The history of printing dates back over 5,000 years when the Sumerians used carved cylinder to make impressions. Much more recently, Johannes Gutenberg is credited with the popularization of movable type enabling the easy mass production of custom printed items in the 15th century.
The following are some of the popular printing and personalization methods currently being used.
Sometimes referred to as "flat printing", offset printing involves creating an image on a printing plate that is mounted on a rotating cylinder. As the cylinder rotates it picks up ink that is transferred to a blanket that in turn transfers the ink to the paper. Most magazines and newspapers utilize offset printing. Smaller offset printing presses can be used for stationery and invitations.
Digital printing refers to a printing method where a digital file is sent directly to the printer, without the use of printing or engraving plates that traditional methods use. The actual method of transferring the image to the paper can vary depending upon the digital printing press. The 2 most popular types of digital printers are ink-jet printers (which use liquid ink) and laser printers (which use dry toner). The biggest advantage digital printers have is how economical they are for short-run printing. When creating less than 1,000 impressions, digital printers can be much less expensive than other printing methods. However, until recently digital printers had lower quality than offset printing. The newest digital presses are now able to achieve results indistinguishable from more traditional methods.
A relief printing method done using cast metal plates resulting in type of images that may actually be depressed or debossed into the paper by the pressure of the press. Letterpress Printing dates back to the early 1900's as the traditional means to print stationery products. This process is more manual and requires more tooling and craftsmanship to achieve the desired quality. To achieve a quality product, a letterpress product will generally be done on heavier, higher quality papers.
Thermography / Raised Printing
Thermography is currently the traditional process used to produce many stationery type products. Thermography, also called "raised printing", is an offset printing process in which a powder is applied to a wet ink and then melted, causing a raised print surface. Thermography began as a more economical way to achieve an engraved look.
Blind Embossing (or more commonly called embossing) is a process that applies pressure to both sides of a material to alter the surface, giving it a three-dimensional or raised effect. The procedure involves the use of two dies; one fitting into the other so that the raised die forces the stock into the recessed die to create the embossed impression. There is no ink, toner or outlining in the blind embossing process. The result is a subtle, yet elegant image for your personalized stationery.
Using a heated metal die, a design is stamped onto paper from a special film-backed material. Foil stamping can be used with both metallic and flat opaque colors. It provides the heaviest coverage and is ideal when applying a light color imprint over a darker color paper. Foil stamping can be used on many different types of materials and products such as napkins, boxes and leather book covers.