Printing Methods – Commercial Printing Industry

The printing industry is like a big machine with many gears. For the machine to operate smoothly, all the gears must operate together in harmony. Should one of the gears become out of sync with the others, the machinery stops working!! For example, if the Creative artist is late with the art work, the job is delayed. If the Paper mill is late on an order or ships defective paper, the job is delayed, etc. etc. When delays are experienced it costs the customer time, money and aggravation!

Well in most cases someone needs to get some kind of information out. It can be as small as someone in your neighborhood having a garage sale and needing to convey that fact or as large as a car company needing to promote a new automobile. The principals are still the same for large or small.

To successfully complete a print job, large or small, several steps are needed to organize, plan, design and print. No matter how large or small the customer may be, the process is similar. The person holding a garage sale who needs a two color fl yer printed will still have to organize their thoughts, pick a printer (Kinko’s for example), pick the type of paper they want, etc. The large corporate buyer does the same only on a more grand scale. They may work through an Advertising agency and pick a national printer like Donnelley but the process is still much the same.

The following depicts the publication/printing process:

  1. The customer must gather all the requirments for the publication to be printed. Working with an Ad Agency, budgets, schedules and output quality are determined. Art sketchs and layouts are completed.
  2. Once the Ad agency knows what the end product will be and how it will printed, they can determine what pre-press tasks are needed (trap-ping, color, etc.). A printer is usually sought either a bid basis or by contract.
  3. Now that a printer has been selected in step two, we need to discuss the needs and special requirements for the job being printed. The Ad agency may, at this point, be working with a Merchant Specifier to determine the proper paper to print the job onto.
  4. Images and photographs will be scanned, text written and approved and page layout is then completed.
  5. After page layout is completed, proofs are printed for the customer to view and either make changes or to accept and go to press. If changes are needed, additional proofs will be generated for approval.
  6. Once the customer has approved the proofs? the job is ready to be printed. Film or plate separations are made and the job is on its way to press! Assuming paper that was selected has arrived at the printer in good shape, on time and the job has been scheduled we are on our way to a successful print job!

Sooo, How does a printing job all come together you ask??

The Printing House

A Printing Company is made up of several key areas all which serve to accomplish many tasks. To print a job, a basic cycle is followed, which has not changed that much since the time of Ben Franklin! The basic cycle is:

  1. Identifying a need
  2. Creating an image design
  3. Reproducing the image design
  4. Distributing the printed mesage

The cycle begins with an identified need. The need might be as simple as the reproduction of a form or ads sophisticated as a poster intended to change human attitudes. Whatever the need, a graphic design evolves. Special design agencies are often set up whose sole purpose is to sell ideas and work closely with the printer as the design is turned into print for the customer.

The function of Print Management is to be responsible for reproducing the image design. The most efficient printing process must be identified. Such variables as the type of material to be printed, length of run, number and types of colors, time requirements, desired quality, and customer’s cost limitations must all be considered. A typical printing house would include:

  • Sales – to sell printing or gain customers
  • CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives) – to assist sales and customers
  • Estimators – To provide the quotations and pricing information
  • Production – To take the design and print it, finish it and ship it!
  • Shipping – To ship the printed product

Once the design has been approved, the design is turned over to the printer who has been selected by the customer. The image is designed to meet a need. Sketches and final layouts are made, and design variables such as type style, visual position, type size, balance, and harmony are all considered. This is the Image Design step. From this stage, Image Generation takes place. Today the printer, using high powered PC’s (IBM or Clones) or Mac’s (MacIntosh), will take the design and layout it out for image generation (film or plates). If not using Computer to Plate (or film), the individual pieces of film (image generation) will need to be stripped or assembled into position to make an printing plate. This is known as the Image Assembly step. The assembled films are then photographically transferred to an image carrier during the Image Carrier Preparation step. The image carriers for each printing process may operate differently, but all must be prepared with the same general photographic considerations.

The image must be printed onto a receiver material during the Image Transfer step. This is the actual printing step. The image is transferred from the plate (offset or otherwise) to the substrate. The last step in the process is the Finishing step. This step combines the printed material into a final finished form that can be delivered to the customer. This may include cutting, perforating, scoring, folding, inserting, stapling, binding, and/or packaging.