Published September 6, 2022
2 min read

What is lithography, otherwise known as litho printing?

Lithography is a process of printing from a flat surface which is treated in order to repel the ink where it is required for printing. Typically, a printing plate which is often made of aluminium with a relief image is dampened with water and then coated in ink, so that the ink will only stick to parts of the plate not wet with the water. The printing plate is then fixed to a roller and the image or copy is transferred onto the paper fed underneath the roller. With off-set lithography the image is transferred directly onto the rubber roller, so the paper doesn’t contact the plate.

How is it different to digital printing?

Digital printing is just a tad younger than litho printing, bursting onto the printing scene in the 1990’s. Digital printing involves transforming images into a matrix of pixels (dots) which are used to control the distribution of ink evenly to create the printed image. This type of printing technique is more suited to fast turnaround time print and lower volumes.

Why would litho print be right for me?

Lithography is great for bigger print jobs because once the plates have been made, actually creating the prints is a very cost-effective method of printing large volumes. Long-run print jobs, such as inserts (leaflets), and flyers, brochures, packaging, books etc., are more cost effective when printing this way.

How does litho printing work?

What’s the history?

Litho print has a rich history, with the term ‘lithography’ originating from the ancient Greek word ‘lithos’, which means stone, and ‘graphein’, which means to write. Lithographic printing came from very humble 18th century beginnings, invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap way to create theatre publications. Printing was originally achieved using a rudimentary system of wetting or inking limestone to get a printed relief.

Want to know more about the history of litho printing? Click here to nerd out on our article about The Evolution of Print.

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