Printing is the process of reproducing text or images from a master form or template onto paper or other substrates. It is a common commercial and industrial activity, and an important tool in the dissemination of information. The printing industry is also a major employer in many countries, especially the United States.
Prints can be made either as original works of art, or as reproductions of previously created work. Making prints from your original artwork allows you to distribute it and share your vision with more people, without the strain of creating a new piece of work every time. It also allows you to keep the original work for yourself if you aren’t comfortable with sharing your art with the world at large.
The earliest known examples of printed materials are cylinder seals, and a type of relief woodblock printing from the second century A.D. In China, the invention of movable type in the eleventh century made it easier to reproduce texts based on an alphabet with limited symbols. The printing press developed in Europe in the fifteenth century, but the benefits of the movable type system were not as great as for Chinese writing, which has thousands of ideograms, and whose transcription into an alphabet was difficult.
There are five basic types of printing processes distinguished by the general method of image transfer and by the kind of image carrier used; examples include gravure, flexography, screen printing and offset printing (lithography). These techniques make use of photomechanical methods to produce an image carrier on which to print. Other devices, such as films, microfilms, tape recordings and holograms, preserve a very large volume of information in small space and are directly accessible; but printing, by its sheer magnitude of contribution to the multiplication of knowledge, has earned a quasi-monopoly of the transmission or storage of information.