Offset printing is a widely used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat (Plano graphic) image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.

Offset printing advantages

Advantages of offset printing compared to other printing methods include:

Consistent high image quality. Offset printing produces sharper and cleaner images and type than letterpress printing because the rubber blanket conforms to the texture of the printing surface.
Usability on a wide range of printing surfaces (including wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic) in addition to smooth paper.
Quick and easy production of printing plates.
Longer printing plate life than on direct litho presses because there is no direct contact between the plate and the printing surface.
A "right" reading (not reversed) printing plate that is easy to proof read prior to printing.

Offset printing is the most common form of high volume commercial printing, due to advantages in quality and efficiency in high volume jobs. While modern digital "presses" (inkjet based) are getting closer to the cost/benefit of offset for high quality work, they have not yet been able to compete with the sheer volume of product that an offset press can produce. Furthermore, many modern offset presses are using computer to plate systems as opposed to the older computer to film workflows, which further increases their quality.

Private or hobby presses, engaged in patient production of limited editions of fine quality books, often use letterpress as well as offset methods, some "purists" preferring the slightly embossed look resulting from the direct impression of inked type upon fine paper. These books are sometimes printed from hand-set foundry type (individual pieces of movable, lead-alloy type). Flexography, a form of letterpress, is still used in the printing of high-quality premium labels, in ticket printing, and in envelope manufacturing/printing, though is now no longer the dominant technology. In Europe, however, in the last two decades flexography has become the dominant form of printing in packaging due to lower quality expectations and the significantly lower costs in comparison to other forms of printing.

Printing was first conceived and developed in China and Korea [1]. Primitive woodblock printing was already in use by the 6th century in China. The oldest known surviving printed document is a Buddhist scripture recently discovered in Korea, which dates to 751 [2]. The oldest surviving book printed using the more sophisticated block printing, the Chinese Diamond Sutra (a Buddhist scripture), dates from 868. The movable type printer was invented by Bi Sheng in 1041 during Song Dynasty China. The movable type metal printing press was invented in Korea in 1234 by Chwe Yoon Eyee during the Goryeo Dynasty -216 years ahead of Gutenberg in 1450. By the 12th and 13th century many Chinese libraries contained tens of thousands of printed books. The oldest extant movable metal-type book is the Jikji, printed in 1377 in Korea.

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