How Does Commercial Printing Work?

By | October 4, 2011

Commercial printing indeed has gone a long way. While it still follows the CMYK principle, technology has allowed for a faster and convenient process.

Commercial printing is part of our everyday lives, whether we are conscious about it or not. From the newspaper that we read, to the flyers that we receive in the mail together with our billing statements, to the magazines that we read, to the posters that we see in the supermarket—all these and more are products of either a local or a national commercial printer.

Have you thought about the process that goes into the printing of these materials? Or are you like the millions of other people who do not care, as long as you have something to read? But most probably, since you are reading this, you must be interested, or at least curious, of how the printing process comes to be.

To summarize the printing process, it is how you translate a design or an art work onto another material. That is printing. Commercial printing on the other hand is making many copies of this artwork. The final output may be on paper, board, or another flat or textured surface because modern printers can pretty much print on anything. The modern-day commercial printer works very fast and works closely with computers to make almost the exact replica of the original artwork.

Printing companies nowadays are mostly using the four-color offset printer because this machine can make thousands of copies in no time. In the past, making colored copies means that the presses will run four times in order to translate the four colors recognized by the printer. These colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, hence colored printing is also known as four-color or CMYK printing. The CMYK process is simple and here is how it works.

Commercial printers process a colored image, layout, or photograph and extract the four main colors, which are the CMYK. All the rest of the colors are just combinations of these four colors.

Printing will involve four aluminum plates, each one containing the “information” needed for printing. For example, plate number 1 is for cyan and it contains the areas where the color cyan has to register. You may notice in a plate that there are some areas that are dark whereas some are lighter because that is the percentage of the ink that goes into that area. While the logic of the process is simple, the actual rendition can be complicated.

In the past, all the processes are done manually, such as the color separation, the plating, the loading of the plate, and finally the printing. Nowadays, while the system is pretty much the same, the process has been made easier because of the aid of computers and new gadgets. The color separation is done by the computer and so is the plating. The four-color offset machine has made the process faster and more convenient. When you take out the printed pages from the four-color offset machine, it is ready to be collated. That is how fast and efficient the new machine is.

Commercial printing indeed has gone a long, long way. While it still follows the CMYK principle, modern technology has allowed for a faster and more convenient process. The final output is also of better quality than it was before. If you want to be a commercial printer, you may have to shell out a big amount of the purchase of a four-color machine but this ergonomic machine will make it easier for you to recoup your investment because it works fast and does not require a lot of operators before the printing job is done.