PRINTING is the art of transferring letters, characters or de-signs to paper or other suitable surfaces through the medium of ink or greasy pigments. There are three great divisions of printing. First of all comes letterpress or relief printing, which owes its great development to the inventionattributed to Gutenbergof movable types.
In the letterpress process the printing surface stands out in relief and alone receives the ink. The reverse process is intaglio or copperplate engraving, in which the image or letters to be printed are cut into the surface of the plate. The entire plate is then inked and the ink is removed from the smooth or plane surface, remaining only in the incisions cut by the engraver. When the sheet of paper is impressed against the plate it picks up the ink from the engraved parts only. The third process is lithography from stones or, its more recent development, offset lithography from rubber blankets. This process is a sort of intermediary between the two earlier forms and relies on chemical reactions rather than on a difference between the levels of the printing surface, as will be explained more in detail. There are special modifications of these fundamental types of printing, to which reference will also be made.
Letterpress is the basic form of printing, and its volume far exceeds that of all other forms combined. For certain purposes offset lithography is extensively used, and sometimes, in trade publications and elsewhere, there is discussion as to the trend of the printing industry between these two processes. So far as existing evidence is concerned it seems to us that both are certain to steadily increase with the constant demand for printing in ever-larger quantities. There will probably always be abundant room for all forms of printing.
The theory that one form of printing or one form of advertising must grow, if at all, at the expense of other forms, seems to us quite fallacious and fails to take into account the ever-expanding needs of the people. With every advance in civilization the use of printing grows, and of course there is a steady expansion in population in most parts of the earth.
Modern printing and advertising have developed such an in-finite variety of forms that it may truthfully be said that no two jobs are exactly alike. Building a successful piece of printing is very much like building a successful house. It must be planned in detail in advance, and in its production: one must work at every stage to the specifications adopted.
First, the message must be clearly and logically thought out and reduced to copy. If it is to be illustrated, the pictures and decoration must be selected or produced with an eye to their artistic merit and their probable effect as a sales-producing adjunct to the text. Then they must be arranged most attractively with reference to the text. An appropriate type must be chosen and a style of engraving selected. The character of the engraving will have a good deal to do with the selection of the paper; or vice versa, if it has been decided to use a certain kind of paper, the engraving must be of a kind that works well on that sort of sheet. The sounder order of selection would be: first, the determination of the kind of engraving that will best exhibit your product or display your designs; and second, the selection of a suitable paper. The processes of printing, assembling and binding follow in their order.
Probably the most useful advice that can be given to any advertiser who lacks experience in the details of printing production or who feels at all uncertain as to his ground, is to commit the actual mechanics of the work entirely to a competent printer in whom he has confidence. A good printer is skilled in type selection, layout, engravings, and paper selection. As individual taste enters into all artistic decisions, the tactful printer who has been so broadly commissioned will find it to his advantage to consult his client at every stage of progress, to the end that the customer may be satisfied and feel that he had a real part in the production of the finished work. There are other valid reasons for close consultation. The buyer of printing may be quite unversed in any phase of graphic reproduction, but he may have very good taste, and by reason of a natural critical instinct, be able to suggest improvement while it is yet possible. The gift of visualization is a rare one. Few persons can form an accurate mental picture of a piece of printing from the most meticulous description. It is largely for this reason that the carefully prepared and elaborated dummy is useful and justifiable. To leave as little as possible to imagination or chance is a wise rule in printing. A slight change in the position of a picture or in the size of a type line may mark the difference between a printed success and a failure; but these subtle improvements must usually be actually seen to be correctly appraised. Elsewhere we have quoted a high authority on the essential usefulness of a dummy, and we reiterate and reaffirm that suggestion to all who wish to be really satisfied with the printing they buy. To make dummies takes time and costs money. Pay the printer for them as cheerfully as you pay the architect for a sketch of your house.
Judged by every standard, whether of artistic imagination, technical knowledge, equipment, or personal reliability, the printing industry of America is rapidly improving, and the printer be-comes every year a more useful adviser and consultant. Having found a printer in whom you have confidence, it is advisable to give him as much latitude as possible to prove his capacity to be helpful. When work of a fine character is wantedas it should be most of the timeit is a mistake to haggle too much about price. If your printer is worthy of your confidence he will charge you only his actual cost, plus a reasonable profit. But if, through competitive pressure, you induce him to cut the Price, you are subjecting him to a constant temptation to slight the work at some stage. Printers who habitually secure work on price alone too often fail to deliver exactly what was expected. There are few kinds of productive effort in which it is more easy to practice deception. Find a printer worthy of your confidence, and then give him latitude to show what he can do for you.
To place before a printer a mass of unorganized data or copy and pictures and expect him to produce an artistic, coherent and convincing advertisement is both unfair and unwise. If you feel that you lack either the time, experience or training necessary to put the materials in proper form, it is beet to employ some one to do it who has this special training.
Many printing establishments have extensive service organizations to give just this sort of help, and all good printers are largely qualified to give advice.
Many advertisers engage the facilitiesof the advertising agencies in the preparation of their work. The extent to which the advertising agencies of America now concern themselves with direct mail work is explained in this letter, received by the writer from Mr. James O’Shaughnessy, executive secretary of the American Association of Advertising Agencies:
“Recent years have brought about great developments in the service to advertising by the advertising agencies. The scope of the service has been widened.
“The writing of advertisements and the placing of these advertisements, which is often supposed to be the only service rendered, have become only two of the many things they do to meet the demands of the national advertising campaign of to-day.
“Before any advertisements are written or any advertising campaign is planned, the agency makes market surveys. Such preliminary research and study indicate ho* the prospective advertiser should proceed, or may indicate that he is not ready to become an advertiser at all.
“Advising the advertiser as to the methods and form of advertising, the agency takes into account all forms of advertising, and may recommend any or all of them. In certain circumstances the advertising agency may recommend the use of direct-by-mail procedure alone, and may recommend issuance of anything from a simple post-card to a pretentious book, governed by all the conditions in the case.
“In the plans for nearly all national advertising campaigns, direct-by-mail in some of its forms is provided for by the advertising agency.
“Follow-up literature is an essential part of nearly every national campaign, even on products which are sold exclusively through dealers, and follow-up may be extensive and elaborate.
“The advertising agencies invariably insist on good paper and artistic typography. In every well-organized agency there is an expert paper buyer and also some one skilled in typographical art, to insure proper value from the use of good paper embellished with good typography.
“The present trend among the advertising agencies is toward a fuller and more meticulous use of direct-by-mail, whether as a major or supplementary proceeding in national advertising.”
There is no such thing as completely standardized printing. It is an art and can never be bound by fixed rules. But experience and common sense have established certain customs. A piece of advertising matter may arbitrarily be made of any size to suit the whim of the buyer, but there are certain sizes that cut from standard sheets with a minimum of waste, and it would obviously be foolish to sacrifice a great deal of paper for the sake of an increase in size that would hardly be observed. Information as to the more common and economical sizes of standard paper sheets will be found in the appendix to this book, together with other detailed advice helpful in determining the size and form of an advertisement or book.
Type is the basis of all advertising. Important though it be, illustration must be regarded as auxiliary to the main purpose, which is the selling message. Formerly all type was set by hand, but now a great deal is set mechanically on the wonderful machines that have been brought out and perfected in comparatively recent years.
Of these the earliest is the Linotype, invented by Dittmar Mergenthaler. The type is cast in full lines fram matrices dropped into position by the manipulation of keys as on a typewriting machine. This is probably the fastest of all mechanical composing devices, and the fact that the type is cast in slugs makes it very easy to handle and reduces the old printer’s hazard of “piecing” a column or even a form. It is in universal use a4uong newspapers and is extensively employed in magazine, book and “straight” matter in job work. The machine is constantly being improved, and the later models will handle many sizes and faces of type.
Its operation is similar to that of the Linotype, with the exception that it produces individual types instead of casting the entire line in one slug. It consists of a perforating machine with keyboard, and a casting machine, both controlled by compressed air. It is an exceedingly elastic machine, and a great variety of sizes and type faces can be produced. Its use is very general in the better class of catalogue, book and commercial printing. It is especially useful in tabular work. The manufacturers keep pace with all that is best in typography and offer all the most desirable type faces.
One great advantage inherent in machine composition is the fact that entirely new type is provided for every job, as the letters are cast from the molten metal in the act of composition. Many will recall the great number of damaged type faces that were found in the old printing offices and the painful effect they produced in printing.
There are a number of other mechanical composing machines, of which the Linograph and Intertype are examples. The Ludlow Typograph is an interesting device, especially for display and job composition, with a range of sizes from 6-point to 6o-point faces, including bold and extended letters. With this system, matrices are set and the type is cast in slug lines. The manufacturers claim for it these advantages: “This system gives a new type face for every job and an endless quantity of any face desired. It also makes possible the rapid production of duplicate casts from one setting and eliminates distribution of used forms. Except where large quantities of straight matter are required, it affords a rapid, practical and economical system for all job and advertising composition.”
The offset process is relatively a new development in printing, dating only from the year 1904, when Mr. Ira W. Rubel, a lithographer, of Nutley, New Jersey, was using an impression cylinder equipped with a rubber blanket on his flat-bed lithographic press. The feeder accidentally missed a sheet, and the result was that the design was “offset” on the rubber blanket of the impression cylinder. The next sheet received an impression on both sides, the first from the stone (as was intended), the second on the back from the impression that had accidentally offset on the rubber. Mr. Rubel was not getting exactly the results he desired, and when he inspected the sheet he threw it away in disgust. As it fell it turned and he noticed that there was also an impression on the back. Examining it, he found that the impression from the rubber was the better one. Thus by accident was offset lithography born. It has now become an extensive industry, though the first entirely practical press was not set up until 1906.
There is an old saying that “oil and water won’t mix,” and it is the lack of chemical affinity between grease and water that under-lies the whole of lithographic and offset painting. When the illustration is put on the zinc or aluminum plate either by photography or by being drawn directly upon it, the purpose of the offset printer is to so treat the plate with chemicals that the part of the plate carrying the design will have affinity for lithographic ink, while the portions that are not to print will, through moisture, repel the ink entirely and show blank. The lithographic inks are very heavy and greasy as compared with ordinary printing inks. The whole idea is to make the inks adhere to the design part of the plate and to be rejected entirely by the blank parts, which carry a film of water instead of ink.
The essential parts of an offset press are three: first, there is an automatic feeding device; second, the press proper, and finally, the elevator platform delivery. It is with the press itself that we are concerned. The offset press consists of three cylinders, of which the first is the form cylinder. This carries the plate of zinc or aluminum, on which the design is carried. As a rule these plates are so thin that a pile of fifty of them would hardly be an inch in thickness.
As the form cylinder revolves it passes under two sets of rollers.
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One set applies the water which is to keep the blank parts of the plate from taking ink, and the second set applies the ink.
The second cylinder carries the rubber offset blanket and is in contact with the form cylinder. As the cylinders revolve, the rubber blanket receives the impression from the inked part of the form cylinder. It is the purpose and function of cylinder number two to impress the design it has received from the plate upon the paper, which is carried on cylinder number three, with which it is also in contact. The paper thus receives its impression entirely from the rubber blanket on the second cylinder, and never comes into con tact with the plate at all.
An impression is made at every turn of the cylinder, which accounts for the great speed with which the offset press turns out work.
The course of a sheet of paper in passing through an offset press will then be as follows: It will first be picked up by the feeder, which may be of the suction type. It is then gripped by the cylinder and passed between it and the offset rubber blanket, from which it receives the impression that the blanket has picked up from contact with the zinc form on cylinder number one. Thence it is carried to the pile of printed sheets. The complications due to static electricity and wrinkled or torn sheets are hardly any greater than those which must be met on an ordinary press.
The preparation of the plates is an interesting process. The first thing necessary is to give the sheet of zinc a finely grained texture. This is usually done in a graining machine, by rolling marbles over a film of fine sand or other abrasive. When properly grained the plate is washed in an alum bath and is then ready to receive the transfer. The alum bath is for the purpose of making the plate sensitive to the greasy ink used on the transfer paper. The transfer paper is “pulled” from the original stone or plate and is thus transferred to the press plate. Photo-lithographic processes have now come into use by which the image to be reproduced can be developed photographically directly on the metal plate.
But it is rather with the uses and advantages of the offset process than with the technique of production that we are concerned.
For some effects the offset process has unquestioned advantages. It gives a depth and softness that are unobtainable in ordinary process work. The modulation and gradation of color are very good. A well-known lithographing company has frequently displayed a series of original water colors by Maxfield Parrish, and by their side offset reproductions. It may be said that a consider-able percentage of the spectators could not with certainty have distinguished between the originals and the reproductions.
A broad distinction that the average advertiser may keep in mind is that offset may be more economical for long runs because of the rapid and inexpensive presswork; but for some small runs the cost of preparing the plates and transfers may be prohibitive.
Where brilliance of color and sharpness of image are desired, the letterpress will continue to prevail. Before determining which process he will employ, the advertiser should carefully consider which will give him the effect most desirable in his particular case, and he should then weigh the relative cost, which will depend very largely on the size of the run.
While it can hardly be said that offset is in general use in the printing of catalogue covers, it cannot be denied that many fine examples of this type of treatment are constantly coming out. The Packard Motor Car Company, the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company, and Wills Sainte Claire have all brought out catalogues with the cover designs offset on Buckeye Cover. The superior strength of the stock, its distinctive surface, and its ready adaptability to the process were the determining causes in the selection of the stock.
Copperplate engraving is ordinarily used for the more formal purposes, and it is most familiar in various social usages. It produces the most individual and tasteful results, and is generally employed for all social purposesinvitations, greetings and announcements. It is also applicable to the finest stationery. The life of the plate is comparatively short and the printing relatively slow. The cost is, therefore, high, limiting the use of this process to short runs, where good form is of more importance than expense. A high-class financial institution often announces changes in its personnel on engraved cards, and there are many similar uses of engraving in business. But on the whole it is more applicable to personal than business communications.
Steel plates and dies are often used to secure effects comparable to copperplate engraving. They are more useful in commercial work, because they will stand a vastly larger number of impressions. The engravings are commonly used for such work as bonds, stock certificates, insurance policies, letter-heads and business cards. The steel dies are used to create embossed or raised letters or designs, and are very applicable to fine stationery, whether business or personal. The name and address, the address only, or a monogram may be used with fine effect on personal or business stationery. Combined with fine paper, it produces an impressive effect suggestive of position, worth and good form. The letters embossed from dies stand out in relief and are very sharp. The slightly raised effect from engravings may be described as “roughness,” and is due entirely to the piling up of the ink, whereas in die embossing the surface of the paper itself is raised. Steel engravings for portraits were once quite common. Now they are occasionally used. The process of making is now not entirely individual and manual, as, to a certain extent, the halftone process is used as an aid to the engraver.
Photogravure is a process used in producing very fine illustrations, and as it is both slow and expensive, the commercial advertiser will seldom find it applicable to his problems. Fine portraits and illustrations may be so made, but as, it is a hand process, the production is so slow as to greatly increase the cost. The printing is similar to that from a copper plate. It, differs from the halftone in that no screen is used, but instead the surface of the copper plate is dusted with a fine grain that is invisible to the naked eye. Thus there is no breaking up of the picture by the screen. The finest detail and the most delicate shades, can be reproduced, and there is greater depth than can be obtained by any other process excepting only etchings and mezzotints produced by hand. The photogravure is an intaglio process as contrasted with the halftone, which prints from the surface. The ink from a photogravure plate is transferred from the etched parts of the plate to the paper in-stead of from the points on the surface level. The deeper the etching the heavier the resulting print.
Rotary photogravure, or “rotogravure,” as it is commonly called, is an intaglio printing process in which the impression is obtained from a copper cylinder on which an etching is made. The essential difference between true photogravure and rotogravure lies in the fact that the former has a mechanically deposited grain as its base, while in the latter a special type of ruled screen is employed. It produces effects comparable, though inferior, to true photogravure, but it has the advantage of being very rapid. For this reason it is widely used in the illustrated supplements of newspapers, magazine inserts, or any pictorial work of large runs. The screen used is so light as to be almost invisible, and very delicate and photographic effects result. Almost any kind of copy can be reproduced, but copy that is soft, with distinct lights and shadows, is best, while that which is flat or of sharp contrast reproduces least happily.
The photo-gelatin process, or collotype, gives an absolutely photographic gradation of shade, unbroken by the least suggestion of screen or grain. Photo-gelatin prints are commonly used as a direct substitute for photographic prints. The process produces the softest prints that are available, and may be used where fine photographic effects are justifiable.
Wax engraving, which is important for some special classes of work, is available through a very limited number of craftsmen. It is used primarily for delicate rule work, charts, cross-section mechanical views, maps, etc., but it is mainly in rule work that the average printer has occasion to use it. The plate from wax engravings may be used on an ordinary press. In all kinds of photo-mechanical engraving there is a certain amount of distortion, varying with the size of the copy, the extent of enlargement or reduction, and the character of the lens employed. For this reason the wax engraving is often used where entire accuracy is required, as in charts, scales and diagrams. The making of ruled work is quite simple. If type matter is to be part of the finished plate, the printer sets the type properly, omitting all the rules. The engraver then makes a mould in a wax plate from this form. The rules are then cut by a ruling machine and an electrotype made from the whole. If the form is a complicated one the cost of making the ruling in wax will be less than by the regular method of using printer’s rules.