What are Common Printing Processes?

A barrage of printing terms left me with a headache upon first contacting a printing company

As a designer, you've finally completed a beloved design product and are eager to have it printed. After contacting several printing companies, you're left scratching your head at the sales representatives' responses:

"We can't do that because it's mostly plastic printing."

"You'll need screen printing for this one. Our company currently only does offset printing."

"For map printing, you'll need to get the content reviewed beforehand. Please remember to do this in advance."

Just as you've stepped into the world of printing companies, you're already dizzy from the dazzling array of printing terms.

You hear some printing companies claiming to specialize in metal printing, while others tout the efficiency of offset printing. Faced with these technical terms, you feel confused: Plastic printing refers to the material, while offset printing seems to be about efficiency. You want to print an art portfolio. How should you ask? How should you choose?

Don't worry, the next few articles will help you unravel the mysteries of various printing processes, help you understand the basic concepts and applications of various printing processes, and communicate with printing companies using structured thinking.

They're all like different tools in the toolbox. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Plastic printing, screen printing, and map printing are all types of printing processes, just in different dimensions. The printing industry is generally classified by six dimensions, and the subcategories of each dimension are the process terms directly related to us. Here are the details.

Classification by printing plate

  • Offset printing: Uses a flat printing plate for printing and is one of the most widely used printing processes. Offset printing utilizes the principle of oil and water repelling each other to transfer ink onto paper.
  • Letterpress printing: Impresses ink onto the substrate using a raised printing plate, similar to traditional block printing.
  • Gravure printing: The image areas are recessed, and ink is filled into the grooves before being transferred to the paper under pressure.
  • Screen printing: Squeezes ink through mesh holes onto the substrate, commonly seen in screen printing.

Classification by substrate

  • Paper printing: The most common printing method, widely used.
  • Plastic printing: Used for various plastic products, such as packaging bags and plastic bottles.
  • Metal printing: Often used for metal packaging and decorations.
  • lass printing: Used for pattern printing on glass products.
  • Textile printing: Widely used for clothing and textiles.

Classification by printing method

  • Direct printing: Ink is transferred directly from the printing plate to the substrate.
  • Indirect printing: Ink is transferred from the printing plate to an intermediate medium (such as an offset blanket) and then to the substrate.

Classification by printed product color

  • Monochrome printing: Uses one color for printing.
  • ulticolor printing: Uses multiple colors for printing, achieving rich color effects.

Classification by printed product purpose

  • Publishing printing: Used for printing publications such as books and magazines.
  • Packaging printing: Used for decorative printing such as packaging boxes and posters.
  • Functional pattern printing: Printing with specific functions, such as circuit board printing.
  • Security printing: Used for high-security printing such as banknotes and stocks.
  • Map printing: Specialized for precise map printing.

Classification by printing technology

  • Traditional printing: Includes classic printing techniques such as offset, letterpress, and gravure printing.
  • Digital printing: Uses digital technology to print directly, eliminating the need to create printing plates.

Understanding printing classification is the foundation for communication with printing companies. However, printing is a complex project, and printing processes also have their own space to play due to different presentation goals. In the next article, we will learn about the definitions, characteristics, and practical applications of key processes.