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A Brief History of Color Printing



Technology has made it so that we hardly have to think when we want something done. Printing comes from the press of a button and has even evolved to the point where multiple computers can wirelessly send print jobs to the same printer. Though it seems our technology has quickly advanced and continues to become even more intuitive each year, the history of our color printing ability is a long and rich one.


Lithography: The First Step


Though early relief printing emerged in the fifteenth century, lithography was the first important technology in our color printing history. Lithography, discovered in the late eighteenth century, first used just one or two colors to print an entire plate. Handcoloring, at the time, was still a preferred method for more detailed coloring.


Chromolithography: Enhancing Lithographs


After the successful establishing of lithography, chromolithography was the logical next step in color printing. Chromolithographs were multiple tint blocks printed together. The early results were simple prints with flat colors, printed side-by-side.

Later chromolithographs featured ornate designs and bright coloration. In the nineteenth century, more artistic renditions of chromolithographs were common, featuring overprinting and silver and gold inks. At the time, the process was still quite expensive, but the process was commonly used for large-scale works and illuminated manuscripts.


The Printing Press, and Beyond


Though the printing press had been around for some time, the steam driven printing press combined with wider availability of supplies made chromolithography less expensive and more accessible. By the late 1800s, magazines and advertisements prominently featured chromolithography. Simultaneously, photographic processes were in development, eventually rendering lithography unnecessary.


Today’s color printing is easy and affordable, and Prime Office Innovations has the solutions and supplies for all your office printing. Contact us today for all your contemporary printing needs!