AskDefine | Define printing

Dictionary Definition



1 text handwritten in the style of printed matter
2 the business of printing
3 reproduction by applying ink to paper as for publication [syn: printing process]
4 all the copies of a work printed at one time; "they ran off an initial printing of 2000 copies" [syn: impression]

User Contributed Dictionary


Verb form

  1. present participle of print


  1. The process or business of producing printed material by means of inked type and a printing press or similar technology.
  2. Material that has been printed.
  3. All the copies of a publication that have been printed in one batch.
  4. Written characters not joined-up.

Extensive Definition

Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.


Block printing in Europe

Block printing came to Christian Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300. Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate, and when paper became relatively easily available, around 1400, the medium transferred very quickly to small woodcut religious images and playing cards printed on paper. These prints were produced in very large numbers from about 1425 onwards.
Around the mid-century, block-books, woodcut books with both text and images, usually carved in the same block, emerged as a cheaper alternative to manuscripts and books printed with movable type. These were all short heavily illustrated works, the bestsellers of the day, repeated in many different block-book versions: the Ars moriendi and the Biblia pauperum were the most common. There is still some controversy among scholars as to whether their introduction preceded or, the majority view, followed the introduction of movable type, with the range of estimated dates being between about 1440–1460.
The volume of Joseph Needham's Science and Civilization in China dealing with Paper and printing has a chapter that suggests that "European block printers must not only have seen Chinese samples, but perhaps had been taught by missionaries or others who had learned these un-European methods from Chinese printers during their residence in China.", but he also admitted that the "only evidence of European printing transmitted from China is a lack of counterevidence". However, paper itself was needed for the printing process and this came to Europe via trade with the Arabs from China. Historians acknowledge that paper indeed came from China without which printing would have been impossible, however, there is less direct evidence of the influence of printing technology from Asia and its influence on European printing technology.

Movable type printing

Movable type allowed for much more flexible processes than hand copying or block printing.

In East Asia

For a description of
  • the oldest surviving metal type
  • early books printed with such metal type
  • the oldest surviving movable metal print book printed in Korea in 1377,
  • the Korean font casting process as recorded by Song Hyon in the 15th c., and
  • problems due to the nature of the Chinese language
see History of typography in East Asia
Movable type By 593 A.D., the first printing press was invented in China, and the first printed newspaper was available in Beijing in 700 A.D. It was a woodblock printing. And the Diamond Sutra, the earliest known complete woodblock printed book with illustrations was printed in China in 868 A.D. And Chinese printer Bi Sheng invented movable type in 1041 A.D. in China Sheng used clay type, which broke easily, but Wang Zhen later carved a more durable type from wood by 1298 AD, and developed a complex system of revolving tables and number-association with written Chinese characters that made typesetting and printing more efficient.
The transition from wood type to metal type occurred during the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea and is credited to Choe Yun-ui (최윤의). Records indicate that by 1234, books were being printed in Korea with movable metal type, though the earliest surviving text is from 1377. In China metal movable type was not pioneered until the work of the printer Hua Sui in 1490 AD. Movable type was widely used in China in both wooden and metal type printing, yet the European-style printing press introduced to China in relatively recent times greatly increased the efficiency and speed of printing.
East Asian printing technology may possibly have diffused into Europe through the trade routes from China through India or the Arabic world. There is no actual evidence that Gutenberg may have known of the Korean processes for movable type. However, some authors admit this possibility, and argue that movable metal type had been an active enterprise in Korea since 1234 and there was communication between West and East.

In Europe

It is traditionally believed that Johannes Gutenberg, of the German city of Mainz, developed European printing technology around 1439 and in just over a decade, the European age of printing began, but new research may indicate that it was a more complex evolutionary process spread over multiple locations. Also, Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer experimented with Guttenburg in Mainz. Genealogically, all modern movable type printing can be traced back to a single source, Gutenberg's printing press which he derived from the design of long known agricultural presses. East Asian style movable type printing, which was based on laborious manual rubbing and which had been scarcely used, practically died out after the introduction of European style printing in the 15th century.
Gutenberg is also credited with the introduction of an oil-based ink which was more durable than previously used water-based inks. Having worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skillful use of the knowledge of metals he had learned as a craftsman. Gutenberg was also the first to make his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, which was critical for producing durable type that produced high-quality printed books, and proved to be more suitable for printing than the clay, wooden or bronze types used in East Asia. To create these lead types, Gutenberg used what some considered his most ingenious invention, a special matrix wherewith the moulding of new movable types with an unprecedented precision at short notice became feasible. Within a year after his B42, Gutenberg also published the first coloured prints.
Gutenberg's invention of the printing press revolutionized communication and book production leading to the spread of knowledge. Rapidly, printing spread from Germany by emigrating German printers, but also by foreign apprentices returning home. A printing press was built in Venice in 1469, and by 1500 the city had 417 printers. In 1470 Johann Heynlin set up a printing press in Paris. In 1473 Kasper Straube published the Almanach cracoviense ad annum 1474 in Kraków. Dirk Martens set up a printing press in Aalst (Flanders) in 1473. He printed a book about the two lovers of Enea Piccolomini who became pope Pius II.In 1476 a printing press was set up in England by William Caxton. Belarusian Francysk Skaryna printed the first book in Slavic language on August 6, 1517. The Italian Juan Pablos set up an imported press in Mexico City in 1539. The first printing press in Southeast Asia was set up in the Philippines by the Spanish in 1593. Stephen Day was the first to build a printing press in North America at Massachusetts Bay in 1638, and helped establish the Cambridge Press..

Printing houses

Early printing houses (near the time of Gutenberg) were run by "master printers." These printers owned shops, selected and edited manuscripts, determined the sizes of print runs, sold the works they produced, raised capital and organized distribution. Some master printing houses became the cultural centre for literati such as Erasmus.
  • Print shop apprentices: Apprentices, usually between the ages of 15 and 20, worked for master printers. Apprentices were not required to be literate, and literacy rates at the time were very low, in comparison to today. Apprentices prepared ink, dampened sheets of paper, and assisted at the press. An apprentice who wished to learn to become a compositor had to learn Latin and spend time under the supervision of a journeyman.
  • Journeyman printers: After completing their apprenticeships, journeyman (so called from the French "journée" for day) printers were free to move employers. This facilitated the spread of printing to areas that were less print-centred.
  • Compositors: Those who set the type for printing.
  • Pressmen: the person who worked the press. This was physically labour intensive.
The earliest-known image of a European, Gutenberg-style print shop is the Dance of Death by Matthias Huss, at Lyon, 1499. This image depicts a compositor standing at a compositor's case being grabbed by a skeleton. The case is raised to facilitate his work. The image also shows a pressman being grabbed by a skeleton. At the right of the printing house a bookshop is shown.

Financial aspects

Court records from the city of Mainz document that Johannes Fust was, for some time, Gutenberg's financial backer.
By the sixteenth century jobs associated with printing were becoming increasingly specialized. Structures supporting publishers were more and more complex, leading to this division of labour. In Europe between 1500 and 1700 the role of the Master Printer was dying out and giving way to the bookseller—publisher. Printing during this period had a stronger commercial imperative than previously. Risks associated with the industry however were substantial, although dependent on the nature of the publication.
Bookseller publishers negotiated at trade fairs and at print shops. Jobbing work appeared in which printers did menial tasks in the beginning of their careers to support themselves.
1500–1700: Publishers developed several new methods of funding projects.
  1. Cooperative associations/publication syndicates—a number of individuals shared the risks associated with printing and shared in the profit. This was pioneered by the French.
  2. Subscription publishing—pioneered by the English in the early 17th century. A prospectus for a publication was drawn up by a publisher to raise funding. The prospectus was given to potential buyers who signed up for a copy. If there were not enough subscriptions the publication did not go ahead. Lists of subscribers were included in the books as endorsements. If enough people subscribed a reprint might occur. Some authors used subscription publication to bypass the publisher entirely.
  3. Installment publishing—books were issued in parts until a complete book had been issued. This was not necessarily done with a fixed time period. It was an effective method of spreading cost over a period of time. It also allowed earlier returns on investment to help cover production costs of subsequent installments.
The Mechanick Exercises, by Joseph Moxon, in London, 1683, was said to be the first publication done in installments.
Publishing trade organizations allowed publishers to organize business concerns collectively. Systems of self-regulation occurred in these arrangements. For example, if one publisher did something to irritate other publishers he would be controlled by peer pressure. Such systems are known as cartels, and are in most countries now considered to be in restraint of trade. These arrangements helped deal with labour unrest among journeymen, who faced difficult working conditions. Brotherhoods predated unions, without the formal regulations now associated with unions.
In most cases, publishers bought the copyright in a work from the author, and made some arrangement about the possible profits. This required a substantial amount of capital in addition to the capital for the physical equipment and staff. Alternatively, an author who had sufficient money would sometimes keep the copyright himself, and simply pay the printer for the production of the book. For further developments, see main article:copyright

Modern printing technology

Across the world, over 45 trillion pages (2005 figure) are printed annually. In 2006 there were approximately 30,700 printing companies in the United States, accounting for $112 billion, according to the 2006 U.S. Industry & Market Outlook by Barnes Reports. Print jobs that move through the Internet made up 12.5% of the total U.S. Printing market last year, according to research firm InfoTrend/CAP Ventures.
Books and newspapers are printed today using the technique of offset lithography. Other common techniques include:
  • pad printing popular for its unique ability to print on complex 3-dimensional surfaces.
  • flexography used for packaging, labels, newspapers
  • relief print, (mainly used for catalogues),
  • screen printing from T-shirts to floor tiles
  • rotogravure mainly used for magazines and packaging,
  • inkjet used typically to print a small number of books or packaging, and also to print a variety of materials from high quality papers simulate offset printing, to floor tiles; Inkjet is also used to apply mailing addresses to direct mail pieces
  • hot wax dye transfer
  • laser printing mainly used in offices and for transactional printing (bills, bank documents). Laser printing is commonly used by direct mail companies to create variable data letters or coupons, for example.


Gravure printing is an intaglio printing technique, where the image to be printed is made up of small depressions in the surface of the printing plate. The cells are filled with ink and the excess is scraped off the surface with a doctor blade, then a rubber-covered roller presses paper onto the surface of the plate and into contact with the ink in the cells. The printing plates are usually made from copper and may be produced by digital engraving or laser etching.
Gravure printing is used for long, high-quality print runs such as magazines, mail-order catalogues, packaging, and printing onto fabric and wallpaper. It is also used for printing postage stamps and decorative plastic laminates, such as kitchen worktops.

Digital printing

Digital printing accounts for approximately 9% of the 45 trillion pages printed (2005 figure) around the world.
Printing at home or in an office or engineering environment is subdivided into:
  • small format (up to ledger size paper sheets), as used in business offices and libraries
  • wide format (up to 3' or 914mm wide rolls of paper), as used in drafting and design establishments.
Some of the more common printing technologies are
  • line printing—where pre-formed characters are applied to the paper by lines
  • daisy wheel—where pre-formed characters are applied individually
  • dot-matrix—which produces arbitrary patterns of dots with an array of printing studs
  • heat transfer—like early fax machines or modern receipt printers that apply heat to special paper, which turns black to form the printed image
  • blueprint—and related chemical technologies
  • inkjet—including bubble-jet—where ink is sprayed onto the paper to create the desired image
  • laser—where toner consisting primarily of polymer with pigment of the desired colours is melted and applied directly to the paper to create the desired image.
Vendors typically stress the total cost to operate the equipment, involving complex calculations that include all cost factors involved in the operation as well as the capital equipment costs, amortization, etc. For the most part, toner systems beat inkjet in the long run, whereas inkjets are less expensive in the initial purchase price.
Professional digital printing (using toner) primarily uses an electrical charge to transfer toner or liquid ink to the substrate it is printed on. Digital print quality has steadily improved from early color and black & white copiers to sophisticated colour digital presses like the Xerox iGen3, the Kodak Nexpress and the HP Indigo Digital Press series. The iGen3 and Nexpress use toner particles and the Indigo uses liquid ink. All three are made for small runs and variable data, and rival offset in quality. Digital offset presses are called direct imaging presses; although these receive computer files and automatically turn them into print-ready plates, they cannot insert variable data.
Small press and fanzines generally use digital printing or more rarely xerography. Prior to the introduction of cheap photocopying the use of machines such as the spirit duplicator, hectograph, and mimeograph was common.

Eight steps in Graphic Printing Production

Graphic print Production Graphic printing is related with the Print production services, sourcing print, providing a competitive quotation, lithographic and digital printing according to requirement, sourcing services and so much more. Every company in printing, provide a complete solution. There are different phases and steps involved in graphic print production usually these are four phases and eight steps involve in printing production.
Four main phases involved in Graphic Printing Production
1. Concept visualization
2. Creative Production (Design phase)
3. Industrial Production
4. Logistics
The first phase consists of further two working steps which are Strategic Work and Creative Work, and the end result of this phase is the finalization of the idea and approved sketches of graphical design.
In the second phase which consistes Image and Text step and Layout step. The design is designed using some software and it takes a real form than sketch and after this phase the design can be used for printing.
In the third phase the developed design is taken and put to final product. This phase consists of Prepress, Printing, Finishing and Binding steps.
The last phase of the process is distribution of the finished printed product.
Eight steps involve in printing production
1. Strategic Work 2. Creative Work 3. Image and text 4. Layout 5. Prepress 6. Printing 7. Finishing and binding 8. Distribution Strategic Work: Creative Work: Image and text: The next step is to placement of image and text on your required print. Either you got it from cd, scanner, digital camera or design by yourself then the right placement of text in the print. You have to consider that what will be the right effect of image and text after the printing. Layout Prepress: The following items have each been considered part of prepress at one time or another: typesetting, copyediting, markup, proofreading, page layout, screening (of continuous-tone images such as photographs), retouching, page assembly (stripping), imposition (combination of many pages into a single signature form), trapping (also referred to as spreading and choking), separation (specifying images or text to be put on plates applying individual printing mediums [inks, varnishes, etc.] to a common print) and plate making (photomechanical exposure and processing of light-sensitive emulsion on a printing plate). Printing: Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing, lot of form of printing are used, like offset printing, digital printing etc. In printing we have papers that first we set the printing plates, adjust the ink and then set the papers sheets and start printing until printer not be ready to print accurate, desired printing sheet. so the papers used are called waste papers. Finishing and Binding: After the completion of printing , next step is how to the arrange the prints and how to finishing. 'Finishing' is the overall name given to several types of process; all of which convert the output of a printing operation into a finished product
For bookbinding and printed media, these processes can include: - Cutting & Trimming - Folding - Stitching - Pasting/Gluing/Adhesive Binding - Book Finishing - Packaging. Usually when the printing is finished huge rolls of now-printed paper are cut and put together so that the pages fall in the correct order. Pages are also bound together, by staples or glue, in this step of the process. For the paper complete finishing components in the stitcher machine have the knives, which trim the paper to the final delivered size. The product is then ready to be shipped to the end destination Distribution:

External links


Further reading

  • Five Hundred Years of Printing
  • Tam, Pui-Wing The New Paper Trail, The Wall Street Journal Online, February 13, 2006 Pg.R8
  • Woong-Jin-Wee-In-Jun-Gi #11 Jang Young Sil by Baek Sauk Gi. Copyright 1987 Woongjin Publishing Co., Ltd. Pg. 61.
On the effects of Gutenberg's printing
  • Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Cambridge University Press, September 1980, Paperback, 832 pages, ISBN 0-521-29955-1
  • Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) Univ. of Toronto Press (1st ed.); reissued by Routledge & Kegan Paul ISBN 0-7100-1818-5.
Early printers manuals
The classic manual of early hand-press technology is
A somewhat later one, showing 18th century developments is
printing in Arabic: طباعة
printing in Catalan: Impressió
printing in Czech: Knihtisk
printing in Danish: Bogtryk
printing in German: Druck (Reproduktionstechnik)
printing in Spanish: Impresión
printing in Esperanto: Presarto
printing in Persian: چاپ
printing in French: Imprimerie
printing in Indonesian: Percetakan
printing in Icelandic: Prentun
printing in Italian: Stampa
printing in Hebrew: דפוס
printing in Dutch: Boekdrukkunst
printing in Japanese: 印刷
printing in Korean: 인쇄
printing in Norwegian: Trykking
printing in Norwegian Nynorsk: Trykking
printing in Polish: Druk
printing in Russian: Книгопечатание
printing in Simple English: Printing
printing in Serbian: Штампарство
printing in Finnish: Kirjapainotaito
printing in Swedish: Tryckteknik
printing in Thai: การพิมพ์
printing in Ukrainian: Друкарство
printing in Vietnamese: In ấn
printing in Turkish: Matbaacılık
printing in Chinese: 印刷

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Italian hand, Spencerian writing, airing, alphabet, art, back number, bandying, block letter, blueprint, bold hand, book, book hand, broadcast, broadcasting, bruiting, bruiting about, chancery hand, charactering, characterization, chart, choreography, circulation, collection, conventional representation, copperplate hand, copy, cursive, cursive hand, dance notation, delineation, demonstration, depiction, depictment, diagram, diffusion, display, dissemination, drama, drawing, edition, evulgation, exemplification, figuration, graphic artist, graphic arts, graphics, hieroglyphic, iconography, ideogram, illustration, imagery, imaging, impression, issuance, issue, law hand, letter, lettering, library, library edition, limning, logogram, logograph, longhand, majuscule script, map, minuscule script, musical notation, notation, number, painting, periodical, photography, pictogram, picturization, plan, portraiture, portrayal, prefigurement, presentment, printmaking, projection, promulgation, propagation, publication, publishing, realization, reissue, relief-carving, rendering, rendition, representation, reprinting, round hand, schema, school edition, score, script, series, set, spread, spreading, spreading abroad, syllabary, symbol, tablature, telecasting, text hand, trade book, trade edition, uncial, ventilation, volume, writing
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