Types of Commercial Printing

Digital - Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers.

Offset - Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred 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 image carrier

Large Format - Wide format printers are generally accepted to be any computer-controlled printing machines that support a maximum print roll width of between 18” and 100”. Printers with capacities over 100” wide are considered super wide or grand format.

Variable Data - Variable data printing is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file.

Inkjet - Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper and plastic substrates. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer, and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines.



Commercial Printing Process Terms

Alterations - Text or design changes that are made to the original supplied file

Bleed - Printing that extends past the edge of the paper. Bleed is indicated by setting up the document with a bleed mark, typically measuring 0.125 inches past the trim area of the final printed piece.

Crop Mark - Indicates where the printer should make cuts to the final printed piece.

Finish/Paper Types - This refers to the surface quality of the paper used for the printed piece. Different types of paper have different finishes, commonly used finishes include glossy and matte.

Imposition - The setup of the printed product's pages on the press sheet to obtain faster printing, simplify binding and reduce paper waste

PMS vs Process Color - PMS (Pantone Matching System) is a color system based upon over one thousand standardized ink colors. While process color is a combination of four standard process inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) that can be made into many different combinations

Proof - A preliminary version of a printed piece, it provides a close representation of how the piece will appear when printed

RGB - RGB (red, green, blue) are the colors that make up all the color combinations seen on a computer screen. 

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Printable File Formats

.EPS (Preferred for large signs and banners) - EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) is a vector format designed for printing to PostScript printers and imagesetters. It is considered the best choice of graphics format for high resolution printing of illustrations.  

.GIF and .PNG - GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a file format for storing graphical images up to 256 colors. It uses a lossless compression method which makes for higher quality output. PNG (Portable Network Graphics) was created as a more powerful alternative to the GIF file format. PNGs are not restricted to the 256 color limitation of GIF files and have better compression. A PNG file can be saved with a transparent background which allows you to place your image on top of another image without an outlining white box. 

.JPG (Preferred for images) - JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a file format best used for photo images which must be very small files.

PDF (Preferred for most files) - PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format developed by Adobe as a means of distributing compact, platform-independent documents. PDF captures formatting information, making it possible to send formatted documents and have them appear on the recipient’s monitor or printer as they were intended.

.TIFF (Preferred for high resolution images) - TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is an industry standard designed for handling raster or bitmapped images. TIFFs use lossless compression to maintain image integrity and clarity and are often used for professional photography.

.ZIP - ZIP is a file format used for data archiving and compression. A ZIP file contains one or more files that have been compressed and bundled to reduce file size and allow for easy file transfers. 



Print Bindery and Finishing

Binding - Binding  describes the gathering and fastening together of separate sheets or signatures. Examples of popular binding methods include perfect binding, saddle-stitching, spiral/coil binding, and wire-o binding, as well as the insertion of components into a ringed binder.

Die-Cutting – using a thin sharp blade, that has been pre-formed into a specific pattern or outline, to cut a substrate into various shapes.

Drilling – refers to the process of creating round holes in paper using a rotating bit, such as the hole patterns needed for sheets and dividers placed into ringed binders.

Folding – a procedure that bends over a printed piece so that it lies flat upon itself. Folding serves many functions, one of which is to reduce the physical size of a printed piece. This allows the piece to fits into something else – like an envelope, packaging, or display rack.

Laminating – the process of bonding a clear plastic film onto printed matter to protect it against stains, smudges, moisture, wrinkles, and tears.

Padding – applying a flexible adhesive along one edge of a stack of same-sized sheets. The adhesive secures the sheets as a unit but allows the topmost sheet to be easily removed as needed.

Perforating – a procedure that creates a series of very fine holes in paper, usually along a straight line, to allow a portion of the printed piece to be easily detached by hand. 

Score - the process of making a crease in paper so it will fold easier. Helps improve the appearance of the fold because it provides a guideline.

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Finishes and Coating

Aqueous Coating - Aqueous coatings are applied in-line on press, have higher abrasion and rub resistance, are less likely to yellow and are more environmentally friendly. 

Film Laminates - The laminates can be applied on one side or both sides of the paper, and with a sealed edge, which makes the sheet virtually waterproof. Film laminates offer much more protection than liquid coatings in exchange for longer production times and higher costs.

Liquid Coatings - Liquid coatings can be applied in-line by the printer as part of the printing process or off-line after the project leaves the press. Areas that are heavily covered with black ink or other dark colors often receive a protective coating to guard against fingerprints, which stand out against a dark background. Coatings are also used on magazine and report covers and on other publications that are subject to rough or frequent handling. Liquid coatings are by far the most common way to protect print publications. They provide light to medium protection at a relatively low cost.

Nylon - Most stable of the laminates, nylon offers a unique advantage when thermal laminating is used. Nylon does not stretch when it is heated, which means that it will not later shrink as it cools and cause the paper to curl. 

Polyester - Polyester offers the greatest strength and abrasion resistance. Polyester provides a hard coating, extremely resistant to scuffing and tearing. 

Polypropylene - Polypropylene provides a softer finish than other laminates, which makes it the best choice for projects that will be folded, but it is more prone to scratching than the other laminates.

UV Coating - UV, or ultraviolet, coatings offer more protection than either varnish or aqueous coatings. UV coatings are applied in-line by printers or off-line by printers, finishers or converters. UV coatings are applied as a liquid, using a roller, screen or blanket, and then exposed to ultraviolet light to polymerize and harden the coating, with zero emissions. 

Varnish Coating - Varnish coatings are available in gloss, satin or dull finishes, with or without tints. Varnishes offer a relatively low degree of protection compared to other coatings and laminates. Varnishes are applied just like an ink, using one of the units on the press.

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