above the surface. Also called cameo and tool.
  • Bleed: Printing that extends to the edge of a sheet or page after trimming.
  • Diecut: To cut irregular shapes in paper or paperboard using a die.
  • Saddle Stitched: To bind by stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine, as compared to side stitch. Also called pamphlet stitch, saddle wire and stitch bind.
  • Proof: Test sheet made to reveal errors or flaws, predict results on press and record how a printing job is intended to appear when finished.
  • Varnish: Liquid applied as a coating for protection and appearance.
  • Flat Size: Size of product after printing and trimming, but before folding, as compared to finished size.
  • Duplex Stock: Thick paper made by pasting highlights together two thinner sheets, usually of different colors. Also called double-faced paper and two-tone paper.
  • Engraving: Printing method using a plate, also called a die, with an image cut into its surface.
  • Resolution: Sharpness of an image on film, paper, computer screen, disc, tape or other medium.

For more terms, visit: http://www.printindustry.com/glossary.htm