A Creative Guide to the Different Methods of Printmaking

Digital publishing might have shaken up the world of printing but the old-fashioned world of print isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Indeed, as creatives, we’ve never been afforded more options when it comes to how our artistic endeavours find their way into the physical world. Even in the world of printing, there are plenty of options favoured by various artists and designers for a spate of reasons. Whether you’re interested in printing posters, magazines or one-off designs, there is a printing method suitable for the job. Here, we’ll be taking you through a few of the most common options. 

Screen printing - Most commonly used for textiles and large posters, this older but very versatile printing method is still one of the most popular ways to print onto fabric, particularly T-shirts. It uses paint and a silk screen with small holes in it that allows the paint to pass through only where desired. This is a very durable and high-quality method that’s only real drawback is its cost and the fact that specialist equipment is required. 

Offset printing - Large printing presses for magazines and newspapers are often offset, as it’s an incredibly fast way to get hundreds and even thousands of copies. It’s a pain to set up though and the equipment is not cheap or easy to maintain. But for long runs of print, this is an effective technique with unrivalled quality. 

Digital printing - The most common method for hobbyists as it doesn’t require any specialist equipment and is reasonably affordable, digital printing works by sending an image file’s information to a laser or ink-jet printer. The immediacy and flexibility, not to mention the range of colours available, have led to digital printing dominating the design world in recent years, though large print runs are not economical and the quality varies depending on the printer. 

Letterpress printing - For everything from posters and business cards to indoor and outdoor signage, letterpress is a unique and very classic printing method. It uses a raised area covered with ink that is then pressed onto a substrate. It was one of the first methods used for printing newspapers and is still used today to lend a more vintage flair to your designs. 

Lino printing - When it comes to fine art printmaking, Lino printing is the best entry-level option. The process uses scoring knives to duplicate a design onto a sheet of linoleum, with the raised areas then covered in ink and pressed to a substrate. It’s essentially a more approachable version of letterpress. 

3D printing - Finally, the new kid on the block is perhaps the most flexible of all printing methods. Indeed, 3D printing has been used to print everything from food to weaponry and everything in-between. By using melted plastic, piped through a thin nozzle and arranged in layers to replicate 3D design files, complete three-dimensional models can be replicated with incredible complexity. Of course, it’s early days yet, but it’s come a long way in recent years and the technology is only getting better so watch this space!

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