Different aspects of print

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In this essay I plan to explore, contrast and explain all the different aspects of print, in the past, now and then towards the future. It is my aim to teach the reader about the world of printing and its advantages.

I will also express my views and opinions on many of the themes I will be talking about.

Definition of print: Printing is a process for reproducing text and image with ink on paper using a printing press. It is carried out as a large scale process, and is an essential part of publishing printing.

History of Print In Europe

The techniques of printing were first developed in Europe by craftsmen unknown of the Far East. In China, the earliest printing was that from carved wooden blocks that known as woodblock printing. These illustrations were simple in design, and meant to be coloured by hand. The development of printing took a massive step forward thanks to the technological advances made by Johan Gutenberg, a Goldsmith working in Mainz, Germany in the 15th Centuary. His revolutionary idea was to use metal to mould each letter as a piece of type, so that a number of these pieces would fit together to make up a word, a word to a sentence, a sentence to a paragraph and so on. Once the printing had been finished, the type could be broken up from the way it had been layed, and then re-used to print again another day. This invention of moveable type allowed printing to become a usable alternative to making books by hand, these were known as manuscripts. Gutenberg's invention is regarded as a landmark in the history of printing, and of the western world as a whole. An edition of the Bible in Latin, known as the Gutenberg Bible was made at his workshop in Mainz between 1453 and 1455. It consists of over 1,300 pages, and though we don't know how many copies were made, we do know that 180 were put up for sale, and to this day forty-eight copies survive, roughly twenty of them are fully complete versions. It was printed with two colours, black and red, and was produced to an extremely high standard.

Page from the Gutenberg bible

Print Reaching Other Countries

Gutenberg made it possible to produce a large amount of copies of a single work in a relatively short amount of time The Process soon spread to other cities in Germany in the 1450's and then outside to Italy in the 1460's and to France and the rest of Europe.

The first book printed in English was by William Caxton and is named Raoul Lefevre's Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye.

By 1500 printing had spread to most parts of Europe, including Portugal, Denmark, and Sweden, and to a large number of other cities and towns in the countries that already had printing established.

Movable type printing

Movable type printing is done by using movable pieces of metal type to form words and sentences first seen by johan Gutenberg it became the way for centuries to come. This method allowed for much more flexible processes rather hand copying or block printing.

Metal movable type

Rotary Printing

A rotary printing press is a printing press in which the images to be printed are curved around a cylinder. Printing can be done on large number of media, including paper, plastic, and cardboard.

Rotary presses are the best choice for high-volume print runs because they are fast. Large presses can print up to 60,000 copies of 128 standard-size pages in an hour


Letterpress is a process where the printing surface holding the image to be printed is raised above the non printing background. In traditional letterpress, all the text is printed form metal type and pictures from letterpress blocks. These are put together to create a frame which is then placed into a device called a chase that holds it all together. The image areas of the letterpress block are raised while the non-image areas are recessed so that they do not pick up ink. The plate is inked by a roller. Paper is placed over the inked image and pressed on to image in the press by an impression cylinder resulting in the image being printed on the paper

Modern Day Printing

Offset Press

Offset presses are rotary and use the principle that grease and water dont mix. The printing section of the press includes a plate cylinder, an impression cylinder a blanket cylinder, linking rollers, a moisture system and a plate adjustment device. Printing on one thin plate is one of the various uses of the offset process. Once the plate is on the press one must apply the moisture to the surface of the plate. When the ink grease is applied it sticks only to the image area and is rejected by the water wet portions. Because of the water grease action and its photographic nature, offset printing is considered a chemical process. This more modern use of this process is still used today.


Flexography is often used for printing on plastic, foil, brown paper, and other materials used in packaging. Flexography uses flexible printing plates made of rubber or plastic.

The inked plates with a slightly raised image are rotated on a cylinder which then transfers the image. Flexography uses fast-drying inks, and is a high-speed print process.

Some typical uses for flexography are paper and plastic bags, milk cartons, disposable cups, and bar wrappers. It may be also used for envelopes labels and newspapers. It is most commonly used in large scale magazine printing.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is the process of transferring a document on a computer or other digital storage device to a printer by means of a device that accepts text and graphics. As with other digital processes, information is digitalized to facillitate its storage and reproduction. Digital printing has steadily replaced lithography, especially at the consumer and business level, as a result of its substantially lower production costs.

It's also the most convenient and high-quality printing solution in existing market. Now a day, many printing companies have made digital printing available in their lists of printing services. A printing company won't have a complete line of print services if they don't include digital printing in their business.

Digital Printing Vs. Offset Printing


  • Shorter turnaround.
  • Every print is the same. More accurate counts.
  • Cheaper low amounts printing. The unit cost of each piece is higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs.


  • High image quality.
  • Works on a wide range of printing surfaces including paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic.
  • The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
  • Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs. todays digital presses are not yet able to compete with the volume an offset press can produce.

In my opinion upon using both these printing techniques I feel digital printing is obviously the way forward although it can be tempermental and can be hard to get going again. Offset printing produces extremeley high quality images when used correctly but it too can be tempermental, though with offset it is very manual in setting up so it can be fixed if you know the machine.

Colour In Printing

Brief History

The 19th century was huge when speaking on technological advancements, but colour illustration was still in its early stages.

Artists would use large color plates in order to illustrate a work, and this type of illustration often took weeks to complete.

Eventually, the computer age came and colour printing barely had anything to do with humans at all.

When the computer took over the printing world, colour printing was a lot more cost effective to produce but computer generated colour prints were also of a lesser quality.

Early computer prints didn't really grab the concept of deep colour.

But, computer printing was, after a while, improved and colour printing as we now know it was born.

In my opionion the history of colour printing is so interesting to think about that entire books have been made with the old printing/colour process.

There are some publishing houses throughout the world that still use artists to paint each illustration.

Some people believe that hand printing produces a richer color than a computer does, which is why hand illustrations can be of a large amount of money around the world.

Colour Printing in the 19th Centuary


Lithography was the first fundamentally new printing technology since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century.

It's a process in which the printing and non printing areas of the plate are all at the same level.

Designs are drawn or painted with greasy ink or crayons on specially prepared limestone. The stone is moistened with water, which the stone accepts in areas not covered by the crayon.

The print is then made by pressing paper against the inked drawing.

Colour Printing in the 20th Centuary



CMYK is a colour model used in colour printing. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black), and the color model describes a formula for creating other colors by mixing pigments of these colors in varying amounts. It is known that CMY on a white background produces black. In CMYK model, magenta plus yellow produces red, cyan plus yellow makes green, and magenta plus cyan generates blue.


RGB stands for red,green and blue. It is a colour model in printing in which red green and blue are added together in various ways to produce a broad range of colours. The main use for RGB is in for the sensing and reprensentation and display of images in many electronic machines like computers and mainly televisions. It is also displayed in mobile phones.


CMYK, or four colour printing, generates a good final printout with excellent contrast. But, as the computer screen follows a RGB system, the colour seen on the screen may be different from the one that comes in the final print. This is because of the diffirent colour palettes of CMYK and RGB. The nearest attainable colour in CMYK is a not so similar shade of purple. This disparity in conversion from RGB in the computer screen to CMYK reflects in the final print.


Papers are special products which play a huge role in the printing process. With the help of papers, printing can be made effectively. Printing paper comes in all different types like matt papers, gloss paper, photo paper, transparent paper, and even more. Printing papers are sorts of piece designed specifically to print. Some of the special kinds of printing paper are


In conclusion I feel I have researched all the past and present features in print. I have also shown pictures to visually show my explanaitions.

Overall print has come along way since Johan Gutenberg and his inventions, and I feel it will keep getting better in terms of speed and most important of all in quality.