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Different Printing Techniques Explained
At Clubcard we offer a variety of printing techniques and finishing options to meet different budgets, timelines and artwork requirements. From offset and digital printing to letterpress, large format, web press and flexographic printing services.
We print a huge selection of products from business cards, postcards, brochures, hang tags and rack cards to paper fliers, fine art prints, presentataion folders and newpapers to books and zines. We offer a wide range of sticker printing options on a variety of stocks.
With nearly 3 decades of print experience and friendly customer service brought to every project big and small our team is proud to serve clients around the globe since 1994. We understand that we work in print all day every day and realize getting your files ready to print can be a challenge. With that in mind our in house art department checks every file to ensure your art prints perfectly and you're completely satisfied with your project.
Here's a description of each printing method we offer to help you can choose the best option for your project.
Photo of a Heidelberg Speedmaster offset press
Offset presses are very large. In fact, a full colour press with special finishing options can be 40 feet + in length. Modern offset presses are marvels of technology and produce print work of incredible quality with amazing finishing options.
Offset press roller diagram
Offset Printing is a technique in which your artwork image is transferred through a series of ink reservoirs, solution fountains and rollers from a metal plate to a rubber blanket and then “offset” onto the printing surface. The process uses these rollers, plates and blankets to get the ink applied to the image carrier or "print areas" and a water based fountain solution applied to the "non-print" areas keeping them ink-free.
The press sheets for large offset printing presses range in size from 20 x 26 inches up to 20 x 40 inches and are not inexpensive to operate. For most small to midsize jobs like a run of 500 business cards or postcards it would not be cost effective to pay the set up and running costs of an offset press by yourself.
With this in mind, at Clubcard we offer "club run" printing to leverage the advantages of these large offset presses.
What is "Club Run" Printing?
"Club Run" printing combines your print job with those of several other cleints at the same time (usually 40-60 different jobs). By offering standard stocks and set quantity print runs we gain efficiency while passing along the savings of the shared cost of set-up, printing and trimming to everyone on the shared press run.
Club-Run printing is where the Clubcard name originated! The club run printing process requires a window of time to compile, map and position all the files on the sheet, conductfile checks for all jobs and pre-press technical procedures before making the printing plates (the pre-press phase). We then print, dry and trim each job with production times ranging from 4 business days up to 12 business days.
It's is very important to choose a production time that meets your deadline when placing your order. Once your job is mapped and positioned on a club run, it is not possible to change the ready time or cancel your order.
Colour Considerations On Club Run Printing.
When we print several jobs on a shared "club run" press sheet, we adjust the colour globally to get the best overall results for all of the jobs on that sheet. This means the colour of club run printed items will vary from traditional colour swatch books and colour will also vary on future re-prints.
With these factors in mind, colour critical jobs are not suited to the club-run printing method. We suggest choosing one of our digital or indigo printing options when colour fidelity is a critical part of your project. We also welcome custom estimate requests for colour critical projects.
Custom Project Offset Printing
We welcome custom, bespoke offset printing services via our online request form. Custom offset pricing reflects the fact your project will be produced to your unique specifications without the cost saving benefits of club run printing or shared set up and running costs. Custom offset printing is well suited to large quantity and unique finishing options.
Image of a Digital Printing Press
Digital Printing is a process that sends a digital image of your artwork via specialized image processing computers to industrial grade lasers that fire electrically charged coloured toners onto the stock you have selected for your project. Because lasers and toner are used to print directly on the stock, there is no need for plates to be created making digital printing a versatile and cost effective printing method ideal for projects that require rush printing, small quantities and multple versions of art printed at the same time.
At Clubcard, we use environmentally safe polymer based toners to print your image in full colour using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and optional White toners. Toner does not permeate the stock. Instead, it forms in a thin layer on the surface.
Digital printing has the lowest environmental impact of any printing process.
HP Indigo press crosscut diagram
Indigo Printing is a hybrid print process that is produced on a Hewlett Packard Indigo press (HP Indigo). The Indigo printing process encompasses the advantages of digital printing with near offset print quality. There are no metal plates required as a digital image of your artwork is sent to a photoconductor that transfers liquid toner ink to a heated offset blanket, which then transfers the wet ink/toner to the stock being printed. Indigo printing uses environmentally safe liquid toner to produce your image in full colour using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and optional White. Many of the stocks offered with indigo printing are 100% recycled or tree free for sustainable printing.
Photo of a lettterpress printing press
Letterpress printing refers to a technique of printing that creates an impression in the paper. Invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century, letterpress printing ranks as one of the most revolutionary disruptive technologies in history and became the standard form of mass printing until the introduction of offset presses in the 19th century.
Here's an excellent video from "Timeline" hosetd by Stephen Fry outlining just how important Gutenberg's press was at the time and the process of making and using a Gutenberg press much like the orignal.
The process involves an ink fountain reservoir filled with inks that feed into a fountain roller wiped by a fountain blade that reduces and varies the ink flow. A ductor-roller transfers ink to the main ink plate where the ink is imprinted onto the stock being printed.
Letterpress inks are thick and paste-like, similar to those used in offset printing. While most of us associate letterpress printing with a deep impression left in the stock where ink is applied, the true test of the skill of a letterpress operator is to print ink with no impression shown on the stock.
At Clubcard, we are proud to be part of the revival of this beautiful art form, continuing this age old printing tradition with a modern twist.
Flexographic press photo by Nicolejonesti - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Flexographic sticker printing aka flexo or flexography printing, is a modern process derived from the letterpress printing method using a mirrored 3D image of your artwork created on a polymer rubber plate. This three dimensional aspect allows the image areas that will be printed to be raised above the non-image areas on the plate. The ink is transferred through a series of rollers in order of the the fountain roller, anilox roller, ductor blade, plate cylinder and impression cylinder to imprint the image on the stock.
Flexographic press roller diagram; IMAGE By ECTran71 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Before sticker printing begins, the sticker stock is wound onto a roll that is mounted to the press, fed under tension through the press and sandwiched between the plate cylinder and the impression cylinder where the final image is printed onto the stock. (If you have ever loaded film into a projector, it is a similar idea).
In the final step, the printed stock passes through a dryer so the inks are cured prior to any extra steps like foil stamping, cutting to shape or laminating. The roll is then rewound and taken off the press on rolls or cut into single stickers.
Latex Ink Vinyl Sticker Printing
We produce weather-resistant vinyl stickers on a large format piezo ink jet printer that uses CMYK full colour latex inks. Latex inks are safe for the environment, the health of our employees and our clients.
Latex ink printing emits no volatile organic compounds and the resulting prints are waterproof, making the process ideal for vinyl sticker and banner printing that can be used outdoors without the need for lamination.
These vinyl stickers are then cut to standard or custom shapes that are supplied on sheets or indivodually cut.
Here's A Video Showinh How Latex Ink Vinyl Stickers Are Printed
Large Format Printing
Just like the name says, the large format printing method is suited to large size prints and is ideal for photographic reproduction on a variety of stocks. Large format printing is commonly referred to as wide format printing or giclee printing.
At Clubcard we produce large format prints using an 8 color process printer with specialized jets that spray ink onto the stock to create vibrant photorealistic images on photo and poster papers.
Fine Art Printing
Fine Art Printing is ideal for limited edition art prints, canvas printing and archival quality prints for gallery exhibits and portfolio pieces. Your work is printed using a special 8 color ink press to achieve a a wide color gamut range of vivid and vibrant colors. Clubcard offers a variety of archival art paper stocks and artist canvas to choose from.