Printing Processes

When it comes down to printing processes there are many to choose from to ensure the right outcome for any given project at hand. Next to picking the right paper, printing processes come next and are equally as important. Some Major types of printing processes include: plated processes such as, planographic, relief, recessed, and stenciled. Under planographic are offset lithography, and thermography, in relief there is letter press, flexography, block printing, die cutting, and foil stamping. When it comes to the recessed processes, gravure and engraving fall under this, while in stenciled there is screening, and in its own category there is embossing and debossing. There are also non plated processes which include: digital printing, laser / dry toner, and ink jet / wet jet.


Learning the different processes of printing is extremely valuable and can be the difference between a good design and a great design. That being said I am going to go into more detail on each of these processes for my own benefit and the benefit of whomever is reading this blog. First we will start off with planographic followed by relief, stress, stencil, non plated, and others.

Planographic processes:

Prints what is drawn on the surface

offset lithography:

The process of printing from a flat surface treated so as to repel the ink except where it is required for printing.



A printing technique in which a wet ink image is fused by heat or infrared radiation with a resinous powder to produce a raised impression.


Relief Processes:

Prints what is left of the original space


Printing from a hard, raised image under pressure, using viscous ink.



A rotary relief printing method using rubber or plastic plates and fluid inks or dyes for printing on fabrics and impervious materials such as plastics, as well as on paper.


Block Printing: 

To print (something, such as a book) from hand-cut wooden blocks —used chiefly of printers’ practice before the general adoption of movable types


Die Cutting:

The process of using a die to shear webs of low-strength materials, such as rubber, fiber, foil, cloth, paper, corrugated fiberboard, paperboard, plastics, pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes, foam and sheet metal.


Foil Stamping: 

Typically a commercial printing process, is the application of metallic or pigmented foil on to a solid surface by application of a heated die onto foil, making it permanently adhere to the surface below leaving the design of the die.


Recessed Processes:

Also known as “intaglio” is the process of printing what is below the surface


an image produced from etching a plate through an intaglio process and producing a print from it.



A print made from an engraved plate, block, or other surface, the process or art of cutting or carving a design on a hard surface, especially so as to make a print.


Stenciled Processes:

Prints through open areas in screen


Forces ink or metal onto a surface through a prepared screen of fine material so as to create a picture or pattern.


Non-plated processes:

digital printing:

Refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digitalsources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers.


Laser printing:

An electrostatic digital printing process. It produces high-quality text and graphics and moderate-quality photographs by repeatedly passing a laser beam back and forth over a negatively charged cylinder called a “drum” to define a differentially charged image.


inkjet printing:

A type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper, plastic, or other substrates. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer, and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines.


Other Processes:


To carve, mold, or stamp a design on a surface so that it stands out in relief.


To stamp a design into the surface of an object so that it is indented.


Knowing all of these different types of processes is very valuable and expands the options for design up immensely. Whether you are looking for a more high quality elegant look by using high grade card stock and engraving for a formal invitation or whether you are looking to mass produce on lower quality paper and inkjet printing for informal family invitations, there is a process for everything but its up to us as designers to choose what is the best process for the project at hand and knowing the differences of each process and how they are done will help narrow the options down significantly.





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