Tuesday, 30 October 2012


  • Varnish: is essentially a clear ink that can be applied in a variety of thicknesses over print. On the most basic level it improves the durability of your print, preventing the ink from rubbing off and keeping the paper or card from wrinkling or tearing, but as we’ll see below it can also be used to achieve some awesome visual and textural effects.
  • Finish: is any effect that’s applied to your print after it’s been produced. That could be an all over varnish, a spot varnish, foil-blocking, or die-cuts (all of which I’m sure we’ll get to in a later post!)
  • Spot: is used to indicate that a finish is only going to be applied to certain areas(or spots) of the total printed area.
  • UV: is the thickest varnish available, and is most often used to make your print look really glossy and vivid.
Spot UV is a high-gloss finish applied to a specific area of your print, as in the example below:
What we’ve got here is a piece of packaging that’s been printed on a matt varnished card stock before having a Spot UV varnish applied over part of the logo. As you can see, it creates a striking balance between the main body of the box and the logo which instantly grabs the eye. For simple images like this applying a Spot UV varnish can be a great way of increasing the visual impact of your print.


Although Spot UV draws attention elements of your design, and should be thought about when you’re starting your design work, you should remember that it’s not a part of the design per se. Rather, it’s a post-printing operation which can, like any other coating, be applied ‘online’ (immediately after the ink is applied to the stock) or ‘offline’ (on a separate machine, some time after the printing job has been done). In either case it’s an intricate process – as your printers will have to supply their machine with information on the exact spots to apply the varnish. It’s essentially a tooling job, and you should bear this in mind when deciding whether or not to go for it. A more general gloss coating, whether UV or not, will cost considerably less as there’s so much less information to be supplied.
Spot UV’s can’t be added to artwork by your designer – although they will create the guides that the printers will use to apply the varnish –and require your printer to call into play a specialist piece of machinery (which blasts the varnish with UV light to dry it out). As both designer and printer will be doing more work and, in the case of the printer, using an expensive bit of kit to give you the effect you’re after you should expect the price you pay to inflate accordingly. For this reason it’s worth thinking in detail about the purpose of your print before you opt for a Spot UV – is it really going to be worth it on flyer printing or poster printing? Probably not, as they’re intended to be read for the information – with the aim of drumming up support, attendence or business – and then discarded. Something that you expect your audience to return to again and again, on the other hand – your business card, your company’s annual report, the prospectus for your school or something similar – well, that might be worth the extra expense…
The main drawback is going to be cost. Prices increase according to complexity, rather than the amount of space the varnish covers.


screen printing definition:  Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A fill blade or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink into the mesh openings for transfer by capillary action during the squeegee stroke.

Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance. Ink is forced into the mesh openings by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke. It is also known as silkscreenserigraphy, and serigraph printing. A number of screens can be used to produce a multicoloured image.        

Screen printing (also known as silk screening) is one of the oldest methods of printmaking, with examples dating back to the Song Dynasty in China.  The process involves creating a stencil of an image on a screen of porous mesh, traditionally made of silk.  A roller or squeegee is used to pull paint-like ink over the stencil, forcing it through the mesh onto the paper being printed.  Unlike the inks used in some other forms of printing, screen printing ink sits right on the surface of paper, resulting in incredibly rich, vibrant colour.

The screen printing process has multiple steps, starting with the process of creating the screen.
The screens are coated with a light sensitive emulsion, and exposed using a positive image.  Your positive can be created in a variety of ways, from digitally printed film, hand-cut rubylith, or hand drawn with ink on acetate.  The positive is positioned directly on the surface of the light table, and the screen placed over the positive, print side down.  The emulsion hardens when exposed to light, and remains soft and water-soluble where the positive blocks the light.  After exposure, we take the screen to the wash-out sink, and rinse away the soft emulsion.  Once the screen has dried completely, we lock the screen into hinges that are mounted onto our print surface.
We align the paper for printing, and mark the location with registration tabs.  Ink is applied directly to one end of the screen in a long bead, ready to be pulled over the screen with the squeegee.
A nice, firm pass with the squeegee forces ink through the mesh, visibly showing on the print side of the screen.  The screen is lowered on the hinges, and the squeegee is used to press the inked mesh flat against the paper, transferring a thin, even layer of ink to the page.
The amount of ink transferred to the paper is controlled by the thickness of the emulsion, so crisp images need a fine, even coat of emulsion to maintain their detail.
Mixing the second colour for this particular job was a challenge; we wanted to create the illusion of a 3rd color in the print, so the second ink needed to be transparent and overlay the first color to create a pleasing effect.  We settled on a yellowish green that would create a darker green where it overlapped the blue.
Registration was tight!  The blue and yellow-green had to line up perfectly along the sides of the image.

Like most hand-printing methods, screen printing has a very distinctive look.  Even though the surface is flat, the velvety finish and extreme vibrancy of the ink cannot be replicated with any other technique.  Screen printing can also be used on a variety of surfaces, so anything that has a flat surface can be printed; paper, chip board, fabrics, wood, leather and metal are all viable candidates!

Like any other printing process, screen printing definitely has specific limitations, which makes it better suited for some projects (and not so well suited for others).  Fine details or delicate text can be lost or broken up in the printing process, and large blocks of text can be difficult to print consistently.  Light ink on dark paper works beautifully, but textured papers are out.  Thin papers also present difficulty, as the ink could cause them to buckle or warp.

Ever wonder how t-shirts are made that feature photographic quality design, in full color? This articles takes an in-depth look at the subject of cmyk printing and color separations, and their uses in screen printing. This casual approach to a difficult subject, should provide you everything you need to know to start producing full color artwork for fun and profit.
CMYK:  CMYK is a subtractive colour model used in colour printing.  This whole CMYK thing is based on the mixing of specific pigments in particular percentages to create a wide range of colors. Often times referred to as 4 color process. These specific pigments are as follows: 
  • C=cyan
  • M=magenta
  • Y=yellow
  • K=key (black)
Now, the reason this is considered a “subtractive color model” is because the higher percentage of cyan, magenta, and yellow I smear onto a white sheet of paper, the less amount of light that will reflect through, ultimately creating a black (in this case, smudge) on our paper.

Let’s start at the end and work back to the beginning. Mesh Count and thread diameter. Mesh count is the number of threads, per inch, that makes up your screen. Professional screen printers generally utilizes a screen with a mesh count of about 255 threads per inch and above, but typically mesh counts can range anywhere from 110 to 305. To make matters worst, there is also different thread diameters for screens. The higher your thread diameter in combination with your mesh count, the finer detail your artwork can contain, but also, the less ink that gets pushed through the screen. Inversely, the lower the thread diameter, the more ink that can be pushed through the screen, but the ability to maintain high details is lost.

So how do you go about choosing a mesh count? Well, for the sake of this article, and the process of 4 color printing on a screen, we want to go with the highest possible mesh count with the largest diameter of threads suitable for the material we are printing to. The higher our mesh count, the tighter our dots can be when we create our halftone.
Now, this is where the magic happens. In order to output a proper halftone, using the highest possible quality for our screen, we need to do some math.
First, we need to look at our mesh count, we can call that M. In order to figure out the optimal dot size of our halftone for our screen, we need to divide M by 3.5. Why 3.5 you ask? Mostly, because I like that number and have good result with it. But, because there are differing ideas of what number to use, most ranging anywhere from 3 – 5, feel free to experiment and let me know what works best for you.
The quotient of this formula will become our LPI, or lines per inch.
M / 3.5 = LPI
Our LPI will dictate how many lines per inch we will have in our halftone. The higher our LPI, the more dots we can fit in per inch in our halftone, allowing us the ability to print a higher quality image.
The LPI of your halftone can have a huge impact on the quality of your print. Below is a quick break down of typical LPI standards for reference.

  • -Screen Printing 45-65 lpi
  • -Laser Printer (300dpi) 65 lpi
  • -Laser Printer (600dpi) 85-105 lpi
  • -Offset Press (newsprint paper) 85 lpi
  • -Offset Press (coated paper) 85-185 lip
Let’s say I have a screen with a mesh count of 220 threads per inch. If I divide that 220 mesh count by 3.5, I get a quotient of roughly 63. Looking at our reference table, that will produce a lower quality halftone than used in newspapers, but fairly average for screen printing. While it might be ok for this example, I would probably look at buying a higher mesh count screen to improve my halftone frequency.  The final key to producing accurate 4 color halftone separations for output is the screen angle. Not the silk screen, the halftone screen! The series of dots that create the halftone are referred to as a screen. It is this screen, that once overlapped with the other color screens creates the final image. Each separation screen is printed at its own angle to prevent what is commonly referred to as the moiré effect. Moiré produce a sort of distorted, dizzying effect, and can ruin a good print job. To prevent moiré patterns in your prints, a general rule of thumb is to offset each screen angle by 15 to 30 degrees.




The basic padprinting process is simple enough in nature. This article will show how the padprinting process works and why it is especially suited for printing on irregular shaped objects (a.k.a. substrate) as well as flat surfaces.
The key elements to the padprinting process are the pad, the cliche', and the ink. Each of these elements are explained in greater detail in subsequent articles also found on this site. Together, these three elements allow more flexibilty in the types of products which can be printed using this process, than any other printing process.

The basic steps as illustrated below are as follows:

  1. The cliche' step - the image on the cliche' is inked via doktor blade sytern or inkcup while the pad travels to the image.
  2. The transfer step - the pad picks up the inked image from the diche' and travels to the subsbate.
  3. The print step - the pad makes contact with the substrate using just the right amount of pressure to deliver the image.

The Cliche

The desired image to print is etched into a plate called a diche. The cliche is usualIy made of a polymer coating on a metal backing or of hardened steel. Once placed on the printer, the cliche is inked by either an open inkwell doktoring system or by a ctosed inkcup sliding across the image. The differences between cliche' types and how to chose the right type is explained in greater detail in the article titled Selectina the. Correct clicher for your Pad Printing Job by Julian Joffe. In this article you'll also learn how the cliche controls the how much ink is applied to the product.

The Ink

Padprintjng inks are just as versatile as the other elements in the process. Not only are they available in every color imagineable, they also come in a variety of series which are specific to the type of substrate to be printed on. Different materials react differently to the various elements in inks. For example, the ink used for printing on certain plastics may not adhere to glass or aluminum. There are medical grade inks for use in the medical industry, as well as edible inks which can be pad printed onto candies or other food products. As you'll read in the article Understandina and USina Pad.Pri~tina1 hks by Peter Kjddell, final appearance and adhesion quality is dependant on other factors such as the viscosity and evaporation characteristics of the ink.

The Pad

After the cliche' is inked, the silicon pad then picks up the image and transfers it to the product. The pads are made of a silicon material which can vary in durometer (hardness). The properties of the silicon allow the inks to temporarily stick to the pad, yet fully release from the pad when it comes into contact with the product to be printed. The durometer of the pad dictates how the image molds to the product. For example, to print an image on a basketball, a harder pad will get more of the image into the textured surface. Likewise, a larger image to be placed on a flat (or nearly flat) surface would normally require a substantial amount of down pressure to print the entire image with a hard pad. By using a softer durometer, the image can be placed using less pressure and thus avoiding some complicatiorts associated with too much pressure. For more information on the pad see the article titled Understanding the Pad in Pad Printing.

Monday, 29 October 2012



The rotogravure process is a direct transfer method for printing onto wood-pulp fiber based, synthetic, or laminated substrates, including:
  • Films such as polyester, OPP, nylon, and PE
  • Papers
  • Carton board
  • Aluminum foil
The modern day rotogravure printing press uses a printing cylinder which has been laser engraved with minute cells capable of retaining ink, the size and pattern of which reflect the required image. These cells are forced to transfer their ink directly onto the substrate by a combination of pressure and capillary action, so producing the printed image.
The process, also commonly called gravure printing, is used in the manufacturing of food and non-food packaging, as well as labels, wall coverings, transfer printing, and has a variety of further applications in the security printing, industrial, and tobacco segments of industry.

The layout of a gravure printing press follows an in-line arrangement where the required number of printing units is installed along a horizontal plane. In a conventional gravure printing press, each unit comprises of:
  • Printing cylinder: a seamless tubular sleeve or full cylinder, made from either steel, aluminum, plastic, or composite material, which is engraved with the image to be printed
  • Doctor blade:  the device that removes ink from the non-engraved portions of the printing cylinder and also removes excess ink from the engraved sections
  • Impression roller: a rubber covered sleeve that is mounted on a steel mandrel. Its primary purpose is to press the substrate against the printing cylinder
  • Inking system: consisting of an ink pan, ink holding tank, and ink pump with supply and return ink pipes
  • Drying system: consisting of a chamber which dries the ink once it is on the substrate and prior to it reaching the next printing unit. Drier capacities are determined based on the required printing speed, ink type (solvent or water based), and ink lay down volume
During the gravure printing process the printing cylinder rotates in the ink pan where the engraved cells fill with ink. As the cylinder rotates clear of the ink pan, any excess ink is removed by the doctor blade. Further around, the cylinder is brought into contact with the substrate, which is pressed against it by the rubber covered impression roller.
The pressure of the roller, along with the capillary draw of the substrate, results in the direct transfer of ink from the cells in the printing cylinder to the surface of the substrate. As the printing roller rotates back into the ink pan, the printed area of the substrate proceeds through a dryer and onto the next printing unit, which is normally a different color or may be a varnish or coating.
Precise color to color registration is made possible via automatic side and length register control systems.
For a web-fed printing press, after each color has been printed and any coatings applied, the web is 'rewound' into a finished roll.
The process offers the ability to transfer ink consistently, across a wide range of densities, and at high speeds, making it suitable for applications which require high image quality, such as publishing, packaging, labels, security print, and decorative printing.
The durable nature of the printing cylinders used makes gravure printing an ideal process for providing high quality print on very long or regularly repeating runs, delivering cost advantages over other processes.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


If you are a designer, printer, or just want to print your company newsletter there are a few terms you need to know. One of them is Lithography.
The name lithography comes from lithos, stone, and graphia and was invented in Prague by Alois Senefelder around 1796. Lithography is best described as a planographic process; this is nothing more than a process for printing from a smooth surface, called a plate, to a substrate, generally paper.

In Mr. Senefelder's day lithography transferred the ink directly from the stone or plate to the substrate. Today lithography is generally called Offset or Offset Lithography; both of these terms refer to the same process. In this printing process, offset lithography, the image to be printed is rendered or etched onto a flat surface, (the plane) such as a sheet of aluminum, plastic, or zinc. Next the image is transferred to a rubber roller, and then finally to the substrate.

How does this work you may be wondering. Well the process is simple and it is based on the elementary principle that oil and water do not mix. There are a few steps in converting your image/text into a printed page so let us discuss the plates first.
In lithography the plates have a roughened texture and are coated with a photosensitive (light sensitive) emulsion. This emulsion is a suspension of two chemicals that cannot be mixed together, a common household example of an emulsion is butter or margarine.
Plates are made one of two ways: Exposure from light source with film on top of the plate, or using a machine that exposes the plate, using lasers directly from the computer. Either way creates a photographic negative of the desired image, releases the emulsion, and transfers a positive image to the emulsion. The emulsion is then chemically treated to remove the unexposed portions of the emulsion. This final step is similar to developing film at a photo lab.

When the printing plate is made, the printing image is rendered grease receptive and hydrophobic, or water repelling. The non-printing areas are rendered hydrophilic, or water attracting, and ink repelling. On the press the plate is mounted on the plate cylinder which as it rotates, comes into contact first with the rollers wet by a dampening solution or water, which adheres to the rough, or negative portions of the image. Then the plate comes in contact with the roller coated with ink, which adheres to the smooth, or positive portions of the image.
If this image were directly transferred to paper, it would create a positive image, but the paper would be moistened. Instead, a cylinder covered with a rubber surface, called a blanket, is rolled over the plate. The blanket squeezes away the water, and picks up the ink. The cylinder is then rolled over the paper, transferring the ink. Because the image is first transferred to the blanket cylinder, we call this process “offset lithography” because the image is offset to the drum before being applied to the paper.

One major advantage of the lithography is that the soft rubber surface of the blanket creates a clear impression on a wide variety of paper surfaces and materials. Lithography printing is easily recognized by its smooth print, as well as by the lack on any impression or ring of ink or serrated edges that are characteristic of letterpress or gravure printing.
Lithography has equipment for short, medium, and long press runs. Sheet-fed and web presses are both used in lithography. Sheet-fed lithography is used for printing advertising, books, catalogs, greeting cards, posters, packaging, direct mail inserts, coupons, and art reproduction.
Many sheet-fed lithography presses can ‘perfect’, print on both sides of the paper, in one pass through the press. Web lithography is used for newspapers, preprinted newspaper inserts, advertising literature, catalogs, books, and magazines.


Lithographic printing is well suited for printing both text and illustrations in short to medium length runs of up to 1,000,000 impressions. Typical products printed with offset printing processes include:
  • General commercial printing Quick printing
  • Newspapers Books
  • Business Forms Financial and Legal Documents
  • Offset Lithographic Printing Process Overview
Lithography is an "offset" printing technique. Ink is not applied directly from the printing plate (or cylinder) to the substrate as it is in gravure, flexography and letterpress. Ink is applied to the printing plate to form the "image" (such as text or artwork to be printed) and then transferred or "offset to a rubber "blanket". The image on the blanket is then transferred to the substrate (typically paper or paperboard) to produce the printed product.
On sheet-fed presses, the substrate is fed into the press one sheet at a time at a very high speed. Web fed presses print on a continuous roll of substrate, or web, which is later cut to size. There is a total of 3 types of offset printing: non-heatset sheetfed, heatset, and non-heatset web offset. The difference between heatset and non-heatset is primarily dependent on the type of ink and how it is dried.  http://www.pneac.org/printprocesses/lithography/
Lithography is mainly used by commercial printers, printing companies that will print thousands of copies of the same item, in one production run. Lithography machines can print on both sides of paper/card and they rely on four basic colours; yellow, cyan (type of blue), magenta (type of red) and black. This is also known as the CYMK process.
1. The printing plate has the image to be printed, in relief, on its surface (the image stands out slightly from the printing plate surface).
2. The printing plate is kept dampened. Ink is applied to the plate but it is repelled from the dampened surfaces which are the 
non-image areas.
3. As the printing cylinder rotates the ink is transferred to the rubber blanket cylinder.
4. The ink, now on the rubber blanket cylinder, is pressed onto the paper or card as it is pulled through the machine. 
(The paper is trapped between the blanket cylinder and the impression cylinder - these pull the paper through the machine)

With some modern lithography printing machines the image is put onto the printing plate by shining ultra violet light through a negative 
(similar to a photograph negative). The plate is coated with a chemical which allows the ink (made from oil)  to attach to the image area.
If different colours are needed for the final print - the same card/paper will be sent through the machine and each time different 
negatives and colours will be applied. This is done until the print, which may be a poster, is completed.



I’m sure you have a good idea of what digital printing is; most of us have home or office printers, and the digital printing I use on invitations is similar, but with a fancier and bigger printer.  Unlike offset or letterpress where printing plates are involved, digitally printed things are printed directly from a digital file on a computer.  Digital printers transfer four colors of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to paper simultaneously, producing a full-color print after only one pass through the printer – meaning that each piece of work takes less time to print and is less expensive to produce than other printing methods.  Unlike letterpress, which leaves a relief impression, and engraving, which produces raised text, digital printing produces a flat image without any texture.
Digital printing is the most commonly used printing method because it’s fast and inexpensive.  Since printing plates aren’t required, it’s a cost effective way to print a low number of pieces and you aren’t limited to the number of colors you can use in one piece.  That means it’s a great way to reproduce scanned imagery (think collages, hand drawn illustrations, or paintings).

There are two common digital printer types: laser and inkjet.  Laser printers use laser beams, electrical particles, heat, and a plastic particle called toner to create an image, whereas inkjet printers spray ink from cartridges directly onto the paper.
Typically, laser printers handle type and graphics better than inkjets, and inkjets are better for printing photographs. If you’re purchasing a home printer, inkjets are less expensive up front but the ink cartridges can make them more expensive in the long term.
Fortunately, getting proofs of digitally printed work is inexpensive or even free, so if you’re going the DIY route it pays to try different companies to find one that works.  You’ll also want to make sure the company you work with can print on the exact paper you choose, and will pay attention to details like perfectly centered invitation borders if they’re doing the cutting and folding for you.
Digital printing does have limits: papers must be able to withstand heat and to go through a curved or straight path in the printer, which means you are limited in paper weight and thickness.   Also, the lighter paper weight can give a more casual feel than other printing methods, like engraving or letterpress.  But saving money on the printing process can mean extra room in the budget for things like belly bands, envelope liners, and envelope printing.  And if you’re reproducing handmade images, it’s often the best (or only!) route to take.

Offset printing is often confused with digital printing – both are four-color flat printing methods, but the process is quite different!  While offset printing is incredibly common, the printing process and procedures are often not well known. 

Offset printing is one of the most common flat printing techniques, wherein ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then back to the printing surface.  Like most types of printing, offset printing is a mix of art and science.   Although the process is very technical (the science part), the press operator also carries a lot of weight in achieving the desired outcome of the printed piece.
Offset printing (or lithography) is what you probably see most often in your day to day travels.  It is often used for direct mail postcards, business cards, brochures, pocket folders, signage and, yes, greeting cards and stationery.  Offset varies from other print methods in many ways including technology, process, cost, material options and turn around time.

The most important part of the offset printing process is the very beginning.  It is important to ensure that you have very well prepared files.  One of the biggest mistakes we see is a simple one, files must be converted from RGB to CMYK in order to print offset.  This conversion will change the look of your piece, sometimes marginally, sometimes dramatically.  Many designers are unsure how to prepare their files for an offset print job and can end up running into unplanned prepress costs to correct them.  My best advice is to call your local printer and ask to speak with the pre-press manager.  These people are such valuable resources to an artist or designer and can help you avoid trouble spots through the rest of the print process.  Often, much of this information can be found online on the printer’s website.
Once the files are in place a proof is prepared, which will give a very close representation of what the final printed piece will look like.  It is never exact, as the process of making the proof is different from the offset print process.  In addition, often times the proofing material is different from the stock that will be used on press which can vary the color slightly.  Once the proof is approved, the job moves onto plating.  Metal plates are made that get “hung” on press.  There is one plate for each color used (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – aka CMYK – to make four color process, or any Pantone Color for a single color job).
The stock will be cut to the size of the press it is being run on and depending on the size and scope if the project it can run for as short as 30 minutes or as long as multiple days. Once the press run is complete, bindery is the next stage.  That could mean, die cutting, scoring, stamping, numbering, folding, stitching, etc.  This can be a multi day process as ink needs to dry before you can finish a job and get it boxed for delivery.

Offset is typically considered the gold standard for quality, although the process is longer and it can be more expensive depending on the quantity being printed.  Offset printing also allows for more material options.   Digital printing is quick and can be less expensive especially when printing smaller quantities, however, the image quality might not be 100% accurate.  Most offset printers offer digital printing, so always check with your printing representative to gauge your options!

Offset printing is the highest quality flat printing process available, and there are many paper stock and material options for offset printing.  Projects can also be tweaked for color adjustments on the press during the run. Like other artisan printing methods, such as letterpress and engraving, you’ll find better pricing value in higher volume jobs.  Conversely, offset printing requires a more expensive set up time, which can be an issue for smaller projects.  Offset printing also requires a longer turn around time.  My best advice is to get a good referral to a printer!  It doesn’t have to be in your area (although it may help).  It is super important to find a printer that is invested in YOUR project and understands the exact outcome you are trying to achieve.  If the printer is a good and honorable one, they will give you all of the options and recommend the best one, even if it’s not something that they offer.  It is important to keep in mind that all printers have different niche’s, some have smaller presses, some have larger and your project may or may not be an economical fit for their equipment.  Don’t be afraid to ask them if your project is a good fit for them.

Choosing the right print process: lithographic or digital?
Commercial printers offer a range of different print processes suitable for different types of jobs. Each process has advantages and disadvantages over the others. In this article I look at each of the print processes and examine how they work and what their advantages are. 

Printing hasn’t really changed a great deal since Gutenburg gave us the printing press in 1468. Technology has allowed modern printing presses to produce millions of copies of a page in a single day, but the principle of applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon paper, thereby transferring an offset of an image, remains the same.
These days a printer creates a set of ‘plates’ which are used to press the image onto paper. There are initial costs involved in creating the plates and setting up the press. This means a litho job can be expensive and take time, but for large print runs it remains the most efficient process and also boasts superior quality and finish.
  • Most cost effective for large print runs (500+)
  • Unrivalled print quality
  • Most flexible in terms of printing stock, inks and finishes
  • Can print up to A1 size
  • Long turn around time
  • Expensive for short print runs


Digital print presses are essentially very big and very fast colour laser printers. They can handle some heavier papers and cards but offer nowhere near as much flexibility as litho print. Digital is good because it is instant. Jobs can be turned around in a day if need be and there are no setup costs which means you pay for what you print.

These days the top of the range digital print presses offer very high quality - almost comparable to a litho print job. However, not all printers have the latest top of the range digital presses. In fact unless you are very lucky, digital will give you a noticeable drop in print quality and colour will almost certainly not match.

  • Most cost effective for small print runs
  • Print on demand
  • Very fast turnaround times
  • Noticeable drop in print quality (but technology is improving)
  • Less flexibility than litho print
  • Can only print up to A3 size