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Offset Printing Questions and Answers

Here are a few commonly asked questions by offset printing clients.  The answers are simplified, but will help a pressman and client to effectively communicate in the same offset printing “language”.

What is a signature?
Printed signature
Quite simply, a signature is a single printed product as it comes off the offset press.  A signature will generally consist of several pages and may be in a semi-finished form.  Many products like books consist of many signatures bound together.  The term signature is fitting because just like handwritten signatures by individuals are different, each individual product produced by the press usually has a unit configuration.

What is an impression?
One full revolution of the offset printing press is one impression.  This is not to be confused with the signature since one impression can produce multiple signatures.  In order to economize, printers will try to produce as many finished products per impression as possible to save press time.  This is the reason a press run length number will differ from the actual order from the customer.

What is a press check?
Also known as a quality check, a press check is when a customer will come to the press and give an OK to the pressman.  This approval is usually based on color but can also include approval of the fold and other characteristics of the signature.  In reality, a pressman will sometimes approve saving the signatures before the customer has done so if they are not quick to make decisions or are indecisive.  Press checks should be accompanied by the salesman as it is not the job of the pressman to make the sale.

What is a makeready?
A makeready is simply the time it takes to set up the press to do a job for the print client.  Offset presses today are equipped to have most of the presets done immediately, making them more efficient.  However time is needed to mount plates and paper.

These questions are of course very basic to an offset pressman, but can be foreign to a customer.  Defining them clearly will promote good communication.

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