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Depending on a particular process," I’m a printer" can mean a range of things. The more you know about the printing industry, the better you get at making the correct choice. Ordering print can get pretty complex. To make your job a little easier, we"ve listed some of the main printing methods used by commercial printers. This list should help define the major ones and guide business people in their choice for the perfect vendor:

Digital printing

This one may not be that common and many professional printers will confess not knowing very much about digital printing because its relatively new - digital printing does not use film but digital imaging technology. That means that your text and graphics can be sent straight from your computer desktop to the press, eliminating the need for typesetting or making plates.

Still working its way into the mainstream, digital printing is particularly good for four-color jobs that are short-run (less than 5000 copies) and that need to be turned around in less than two days. However, it can tend to be restricted in its choices of color and paper.

Electrostatic printing

Using a procedure where the toner sticks to a charged drum and is thermally fused on to the page (like photocopying)electrostatic printing is good for very short printing runs.


This is a unique printing process that makes an impression into thick paper over printed type or a design. The impression may be concave (rounded inward like a sink) or convex (curved outward, like the outside of a sphere).


This type of printing method results in the sharpest images of all. The image feels indented if you run your fingers over the back of the sheet.


This is the course of action taken to print packaging materials. Flexographic presses use rubber plates with printed areas raised on release.

Gravure printing

This is a costly process but results in high quality printing. It uses direct contact between an etched copper plate and the paper. While the plate has a somewhat high cost, this method is the best way to print high quality, large volume materials such as flyers, magazines, annual reports or mail order catalogues.


This is the original printing process that was introduced back in the fifteenth century. It uses images on the plate that are faintly raised from the surface (like a rubber stamp).But very few printers offer fine letterpress.

Offset lithography

An accepted printing method offered by almost every printer. Used to print any range of different textured materials, this process uses ink cost-effectively and requires little time to set up.

Screen printing

Also referred to as silk screening, this process passes ink through a screen, much like a stencil pattern. Often used for non-flat surfaces, this method is best set to print on items like mugs, clothing, ring binders, bumper stickers or billboards.


This is a print finishing method that results in a raised image. This process dusts a formerly printed image with a powder, after which the image"s ink has been allowed to dry. Applying heat makes the powder and the ink fuse and form a raised image.

So remember when you’re looking for a printer, make sure you know whether or not they can deliver what you need. Printing is complex stuff but,­ the more you ask, the better your printed results will be.


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