Printing is the process of transferring an image onto a substrate, such as paper, fabric, or acetate. There are five main types of printing: flexography, letterpress, relief, screenprint, and gravure. Each is different in its method of transferring an image to a substrate.
Flexography is a type of printing that uses quick drying semi-liquid inks. It is used on a wide range of media, and is suitable for high volume jobs. The resulting images are very clear and have a smooth, glossy finish.
Intaglio printing, which has non-printing areas below the surface of the plate, is one of the oldest forms of printing. This type of printing also includes lithography.
Planographic printing is another method of transferring an image onto a substrate. Planographic printing is produced using an offset lithography process. Images are transferred to a blanket cylinder or a graphic film, and then a rubberized surfaced material transfers the ink from the plate to the paper.
Depending on the technology, printing can be a very large industrial process or a bespoke service. The type of printer and the type of substrate determines the technical specifications of the print job. Generally, the five most common printing processes are: flexography, letterpress, relief, direct printing, and gravure.
One of the most important developments in the history of print has been the introduction of movable type. This allowed more creative forms of printing. Traditionally, the type was glued to an iron plate, but the movable type allowed the type to be re-distributed. Movable type was not widely used in China until the European style printing press developed relatively recently.
Another important development was the invention of the rotary press, which was invented in the United States in 1833 by Richard M. Hoe. These presses were extremely fast and could produce millions of copies per day. During the nineteenth century, rotary presses were very popular in the U.S. Eventually, Koenig and Bauer machines were developed, which could print on both sides of a sheet at the same time.
The invention of movable type and a continuous feed enabled the development of printing as a large-scale industry. In the thirteenth century, printing material was found in Turfan, Egypt, and several languages were printed. Marco Polo might have brought printing technology to Europe.
Printed texts were commonly used for religious purposes. Religious images on cloth were often elaborate and large. Other uses of printed texts included books, brochures, business cards, and shopping bags. Often, the church or monarchs regulated the content of the texts. However, no single form of communication dominated, and critical reading of the texts became widespread.
By the sixteenth century, there were two major types of printed works, religious and secular. Religious publications, including Bibles and religious booklets, were common. Several languages were printed, including Arabic, Chinese, Greek, and Persian. The majority of religious books were printed in Latin, French, German, and Hebrew. A list of subscribers was often included in the books as a way of attracting potential buyers.