Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.


Woodblock printing

Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns that was used widely throughout East Asia. It originated in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later on paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220, and from Egypt to the 4th century. [ [ Ancient Coptic Christian Fabrics from Egypt ] ]

In East Asia

By 593 A.D., the first printing press was invented in China, and the first printed newspaper was available in Beijing in 700 A.D. It was a woodblock printing. And the Diamond Sutra, the earliest known complete woodblock printed book with illustrations was printed in China in 868 A.D. And Chinese printer Bi Sheng invented movable type in 1041 A.D. in China [] . Sheng used clay type, which broke easily, but Wang Zhen later carved a more durable type from wood by 1298 AD, and developed a complex system of revolving tables and number-association with written Chinese characters that made typesetting and printing more efficient.

In Islamic world

Woodblock printing appeared in Islamic Egypt by the 9th century, though it is not clear if the Egyptian printing of cloth was learned from China or developed separately. A unique type of block printing ("tarsh" in Arabic) was developed in Islamic Egypt during the 9th-10th centuries: print blocks made from metals such as tin, lead and cast iron, as well as stone, glass and clay. The first printed amulets were also developed there, and were printed with Arabic calligraphy using metal block printing. This technique, however, appears to have had very little influence outside of the Muslim world, since metal and other non-wooden forms of block printing were unknown in China or Korea, which later developed metal movable type printing instead. Though Europe adopted woodblock printing from the Muslim world, the technique of metal block printing was also unknown in Europe. Block printing later went out of use in Islamic Central Asia after movable type printing was adopted from China. [Richard W. Bulliet (1987), "Medieval Arabic Tarsh: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Printing", "Journal of the American Oriental Society" 107 (3), p. 427-438.]

In Europe

Block printing first came to Christian Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300. Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate, and when paper became relatively easily available, around 1400, the medium transferred very quickly to small woodcut religious images and playing cards printed on paper. These prints were produced in very large numbers from about 1425 onwards.

Around the mid-century, "block-books", woodcut books with both text and images, usually carved in the same block, emerged as a cheaper alternative to manuscripts and books printed with movable type. These were all short heavily illustrated works, the bestsellers of the day, repeated in many different block-book versions: the Ars moriendi and the Biblia pauperum were the most common. There is still some controversy among scholars as to whether their introduction preceded or, the majority view, followed the introduction of movable type, with the range of estimated dates being between about 1440–1460. [Master E.S., Alan Shestack, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1967]

Movable type printing

Movable type is the system of printing and typography using movable pieces of metal type, made by casting from matrices struck by letterpunches. Movable type allowed for much more flexible processes than hand copying or block printing.

Around 1040, the first known movable type system was created in China by Bi Sheng out of porcelain.

Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced what is regarded as an independent invention of movable type in Europe (see printing press), along with innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mould. Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy of lead, tin and antimony – the same components still used today. [Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved November 27 2006, from Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite DVD – entry 'printing']

Johannes Gutenberg's work on the printing press began in approximately 1436 when he partnered with Andreas Dritzehen — a man he had previously instructed in gem-cutting—and Andreas Heilmann, owner of a paper mill.Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (pp 58–69)] It was not until a 1439 lawsuit against Gutenberg that official record exists; witnesses testimony discussed type, an inventory of metals (including lead) and his type mold.

Compared to woodblock printing, movable type page setting was quicker and more durable. The metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering was more uniform, leading to typography and fonts. The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible (1455) established the superiority of movable type, and printing presses rapidly spread across Europe, leading up to the Renaissance, and later all around the world. Today, practically all movable type printing ultimately derives from Gutenberg's movable type printing, which is often regarded as the most important invention of the second millennium. [In 1997, Time Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention to be the most important of the second millennium. In 1999, the A&E Network voted Johannes Gutenberg "Man of the Millennium". See also [ 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking The Men and Women Who Shaped The Millennium] which was composed by four prominent US journalists in 1998.]

Rotary printing press

A rotary printing press is a printing press in which the impressions are curved around a cylinder so that the printing can be done on long continuous rolls of paper, cardboard, plastic, or a large number of other substrates. Rotary drum printing was invented by Richard March Hoe, and then significantly improved by William Bullock

Modern printing technology

Across the world, over 45 trillion pages (2005 figure) are printed annually." [ When 2% Leads to a Major Industry Shift] " Patrick Scaglia, August 30, 2007.] In 2006 there were approximately 30,700 printing companies in the United States, accounting for $112 billion, according to the "2006 U.S. Industry & Market Outlook" by [ Barnes Reports] . Print jobs that move through the Internet made up 12.5% of the total U.S. Printing market last year, according to research firm InfoTrend/CAP Ventures.

Offset press

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.

Currently, most books and newspapers are printed using the technique of offset lithography. Other common techniques include:
*flexography used for packaging, labels, newspapers.
*hot wax dye transfer
*inkjet used typically to print a small number of books or packaging, and also to print a variety of materials from high quality papers simulate offset printing, to floor tiles; Inkjet is also used to apply mailing addresses to direct mail pieces.
*laser printing mainly used in offices and for transactional printing (bills, bank documents). Laser printing is commonly used by direct mail companies to create variable data letters or coupons, for example.
*pad printing popular for its unique ability to print on complex 3-dimensional surfaces.
*relief print, (mainly used for catalogues).
*rotogravure mainly used for magazines and packaging.
*screen printing from T-shirts to floor tiles.


Gravure printing is an intaglio printing technique, where the image to be printed is made up of small depressions in the surface of the printing plate. The cells are filled with ink and the excess is scraped off the surface with a doctor blade, then a rubber-covered roller presses paper onto the surface of the plate and into contact with the ink in the cells. The printing plates are usually made from copper and may be produced by digital engraving or laser etching.

Gravure printing is used for long, high-quality print runs such as magazines, mail-order catalogues, packaging, and printing onto fabric and wallpaper. It is also used for printing postage stamps and decorative plastic laminates, such as kitchen worktops.

Digital printing

Digital printing accounts for approximately 9% of the 45 trillion pages printed (2005 figure) around the world.

Printing at home or in an office or engineering environment is subdivided into:
*small format (up to ledger size paper sheets), as used in business offices and libraries
*wide format (up to 3' or 914mm wide rolls of paper), as used in drafting and design establishments.

Some of the more common printing technologies are:
*blueprint—and related chemical technologies.
*daisy wheel—where pre-formed characters are applied individually.
*dot-matrix—which produces arbitrary patterns of dots with an array of printing studs.
*inkjet—including bubble-jet—where ink is sprayed onto the paper to create the desired image.
*laser—where toner consisting primarily of polymer with pigment of the desired colours is melted and applied directly to the paper to create the desired image.
*line printing—where pre-formed characters are applied to the paper by lines.
*heat transfer—like early fax machines or modern receipt printers that apply heat to special paper, which turns black to form the printed image.

Vendors typically stress the total cost to operate the equipment, involving complex calculations that include all cost factors involved in the operation as well as the capital equipment costs, amortization, etc. For the most part, toner systems beat inkjet in the long run, whereas inkjets are less expensive in the initial purchase price.

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 colour digital presses like the Xerox iGen3, the Kodak Nexpress, the HP Indigo Digital Press series and the InfoPrint 5000. The iGen3 and Nexpress use toner particles and the Indigo uses liquid ink. The InfoPrint 5000 is a full-color, continuous forms inkjet drop-on-demand printing system. All handle variable data and rival offset in quality. Digital offset presses are called direct imaging presses; although these receive computer files and automatically turn them into print-ready plates, they cannot insert variable data.

Small press and fanzines generally use digital printing or more rarely xerography. Prior to the introduction of cheap photocopying the use of machines such as the spirit duplicator, hectograph, and mimeograph was common.

ee also

*Color printing
*Converters (industry)
*Foil imaging
*Foil stamping
*Hot metal typesetting
*In-mould decoration
*In-mould labelling
*Intaglio (printmaking)
*Jang Young Sil
*Letterpress printing
*Movable type
*Offset printing
*Pad printing
*Print on demand
*Security printing
*Wang Zhen
*Waterless printing
*Laurens Janszoon Coster

External links

* [ Centre for the History of the Book]
* [ American Printing History Association] - numerous links to online resources and other organizations.
* [ Children of the Code - Online Video: The DNA of Science, The Alphabet and Printing] .
* [ Learn about printing] — International Paper.
* [ Planet Typography - history of printing] - selection of international sites dedicated to the history of printing.
* [ Printing Industries of the Americas] - national trade association for printers and companies in the graphic arts.
* [ The development of book and printing] . English website of the Gutenberg-Museum Mainz (Germany)
* [ BPSnet] - The website of the British Printing Society


Further reading

*cite book
first = Gill
last = Saunders
coauthors = Miles, Rosie
title = Prints Now: Directions and Definitions
publisher = Victoria and Albert Museum
date = 2006-05-01
isbn = 1-85177-480-7

*cite book
first = Alexander
last = Nesbitt
title = The History and Technique of Lettering
publisher = Dover Books
year = 1957

*cite book
last = Steinberg
first = S.H.
title = Five Hundred Years of Printing
location = London and Newcastle
publisher = The British Library and Oak Knoll Press
year = 1996

*Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, "The Printing Press as an Agent of Change", Cambridge University Press, September 1980, Paperback, 832 pages, ISBN 0-521-29955-1
*Marshall McLuhan, "The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man" (1962) Univ. of Toronto Press (1st ed.); reissued by Routledge & Kegan Paul ISBN 0-7100-1818-5.
*Tam, Pui-Wing "The New Paper Trail", "The Wall Street Journal Online", February 13, 2006 Pg.R8
*Woong-Jin-Wee-In-Jun-Gi #11 Jang Young Sil by Baek Sauk Gi. Copyright 1987 Woongjin Publishing Co., Ltd. Pg. 61.On the effects of Gutenberg's printing

Early printers manualsThe classic manual of early hand-press technology is
first = Joseph
last = Moxon
title = Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing
date= 1683-84
edition = ed. Herbert Davies & Harry Carter. New York: Dover Publications, 1962, reprint
:A somewhat later one, showing 18th century developments is
first = Caleb
last = Stower
title =The Printer's Grammar
date= 1808
edition = London: Gregg Press, 1965, reprint

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