Printing techniques - relief, gravure and flat printing

Printing techniques - relief, gravure and flat printing

Nowadays you can meet with various methods of applying content to surfaces. These can be both informational and advertising data, and the substrate can be paper, film or other material. We encourage you to read our article on the most well-known printing techniques. You will learn from it what gravure, relief and flat printing is all about. You will see which of the described types will work for your business, and which is better to give up. Reach for the knowledge we have prepared for you!

What are the most famous printing techniques?
Although electronic forms of communication are increasingly common these days, it still comes to choosing print in many cases. Customers of printing houses come in with a variety of orders, from small orders (e.g., vignettes or wedding invitations) to medium print runs (e.g., advertising flyers for their company) to large orders (e.g., for flexible packaging). New printing techniques are being developed to meet the needs of principals, or existing ones are being modified.

Currently available methods can be divided into relief, gravure and flat. Some are solutions for everyone, while others are suitable for larger orders, as their price decreases with the number of printed products.

Modern printing technologies

When talking about print runs, it's worth specifying which techniques pass the test at certain volumes. Customers interested in low-volume or unit printing should pay attention to digital printing. It does not require the preparation of a printing form, which significantly reduces costs at the very beginning. The content is transferred to the material directly from the file sent by the ordering party. This option is cheap and fast, so it is used by buyers who care about time and savings.

Offset, flexographic and gravure printing are suitable for large-volume printing. The larger the order, the lower the price of a single print will be. Unlike their digital counterparts, these techniques involve longer lead times and higher costs, but are characterized by very high quality and color saturation.

A secondary technique, screen printing, is recommended for transferring motifs to, for example, leather, wood or plastic. It works well for printing advertising gadgets and clothing items. It is an option for economical people, while sometimes (depending on the inks used in the process) the prints may have less durability.

Relief printing techniques

The first of the discussed methods is characterized by the longest history. Its types have been known for hundreds of years, and today you can mostly find them in art projects. The most well-known relief printing techniques are gypsum print, linocut, metallic print, line tintype and woodcut. The terms for the methods are named after the material of the printing forms on which a particular composition was created. Today, printers mainly use flexographic printing. In this method, the ink hits the protruding parts of the matrix, is reflected on the material and so the image is formed on it.

Flexography is based on flexible matrices (usually photopolymer). This type is characterized by its flexibility and amazing ability to form and adapt to the substrate. The technique allows free relief printing on virtually any material. The material on which the graphic element, lettering or other motif will be placed can be cardboard, foil, plastic or a paper bag, among others. The multifunctionality of flexographic printing makes it possible to decorate food packaging, boxes of chemicals, cosmetics and a wide range of other products, including construction.

For flexography, printing houses use special fast-drying spirit, UV-fixed or water-based inks. Using relief printing, the desired motif can be applied to a surface that is not perfectly smooth and even. This is the solution of choice for those looking for an effective method of printing on paper, films, laminates, cardboard. It is suitable for various types of packaging and labels; it can also be used for other color graphic designs.


Gravure printing techniques

Unlike the relief variant, the next method involves covering the entire mold with ink and then collecting it from the non-printing areas. Gravure printing is characterized by the fact that these non-printing places are located higher than the printing ones. At a further stage of printing with the described technique, the ink is transferred from the recesses to the substrate. For this purpose, a special press is used.

The industrial versions of printing can be divided into two types: stamp printing and rotogravure. With the former, the role of the ink application tool is played by a pad (stamp). It is characterized by softness and smoothness, thanks to which it works well when decorating uneven substrates. This gravure printing technique is also used when applying the design to the surface of plastics, metals and glass. It is worth mentioning that stamping passes the test when producing various types of advertising gadgets, numismatic items or even car parts.

The second type of industrial gravure printing is rotogravure. Instead of a stamp, the function of the printing form is performed by a special cylinder, on which the image to be printed is engraved. This cylinder can be either copper or steel (in this situation it will be covered with a layer of copper). The method is used in the production of postage stamps and banknotes. It can be used for printing packaging or color magazines. Be aware of the high cost due to the need to prepare the mold, but it is a good investment for large print runs.

Flat printing techniques

As you can guess, this solution differs from its previous ones in the texture of the printed surface. While with gravure or relief printing the applied motifs can be easily felt under the fingers, with flat printing this is not so obvious. In this printing form, the printing and non-printing areas are located at the same level (the form is level). Here we are talking about two printing techniques: direct and indirect. The former is based on contact between the substrate and the die, while the second features an intermediate element - the cylinder.

A variation of indirect printing is called offset. Flat printing in this edition is high-volume. Today it is a major technique, widely used in industry. Its popularity increased after the invention of offset plates (sheets). Print images are obtained on them through a photochemical process. The plate is exposed, and the exposed areas are etched. Printing molds have to be prepared before orders are processed, so printing by this method is more expensive. Nevertheless, the cost decreases proportionally to the volume of the print run, making it an economical solution.

The biggest advantages of this flat printing technique are superb color reproduction, clarity and color saturation. Not without significance is also the durability, which allows to refine the printing substrate. Advanced offset technology makes it possible to print on a non-paper surface, as well as on any kind of paper - including variants with different grammages. What's more, such a product can be covered with additional coatings of the laminate type.

Where is it worth ordering printing of your products?

Printing techniques vary in price and the effect achieved. Some can be called universal, others are suitable for specific activities. We encourage you to take advantage of the offer of our printing house. Reach out to our experts for guidance. We will advise you on the choice of the optimal method, and we will complete the order.

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