Offset printing provides sharp, clear images and is a dominant printing method still today. The history of offset printing is quite interesting and dates back to several centuries ago.



When professional printers first utilized the offset printing technique, it revolutionized the printing industry. Until the offset press was developed, the reproduction of images was very difficult, expensive, and time consuming if the finished images needed to be clear and crisp.

There are varieties of printing methods that can be used and offset is one of them. This method is the best choice in some situations but it is not always the right choice. Advances in technology and the development of modern press equipment has made most types of printing less labor intensive over the years, and today the cost of offset can be competitive.


The History of Offset Printing Goes Back to the Eighteenth Century

The history of offset printing starts in 1798, when a Munich resident named Alois Senefelder started using stones to reproduce images that were much better than any of the other methods available at the time. Alois used stones that were sketched with a substance that was greasy, which were then rubbed with a fountain solution. The first offset prints took some time and effort to produce.

Senefelder’s offset printing discovery happened quite by accident. While he was polishing a stone slab, his mother requested that he write a bill for a worker. Having nothing to write on he wrote the bill on the stone. He then thought of applying acid to the stone where he had written. After a few minutes, the unwritten section of the stone became slightly eaten away, leaving the writing elevated.

When Did Professional Printers Start Using the Offset Process?

The offset process started being used by professional printers when an engineer in France developed a steam lithography press, and this equipment was first introduced to the United States in 1868. Lithographic stones were used to transfer the image to a cylinder that was covered with a blanket, and then the image was transferred to the paper from the blanket.


Why Did This Method Become So Popular?

Through the history of offset printing, this method has been very popular. This was due to the fact that artwork could be reproduced with great results at a lower cost. Before lithography printing was developed artworks could only be copied by putting in a lot of time and effort, and the results were not an exact reproduction.

The popularity of the offset process grew quickly once the method was available from printers, and that continued through the 1800s and 1900s. It was finally possible to reproduce detailed images in a much shorter time, and without all of the effort required for an artist to start from scratch and draw every single line in the image.


What is Involved in the Offset Process?

The history of offset printing shows that the technique used has changed some over time. Today an offset press uses plates, and these plates transfer the desired image to a rubber blanket that has been draped over a cylinder. The blanket is then used to transfer the image to the paper that has been fed into the press.


Is This Method Still Offered Today?

Many professional printers offer this printing technique today, and it is one of the most commonly requested techniques when images are involved. Today the offset process is one of the printing methods that is still in high demand and it has gained a great deal of popularity. If your chosen printer cannot provide this technique, there are many others who can.

Before you choose a printer for this process, make sure that they have extensive knowledge and experience with the method. Ask to see samples of their offset orders so that you can determine whether the quality that you are looking for can be delivered by the printer, if not then you should go somewhere else instead.


What Changes Have Occurred Over the Years?

Through the history of offset printing many changes have occurred. Rocks were transformed into plates, and today special rubber blankets streamline the process and make it easier to get picture perfect images. Presses are run by electricity instead of steam today, and the technique has been improved repeatedly through the last century.


Who Was the First Printer to Use Offset?

The first printer in the history of offset printing to be credited with the use of offset in a professional capacity was Ira Washington Rubel. Rubel noticed that both sides of the paper were printed, one side from the plates and the other from the press blanket. The method has been used before but not in a professional capacity.