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Types of Photo Printing - the Complete Guide from Adventa

  • Types of Photo Printing - the Complete Guide from Adventa

    Advancements in technology have increased the range of photo printing possibilities available to us. When it comes to printing anything, be it special memories, work projects or artwork, it’s crucial to understand the different types of photo printing methods so you can choose the right solution for your needs. In this post, Adventa explores the various types of photo printing, and the options best suited to different applications. 

    What Does Photo Printing Mean?

    Photo printing involves the process of transferring an image onto different materials, such as paper, canvas and clothing, using specialised printers. This allows an individual to create copies of images and display, preserve and share them with others. 

    Types of Photo Prints

    There are four main types of photo printing options. These are digital printing, lenticular printing, sublimation printing, and giclee printing. Each has different advantages and applications, which we will look at in more detail below.

    1) Digital Printing

    Digital printing uses a high-volume laser or inkjet printer to print detailed images. This high-quality option is popular for both its ease of use and its impressive output. Digital printing is well suited to a wide variety of uses ranging from small to large scale, simple to extremely detailed. There are three main types of digital printing methods: laser, offset and inkjet printing. 

    1.1)  Laser Printing

    Laser printing involves an electrostatic digital printing process. The process involves repeatedly passing a laser beam back and forth over a negatively-charged cylinder called a "drum", to define a differentially-charged image. The laser printer uses an electrical charge to attract toner particles onto a roller, which is then transferred onto paper and fused using heat. 

    Laser printing is quick and consistent, producing precise images and text. This makes it well-suited to various applications, especially office documents, reports, and graphics. However, it does not work well for photograph replication.

    1.2) Offset Printing

    Offset printing, also known as offset lithography, is a widely used commercial printing process or method. It involves transferring images from metal plates onto rubber rollers or blankets and then onto the printing surface - usually paper. The print media doesn’t come into direct contact with the metal plates.

    This indirect printing method is known for creating consistent, high-quality results, which makes it ideal for large-scale printing, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures, and packaging. 

    1.3) Inkjet Printing 

    Inkjet printing is a very popular digital printing method. During the process, tiny ink droplets are propelled onto a printing surface (usually paper or fabric) to create the image. Inkjet prints are known for reproducing vibrant colours and intricate details, which makes this type of print ideal for a variety of applications ranging from high-resolution photos to office documents. 

    2) Lenticular Printing

    Lenticular printing is a specialised technique that's used for images where the photographer wants to create an illusion of depth or movement. The process involves the use of lenticular lenses, which function like magnifying glasses, to enlarge certain elements of the image. This results in the image changing shape depending on the angle you’re looking from. 

    Lenticular printing's primary advantage is the optical illusion it creates. This makes it very popular for marketing and promotional items, such as posters, business cards, and product packaging, where the aim is to captivate and engage viewers. However, this type of printing is fairly expensive due to the specialised equipment and materials needed. 

    3) Sublimation Printing

    Sublimation printing is generally used to print designs onto garments but can be used for a broad range of applications. Sublimation printing requires specialised equipment, including a sublimation printer, certain inks and heat. 

    The process starts by printing the design onto specialised paper. Heat is then applied to the design, which opens up the pores of the fabric. This is where the magic happens: the ink, when exposed to heat, turns to gas - this is often done using a heat press. Then, with applied pressure from the heat press, the ink cools and returns to a solid form. This process combines the ink with the fabric permanently, making it less prone to fading.

    Sublimation printing is a versatile printing style but is most commonly used for sportswear, promotional items, and personalised gifts. While it’s known for creating vibrant prints on clothing, it’s important to note that sublimation printing works best on polyester or polymer-coated substrates, not natural fibres. 

    4) Giclee Prints

    Giclee printing is most often used to reproduce fine art into prints. Through the use of enhanced technology, as well as specialised pigments, ink and paper, inkjet printers use small spraying devices that can match the colour of the original and apply ink precisely. 

    This accuracy gives artists an opportunity to reproduce their art precisely in a high-quality print. Giclee prints are also known for their longevity, as they do not easily fade. This method is most often used when making lower quantities of a high-end print.

    TL;DR - Types of Photo Printing

    There are many different options for printing photographs and graphics, namely digital, lenticular, sublimation and giclee printing. Each of these methods uses certain materials and offers its own pros and cons. Now that you understand the different types of photo printing, you can choose the one that is best suited to your printing needs.