Monday, January 12, 2009

Offset Printing Basics

Offset printed wedding invitation by Bride Design

Printing techniques and the terminology that goes with them might seem intimidating, but I bet you know more about offset lithography printing than you think. When you flip through a magazine or read a book, chances are it's offset printed. That's because offset printing is the most commonly used high-volume, commercial printing process employed today. As you shop for stationery or invitations you might hear the term "flat-printing" used to describe the offset process. This description distinguishes offset printing from other methods like thermography (raised-printing) and letterpress printing, which bring the additional dimension of texture (and much more) to a printed piece. Flat-printing can also refer to digital printing, a technology that continues to grow but that has it's own unique benefits and limitations that differ from offset's.

Much like oil and water, offset lithography printing is based on the principal that ink and water don't mix. Once a plate has been created containing your design, it's inked and transferred (or offset) to a rubber "blanket" or roller. The image portion of your design gets regularly inked by ink rollers, and the non-image areas of your design are continually covered with a thin film of water. The inked image portion of your design is transferred to paper and voila! Your professionally offset printed piece rolls "hot off the press."

Now that you have a basic idea of how offset lithography works, how can you decide if it's right for your project? I'll save the real pros and cons of offset for another post, but I will let quickly let you in on the process' basic advantages. Offset printing offers high image quality and is an especially good choice when your design includes photography. Offset can be used to print on a very wide range of standard and specialty papers as well other materials like wood, cloth and plastic. Highly compatible with the Pantone® System, offset printing gives excellent color matching results, and since the price per unit goes down the more you print, it's the perfect choice for high-volume jobs.

For more on offset printing, continue to check our site. There will be additional posts on this method to come. If you have questions about offset lithography send us an email at Our expert stationers will be answering reader questions on Fridays, and we're always happy to discuss printing methods and techniques.

~Erin, Bride Design

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