What is Offset Printing?

In today’s time and age, offset printing is the most common technique of printing. It is a printing technique in which the inked image is transferred to a rubber blanket and ultimately to the printing surface. About 40% of all print jobs are done using the offset technique.

The working of offset printing is rather simple. Three cylinders are used to transfer the image onto the substrate. The first cylinder is inked and mounted with the printing slate. The image is transferred or offset to the second cylinder, which is mounted with the rubber blanket. The image on the printing plate of the first cylinder is the ‘right reading’ and thus the image on the second cylinder is thus reversed and becomes the ‘wrong reading’. In the final step, the image is transferred from the blanket cylinder to the third cylinder or the substrate.  The substrate is mounted on the third cylinder, which is commonly known as the impression cylinder. The image thus gets reversed and becomes ‘right’ reading in the final printed version.

A distinctive feature of offset printing is that is the image and non-image areas are on the same surface level. This printing technique makes use of the scientific fact that oil and water do not mix up to print from a single surface level. This printing method has been inspired from lithography and thus it is often referred to as litho offset printing as well.


Types of offset printing

  1. Sheetfed offset printing– In this method, the printing is carried out on single sheets of paper. This printing method is more prevalent for small and medium-sized fixed jobs such as books.
  2. Web-fed offset printing – In this method, printing is carried out on a single, continuous sheet of paper from rolls supplied to the printing press. The sheet is then cut individually into the required sizes. Popular examples of this type of printing are newspapers and magazines.

Offset printing process requires significant investment in equipment. Once the infrastructure is in place, offset printing is a relatively inexpensive technique.

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Applications of offset printing

The applications of offset printing are innumerable, almost impossible to list. If anything needs to be printed, offset printing can do it. However, here are some of the most common applications of offset printing.

  1. Newspapers are the most visible application of this technique. It is because of the speed of offset printing that such high volumes can be generated easily, every day.
  2. Books are another application of offset printing. Whether for educational purposes or for entertainment, offset printing makes books highly affordable.
  3. Large volumes of legal forms and documents are also printed using offset printing.
  4. Offset printing is used for printing flyers, brochures, PR material and a host of other marketing applications.

All in all, offset printing essentially affects all the aspects of our lives- social, economic, educational, and even legal.  The various applications of offset printing would be difficult to list, but it’s safe to say that offset printing makes the world a better place!

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