Printing is a process of producing an image or text on paper. This includes books, brochures, catalogs, business cards, shopping bags, postage stamps, and promotional products. In some cases, printing also includes instructions or directions to the reader.

Paper is a material made from wood or cooked wood fibers. Different types of paper are used for different purposes. Some paper is suited for books, while others are suitable for menus, posters, and envelopes. High gloss coated paper is used for catalogs and magazines.

There are four main categories of coated papers. The first is short grain paper. It has parallel fibers. Another category is wide web paper. These are the best for posters and menus. They are also suitable for freestanding inserts and grocery bags.

The other three categories are planographic, intaglio, and relief. Planographic printing uses raised surfaces and intaglio has engraved or etched areas below the plane surface. Relief prints can have raised or recessed areas, or a concave or convex surface. Regardless of the method, the finished product will have nonimage areas that are not printed. For example, there may be a silicon or water-coated surface in the nonimage area, or it may have a coating on the paper that will repel ink.

To print an image, an ink is applied to the paper using a process that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket. Depending on the type of paper, this process may transfer the ink directly or through a dampener solution.

After the invention of movable type, printing became much more versatile. Movable type could be set up and broken apart for use in other locations. In Europe, this new printing technology marked a shift in the social landscape of reading. Instead of reading orally, people began to read silently. Educators discovered that this change raised literacy levels.

The next step in printing was to develop methods of reproducing images. Gutenberg introduced lead types, which were better suited to printing than other materials. He used a special matrix to produce the lead type. However, lead types proved to be more expensive than other materials, so printing on other types of paper began to flourish.

Printing is now an essential part of paper-based publishing. Whether the product is a book, magazine, or postcard, the image or message created by printing can be interesting and informative.

Although the impact of printing has been comparable to that of the invention of the alphabet, recent doubts about its dominance have been raised. As a result of this, some jobs in printing have become more specialized.

Early personal computer printers were based on typewriter technology. Dot matrix printers were cheaper than daisy wheel printers. Eventually, computer-based printers were developed, based on the same technology.

Before the advent of movable type, printing was a labor-intensive process. Consequently, early “journeyman printers” roamed Europe, setting type and printing at whatever location they wanted.

During the sixteenth century, the commercial imperative for printing was much stronger than in the previous centuries. New ways of funding projects became available, and publishers developed new methods for distributing their projects.