Offset Printing and Its Importance to the Fine Art Printing World
In the world of fine art printing, the process of “offset printing” is the basic element to creating amazing fine art reproductions. Offset printing is a widely used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.
The most common kind of offset printing is derived from the photo offset process, which involves using light-sensitive chemicals and photographic techniques to transfer images and type from original materials to printing plates.
In current use, original materials may be an actual photographic print and typeset text. However, it is more common — with the prevalence of computers and digital images — that the source material exists only as data in a digital publishing system. Offset litho printing on to a web (reel) of paper is commonly used for printing of newspapers and magazines, and is also the leading means to create fine art giclee prints for high speed production.
Offset printing is the most common form of high-volume commercial printing, due to advantages in quality and efficiency in high-volume jobs. While modern digital presses are getting closer to the cost/benefit of offset for high-quality work, they have not yet been able to compete with the sheer volume of product that an offset press can produce. Furthermore, many modern offset presses are using computer to plate systems as opposed to the older computer to film workflows, which further increases their quality. In the last two decades, flexography has become the dominant form of printing in packaging due to lower quality expectations and the significantly lower costs in comparison to other forms of printing.