A Quick Lesson in Commercial Printing

Commercial Printers in Jacksonville, FL

Using a computer and desktop printer to transform digital projects into physical documents, you’ve likely done your own printing. However, commercial printers offer many advantages small businesses cannot ignore. They allow you to focus on what you do while saving your business time and money. A printer can also provide high-quality output at lower costs. Looking at the basics of commercial printing, let’s find out how…

Let’s investigate the various elements which make up commercial printing and some of the many services Kessler Creative provides customers each day. As an introduction to the language of print, here’s a brief glossary of printing terms and processes.

Printing Glossary

Aqueous Coating – This clear coating is used to protect printed pieces. It provides a high-gloss surface that deters dirt and fingerprints. Aqueous coating improves the durability of postcards as they go through the mail and protects business cards as they ride around in people’s pockets.

Artwork – The original physical materials, including photos, graphic images, text and other components needed to produce a printed piece. Can also now refer to the electronic or digital components needed for preparing a printed piece for production on a press or copier.

Bindery – An area within a printing company which does the cutting, folding, collating, drilling and other finishing operations used on printing projects.

Bleed – This is an area outside a page that will be removed by your printing company. Bleeds help you prevent unwanted white lines on the edges of a page. Make sure that your project has bleeds if it has an image or graphic that touches the paper’s edge.

Color Models – There are many color models available today. However, two of the most popular are “RGB” (i.e. Red, Green, and Blue) and “CMYK” (i.e. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black”). Use the former if your project is for on-screen reading only (i.e. e-book). If you will print it out, you should use CMYK.

Comb Binding – Binding a stack of paper together by inserting the teeth of a flexible plastic comb into holes punched along one of the edges. Commonly used for catalogs, reports, and manuals.

Cover – A term describing a general type of paper used for the covers of books, pamphlets, etc., also used for business cards and postcards.

Coverage – The extent to which printing ink covers the surface of a printed sheet. Ink coverage is frequently expressed as light, medium or heavy.

Crop Marks – Small printed lines around the edges of a printed piece indicating where it is to be cut out of the sheet. Sometimes referred to as cut marks.

Dummy – The preliminary assemblage of copy and art elements to be reproduced in the desired finished product, also called a comp.

Image Resolution – This term refers to the quality of an image or graphic. The higher the resolution, the higher the quality.

Lamination – Applying thin transparent plastic sheets to both sides of a sheet of paper, providing scuff resistance, waterproofing, and extended use.

Offset – An erroneous variation of the word “setoff”. Ink that is unintentionally transferred from a printed sheet to the back of the sheet above it as the pieces are stacked in a pile when printed.

Offset printing – The most commonly used printing method, where the printed material does not receive ink directly from a printing plate but from an intermediary blanket that receives the ink from the plate and then transfers it to the paper.

Perfect Binding – A binding process where the signatures of a book are held together by a flexible adhesive.

Register – The arrangement of two or more printed images in exact alignment with each other.

Saddle Stitch – The binding of booklets or other printed materials by stapling the pages on the folded spine.

Spiral Bind – A type of binding where a metal or plastic wire is spiraled through holes drilled along the binding side of a document.

Synthetic Paper – Any non-wood or cloth paper, usually petroleum (plastic) based.

Thermography – A printing process whereby slow drying ink is applied to paper and, while the ink is still wet, is lightly dusted with a resinous powder. The paper then passes through a heat chamber where the powder melts and fuses with the ink to produce a raised surface.

Text Paper – A high-quality lightweight printing paper.

UV Coating – A very shiny and durable high gloss coating applied to printed material. It is applied as a liquid then cured with ultraviolet light.

Commercial Printing Methods

Printing methods differ in terms of their output and processes. Here are the popular printing methods today:

Digital Printing – Refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional large-format printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers.

Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper, plastic, or other substrates. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines.

Offset Lithography – is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based film, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.

Offset Printing – is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface.

Wide format printers – are generally accepted to be any computer-controlled printing machines that support a maximum print roll width of between 18″ and 100″. Printers with capacities over 100″ wide are considered super wide or grand format.

The Printing Process

Here is the general process printing companies use for offset lithography:

  1. The printing company needs to obtain or creating the artwork materials before they can print them.
  2. Preparation – The printing company will convert your files into digital files or plates, depending on the printing process to be used.
  3. For offset printing jobs, the images will be transferred onto a printing plate.
  4. Printing – This step consists of the following process:

Offset lithography operates on a simple principle: ink and water don’t mix. Image information (art and text) is put on thin metal plates which are dampened by water and ink by rollers on the press. The oil-based ink adheres to the image area, the water to the non-image area. The inked area is then transferred to a rubber cylinder or “blanket” and then onto the paper as it passes around the blanket. The process is called “offset” since the image doesn’t go directly from the plates to the paper, but is offset or transferred to another surface as an intermediary.

5. Binding – The printed pages will be trimmed, folded, and/or bound to the customer’s specifications.


Commercial printing helps you and your business streamline your creative processes. You won’t have to worry about printing documents or projects yourself. You just have to send your digital files or creative ideas to a printing company. Professional printers like Kessler Creative will work on your files or ideas for you. In this way, you’ll get better output and overall productivity.

When you’re ready to talk about a direct mail campaign for your business or organization, give us a call. We’ll be happy to discuss your printing goals and offer solutions to get the accomplished. Kessler Creative 800-394-9393.