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Prepare a publication for commercial printing

1-1 commercial priinting overview

A typical offset printing workflow is as follows:

Callout 1 The process starts with the publication on your computer, which you hand off to your commercial printer.
Callout 2 Your printer sends the publication to a high-resolution imagesetter to produce a negative film, which is stripped into a mask.
Callout 3 The printer uses this mask to make press plates that are used on the printing press to produce the final product.

These steps are a simplified version of the process. Your publication may require addition steps to achieve the final product you want. You will need to talk to your commercial printer to determine what these steps are.


Commercial printing is any printing service that produces higher-quality printed versions of your publications than you can produce on your desktop printer. The extent of the work involved can be expensive depending on what you need. As a commercial printing customer, you should tailor your printing needs to your budget and the anticipated impact of your publication on your intended readers.

Typically, commercial printing means offset printing. Offset presses are standard for the printing industry. They require a press plate for each color and each page of a publication.

Most commercial printers also offer services other than just printing your publication. These services might include scanning images, binding and assembly of printed jobs, and retouching of digital images.

Some commercial printers are able to do digital prepress, which entails the following:

  • Trapping   ¬†Trapping is a means of correcting for misregistration on the printing press by creating small overlaps, called traps, between differently-colored elements that abut. Trapping is only needed if you are printing a multicolor publication on an offset press.
  • Imposition   ¬†Imposition is the arranging of multiple pages to print on the front and back of a single press sheet. After it's printed, the single sheet, called a signature, is folded and bound together with other signatures to make the final book. The pages of each signature are are arranged so that, when folded, they are in the correct sequence.

Finally, many commercial printers offer high-quality black and white or color photocopying as a less expensive alternative to printing the job on a four-color press.

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