Printing is the process of making a text or image visible by applying ink to paper or other material. In art, it may be called etching, engraving or gravure. It is a large scale industrial process and essential to paper-based publishing and transaction printing (banking, stock certificates, checks, money orders, etc).
In the Middle Ages, the invention of Gutenberg’s European movable type printing press in 1440 accelerated industrialization and economic transformations and enabled the spread of ideas which helped shape alterations in social relations. It also allowed people to read books and newspapers, which facilitated extensive reading and new ways of interpreting texts.
A variety of printing methods are used, including relief (which uses a raised area), intaglio, and offset lithography. In relief prints, ink is pressed against the raised surface of a block — typically wood or linoleum — leaving the desired printed image. Woodcuts and linocuts are two types of relief printing. Intaglio printing uses a metal plate or glass which is etched and then inked and used to reproduce an image on another surface — often paper.
Modern computer technology allows the creation of digital images which can be transferred to various materials, including paper and fabric. These can then be scanned, stored and printed using the same equipment as conventional printers. As a result, many people now use digital printers to produce documents and articles. However, traditional printed publications still remain very popular – even in the digital age.