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Printing Methods

Offset litho printing

By far the most common, offset litho (often shortened to just 'litho') is extremely cost effective for medium to very long print runs. The intial expense is in making metal printing plates, but once these have been created and loaded on to the press, they can produce one or one million prints. The cost of the paper and ink is relatively very small.

Ink is applied to the metal plates via series of rollers and then, via another series of rollers, to the paper. Because the plates never actually touch the paper itself the printing operation is referred to as 'offset'.

There are two ways of printing using this technique. The first is process, or CMYK printing. CMYK refers to the four ink colours used (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, known as in print parlance as key — hence K).

By using these four colours it is possible to print almost every colour of the spectrum. It is suitable for the vast majority of colour printing and since the press is always loaded with these four colours of inks, it is surprisingly inexpensive.

The other common use of offset litho machines is called spot colour printing. This is used where precise colour matches are needed.

Here, inks are specially mixed according to a formula guide (most commonly Pantone®, but other guides exist) and are loaded into the stations of the press. The diagram above shows a two-colour letterhead being prepared with precisely-mixed green and purple inks.

Although it may seem strange, full colour process is often cheaper than spot colour printing. This is because spot colour printing is more labour-intensive.

Digital printing.

Digital Printing takes a different approach assembling each image from a complex set numbers and mathematical formulas. These images are captured from a matrix of dots, generally called pixels, this process is called digitizing. The digitized image is then used to digitally controlled deposition of ink, toner or exposure to electromagnetic energy, such as light, to reproduce images. The mathematical formulas also allow for algorithms to compress the data. It also give a method of Calibration or Color Management Systems which helps to keep images looking the same color despite where they are view or printed. One important function that the mathematical formulas allowed was the development of a common language for digital printing it is called PostScript and was developed by Adobe. To see what PostScript looks like open a PDF or EPS in a text editor, the code seems very intricate but to a computer it just a simple code of instructions.

Large format printing

Large format in this context refers to anything larger than A3 in size. The printers which produce this work are also capable of printing on an amazing variety of substrates (materials) which can withstand all kinds of extreme environments.

Large format printers work in a similar way to domestic inkjet printers but with a much larger platen (print width) and often up to eight ink colours. This combination of features means that huge prints can be produced with true photographic quality.

Large format printing is costly and therefore the inks and materials are developed to last a long time. There are two kinds of inks: dye-based, for indoor use, and solvent-based, which is resistant to UV (ultraviolet) light from the sun's rays and therefore suitable for outdoor use.

Among the many substrates we can print on using the large format machines are:

  • Photorealistic matt paper, suitable for the vast majority of indoor uses and window displays.
  • Wet strength paper, designed for use on billboards and flat outdoor surfaces.
  • Opaque adhesive film, which is used for permanent window displays.
  • Translucent adhesive film, for illuminated displays such as backlit shop signage.
  • Pressure sensitive vinyl, intended for vehicle graphics but suitable for any permanent outdoor application.
  • Banner vinyl, which is usually fitted with brass eyelets and synthetic rope for affixing to fences and walls.
  • Treviera polycloth, a lightweight yet strong fabric ideal for printed flags.

To protect these prints we offer a variety of mounting and encapsulation options including films of varying thicknesses and finishes, depending on the intended use and location of the completed print.

Because of the huge number of combinations of sizes, materials and finishing choices we recommend you contact us for advice on how to get the best solution for your large format printing needs at the best price possible.


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Request Print Ltd | 28 Raleigh Crescent, Worthing, West Sussex, BN12 6EE. Tel: (01903) 529725 | Fax: (01903) 753914
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