The printing process is the act of transferring a design or text from a matrix (usually a wood block, metal plate, or stone) to paper or another material using pressure. It is an essential part of paper-based publishing and transaction printing and a common method of making photographs.
The process was largely developed by Gutenberg and his successors, though earlier etchings and lithographs were used for some prints. Printing is now a vast industry that includes books, newspapers, magazines and other written matter as well as posters, money, postage stamps, business cards, envelopes, packaging, shopping bags, etc. It is also a key technique in photocopying, faxing and computer-based output such as laser or inkjet printing, xerography and hologram production.
A particular feature of printing is the way in which it can duplicate an image exactly, thereby allowing identical copies to be made cheaply and quickly. This is what makes it possible to spread information to many people at a very low cost.
Printing is often associated with the mass dissemination of knowledge, but it can also be seen as an important form of art, and artists create designs for printmaking, including etchings, engravings and silkscreening. Artwork produced by an artist in this way is known as a print, and it may be signed and numbered in order to ensure that only the intended number of impressions are circulated (an edition). In the modern era, it has been suggested that the medium is being threatened by new audiovisual and information media such as radio, television and film, but it appears unlikely that printing will disappear completely; rather, it is likely to evolve alongside these other forms of communication.