Job Description For A Press Operator

A press operator is a loosely used term to describe someone who works on an offset printing press.  It is first of all important to understand that there may be several designations of pressmen in any given setting.  For example, one print shop may have a smaller sheetfed press which requires only one press operator, while another uses a large 16 unit coldset web press requiring multiple press operators.  The job descriptions may be broken down into different positions on the press.

Job Description Breakdown For Every Position

1.  Press Operator.  Also known in many shops as the Head Pressman, First Pressman, Lead Pressman or Supervisor.  Responsible for overall operation of the press.
2.  Operator Assistant.  Many shops will call this person the 2nd pressman.  Others may use the term Ink Adjuster or Colorman.  Whatever the case, this one is usually responsible for everything to do with the inks and filling in for the Press Operator when he is absent.
3.  Rolltender.  Another expression more commonly used on sheetfed presses would be feeder.  This one loads paper onto the web press or piles the sheets onto the sheetfed press.  He keeps the press supplied with paper.
4.  Jogger.  There are many ways to describe this position.  Some use Flyboy or even Newbie.  Whatever the case, this is an entry level position and refers to the one who is handling the printed product after it comes off the press.

For this entry I will describe the qualifications and job description of a Press Operator who is basically in charge of running the entire press system whether it be a small sheetfed or large heatset web press.


A good press operator trains others.
Ability To Troubleshoot - This is a foremost quality of a press operator.  As one who takes full responsibility for the printed product, this one must have a sufficient enough understanding of every component of the offset printing press that he can discern where a problem may be originating.  Printing is problems.  A press operator must be able to troubleshoot them.  He has already proven himself a good pressman.
A Trainer - A press operator must be able to teach others the same skill.  This one is most qualified to pass on information to others and so must be a good teacher.  
Handles Pressure Well - Offset printing is a deadline driven environment.  The pressure can be too much to bear for some.  Other become very impatient and difficult to deal with under pressure.  A press operator must be able to handle that and still be able to deal with others in a respectful way.  
Knows Quality Standards - Offset printing does not produce perfect products.  Every good press operator knows that there is constantly something to improve in the process.  However a good press operator knows where to draw the line when it comes to acceptable or unacceptable quality and can do so on a press check.  He is truthful and does not let bad quality by to protect his name.  He abides by the quality standards guidelines produced by his manager.

Job Description

The job description for a press operator in its most basic form can be broken down into three primary functions:
1.  Prepares the press for printing.  This may involve many "presets" that the specific job requires.  Paper must be loaded and plates must be mounted on the press be it a pile of sheets or a flying paster.  He himself may not do this, but he is able to perform these tasks in place of anyone assigned to do them.  Many other presets relating to ink settings or paper width are also under his supervision.  He performs all of this preparation in a timely and accurate manner.
2.  Operates the press.  While the press is running, he makes all decisions as to what is acceptable and unacceptable.  He makes assignments on his crew if he has others working with him and monitors their progress.  The press operator also takes the lead in solving problems and working with any crew member in finding a solution.  He also keeps the printing press supplied with any materials in order to keep running such as ink, paper or fountain solution.
3.  Takes maintenance seriously.  While there is downtime whether it is planned or unplanned, the press operator keeps the machine in good working order through preventative maintenance.  

This is a basic rundown of the job description for a press operator.  Each printing press has its own requirements and so can be spelled out in much more detail.  Additionally, each job that goes to the press may have very specific requirements that may change the job description.  It is important for every print shop to have a detailed job description for each member in their pressroom so that they know exactly what is required of them.


  1. Anonymous11:59 AM

    Thanks. All good points.

  2. Abdur Razzak6:45 AM

    Thanks for good points of press operator.

  3. Teefe Moses2:09 PM

    But how much do pressmen earn

    1. Generally between $15 to $30 an hour depending on size and complexity of press.

  4. Hi Teefe,
    Not sure how long ago it was that you posted this, but I can tell you that my pressman makes $80,000 after taxes. I'm not sure that he's the highest paid either. I've heard that some make upwards to $100,000 take home a year. Long hours though. You earn every penny for sure.

  5. I was a flyboy for a press in Maine — definitely flyboy, no "newbie" or "jogger" (even though jogging was a large part of what I did).