So I have this question in my course on Print Communications

Hey everyone,
So I have this question in my Print Communications course:
Which printing process out of Traditional Offset, Lithography, Flexography and Digital printing would be best for printing a magazine and which would not?
I just have to compare two processes, so does anyone have any ideas as to which two?

Thanks in advance for your help, I’m really not so dab at the print side of design, but this course is helping, of course.

Offset is almost always used to print magazines (either web or sheetfed). Another process called rotogravure is sometimes used too — especially for extremely large print runs.

Letterpress was used 40- or 50-plus years ago, but quality and cost improvements for offset mostly killed letterpress for all but speciality printing. Digital is still too expensive and slow for large magazine-sized print runs. Flexography would be completely inappropriate for printing a magazine; it’s used mostly for printing things like packaging and labels.


Aha! So that’s the sort of useful knowledge I need for this assignment, thanks so much Just-B.
So can anyone expound on why Offset is so good?

It boils down to quality and cost for medium- to larger kinds of print jobs — including magazines. You probably want more of an answer than that, but, really, that sums it up.

Thanks Just-B.
I have to write an entire report on it, so yeah, I will have to go into the details of why it is more cost efficient and has better quality. The longer and more drawn out, the better!
Thanks again for your help.

You might call a local printer and ask if you could interview them and tour their facility. Actually seeing presses in operation will clarify things. Plus, being able to sight a personal interview as a source looks great.

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Type each of the following separate searches into Google, and you’ll get more than enough information for your report.

This will be better than any of us writing it all out here. Plus you’ll learn more. Don’t neglect web vs sheetfeed printing. Both are offset lithography, but the printing presses are very different and that difference is important when it comes to magazine printing.

Offset vs letterpress
Offset vs gravure
Offset vs digital
Offset vs screen printing
Offset vs flexo
web vs sheetfeed

If these search lead to some questions you can’t get answers for, feel free to ask.

And following through on Steve’s idea will likely get you an A on your paper.

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Sounds great! Thanks guys.
By the way, is tradition offset the same as lithography?

Offset lithography (or just offset) is a type of lithography. It’s the name usually applied to the commercial printing process in your report. If I were you, I wouldn’t use the term traditional offset or traditional lithography. There’s nothing especially traditional about offset — it’s a modern technology that’s improving all the time. And traditional might be mistaken for the old lithography technique that involves drawing or transferring an image onto a litho stone and hand cranking it through a printing press, which has nothing to do with today’s commercial printing.

Well the reduces some confusion, thanks!

Let us know if B gets and A!


Keep in mind the volume of the printing. B is right, most major publications/magazines will be printed 4 color offset. The price would be better, the quality would be superb, and offline finishing equipment can be used to bind and trim the books. However, the volume for this to be effective is high. Very high in fact. a 32 page saddlestich book would require 8 printed sheets and 16 (16!) press plates. not to mention multiple press setups, plate mounting, etc.

If you’re running 50,000 publications and the better part of a half million sheets. You’re in business.
If you’re running 1000 publications? Well, you might shoot your coffee through your nose at the price.
Digital, still costly as it may be, may be a more competitive option here.

Thanks, everyone, you’ve all been such a help.
So much consideration goes into a printing job, as a graphic designer, will I have to know all this off the top of my head?

I only get graded with S (satisfactory) or NYS (not yet satisfactory), and not much isn’t satisfactory, which is a shame, because I put a lot of research into my papers, and I only ever get the same score as those who put the absolute minimal effort required. Depressing sometimes, but never mind.
Thanks again, everyone. This forum rocks!

When printing a job it is best to think about finishing before beginning.
If you have never done a print process before, ask for spec sheets, hand off instructions (not everyone wants PDFs) and best practices for the printer(s) you have chosen. Once you understand the print process, then you can figure how best to design for it.

Okay then, it’s a good thing I’m doing this course then!
Thanks again everyone, you’ve all been such legends!

All great replies. Probably not worth noting for this report, but good to know is that specific Pantone brand colors don’t print the same across processes. When you have executives who want brand colors to look a certain way that sometimes outweighs any cost considerations.
I’ve built relationships with local printers who offer more than one type of printing and have gotten sample colors printed to know the range of variation I’m working with.
Good luck on your report.

If cost isn’t an issue, those colors should match across processes.

Thanks, @Just-B, I learned a lot from this thread!

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Yes, as a successful graphic designer you should know all types of printing and understand the printing process, and take that into consideration while designing.

It isn’t really necessary to know ALL the types of printing out there. But it is a very good idea to know the printing options in your niche of design, and to know what questions to ask should you need to do something completely different.

For instance yesterday I just qualified a totally new print vendor with a relatively new print process, the caveat to it being it prints just like earth-based porcelain. No true magenta. If you didn’t know that when looking at the samples, you’d think they suck as a printer. You have to design with that handicap in mind.

If you run across something new, always ask questions. Don’t assume what you learned in school is the correct way to do things.

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