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Knowledge Base

The Offset Printing Process: How it works

Offset Printing or offset lithography is a printing press technique that transfers the ink from a plate to a rubber roller (or blanket) and then to a paper material.

It is typically used for mass production such as printing large quantities of newspapers, brochures, stationery, magazines, and boxes. 

It is one of the most widely used printing options for its high-quality prints and low cost aside from flexography printing and digital printing

Types of Offset Printing

Web-fed offset printing

Web offset lithography is most seen in the printing of newspapers and boxes. In this process, rolls of paper are fed continuously through the press and can produce over 5,000 printed materials.

The paper is cut later (this is also part of the press) to create identical sheets. Web-fed offset printing presses can produce over 3,000 of paper per minute which translates to about 80,000 identical sheets per hour.

This option is ideal for organizations who need to produce large quantity at a small period of time.

Sheet-fed offset printing

Unlike Web-fed, sheet-fed offset lithography produces smaller quantities as sheets of paper are fed individually. It is still considered as a top speed machine compared to other options.

Sheet-fed printing can go up to 12,000 sheets to 24,000 per hour. Over the years of modernization, sheet-fed has also improved in speed which allowed it to do similar functions as the web-fed press.

The Process of Offset Printing

Pre-press Process

The preparation for the artwork before going through the press is a vital step in order to produce the exact printing output.

One of the common mistakes designers make during their artwork preparation is not converting their work from RBG to CMYK.

The best way to make sure you are preparing your files correctly is by contacting a product specialist of the packaging or printing company you are working with.

PakFactory product specialists can provide full expertise and advice on preparing your artwork.

Offset Printing Process

  • The impression of the type that appears on the reverse side is first transferred to another plate, and then on to another rubber cylinder.
  • The impression of the image/text/graphics (or ‘type’) is first obtained on a ‘plate’ – this is usually a sheet of metal (although paper/polyester may also be used). It has been found that aluminum tends to give the best results.
  • It is the impression on the plate that is transferred to a rubber roller/cylinder, which is then used for offset printing. There will be two plates involved in the process if both sides of the paper need to be printed on.
  • A roller then feeds in the paper into the press. The cylinder (this is also made of rubber) containing the impression from the plate transfers the impression or ‘prints’ to the paper.

Benefits of Offset Printing

  • High Quality, True Color
    Since Offset uses ink instead of toner (digital printing), the result of the print is a lot richer and clearer
  • Low Cost
    Medium to large quantity printing is best used with offset printing. The more quantities that are produced, the cheaper the unit cost becomes.
  • Fast & Efficient
    Web-fed can produce over 80,000 copies of printed materials while producing them in high quality
  • Flexible & Dynamic
    Offset printing works on a wide range of materials including paper, cardboard, wood, leather, and plastic while providing solutions to print finishing and other special requests
About author

Mark Velarga

Mark Velarga is PakFactory's Director of Digital & Content Marketing. He writes about all things related to design, business and technology and how it serves value to customers, business owners, packaging designers and industry experts. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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