Control panel at a modern print works Printing is the process of making many copies of a document or a picture. Printing is normally done on paper or card, but it can also be done on fabrics, and sheets of plastic or metal. Books and magazines are printed on a machine called a printing press. The text and pictures start as patterns on a plate. In the press, the plate is inked so that these areas become ink-covered, and are pressed on to the paper via a rubber-covered drum. A fast printing press can make several prints a second because each print is made by one simple operation.
Early printing methods
Wooden printing blocksOne of the first methods of printing was woodblock printing, where the images to be printed were carved in reverse into wooden blocks. The blocks were then inked and pressed on to paper to make a print. Ink from the raised areas was transferred on to the paper. Simple block printing is still used for hand-printed textiles.
Round cylinder seals were used for printing images on to clay tablets in Mesopotamian civilizations before 3000 BC.
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