Printing Technology Courses and Classes Overview
Printing technology professionals need an understanding of printing press operation, graphics creation and design. Courses for this field are normally taken as part of a program that leads to a postsecondary non-degree award or a full degree.
Printing technology courses are most often taken as part of a diploma, certificate or associate's degree program in printing, printing technology or press/pre-press technology. In addition, there are a handful of schools that offer bachelor's programs in printing technology or printing engineering. Some degree programs require that the school has a relationship with the student's employer, while some short-term programs are geared toward those already possessing experience or credentials in graphic design or printing. Some possible career options for graduates include working as a printing press operator, pre-press technical or printing specialist.
Coursework in a printing technology program incorporates practical hands-on practice and classroom lectures. Introductory courses teach students to set up and operate offset and digital printing presses and process print jobs. They learn about the types of paper, inks and plates that can be used. Later courses teach them to create and print digital graphics, with programs like Adobe InDesign often being covered. Students usually also learn about specialty printing, including flexography and screen printing. They normally complete various projects incorporating these skills throughout the program.
Other courses that might be encountered in a printing technology program include those that cover project management, business math, illustration, safety and photography. General education coursework may be completed in programs of all levels.
Overview of Printing Technology Courses
Below are descriptions of some of the general courses that may be offered in a printing technology program.
Press Operations and Techniques
In the printing industry, there are a variety of production and press options. This course covers the basics in operating a variety of printing presses. Students will learn the difference between digital and offset presses, as well as concepts in register board presses and direct feed presses. Specific areas of study may include types of paper stock, press set-up and plate types. This course may also cover processes for color printing such as 1-color or 4-color process jobs.
Lithography and Offset Printing
Offset lithography, or offset printing, is most frequently used for printing magazines, newsletters, tabloids and books. Students in this course will learn terminology and basic operations of an offset press. Specific areas of study may include press plates, rollers, inks, materials, paper stock and press safety. Students may also learn about environmental factors in printing such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification and other green printing initiatives.
Digital printing uses digital imaging rather than process and spot inks to produce print materials. Students will learn how to work with digital graphics files in order to produce them on a digital press. Topics covered may include digital press programming, managing workflow, file formats, proofing and plate making. Students may also learn trends in marketing as they relate to digital printing and personalized print materials.
Flexography is a process of printing, similar to letterpress, that uses a flexible plate. Often referred to as flexo, this printing style can be used on many materials, including paper, cellophane, plastic or metal. Students in a flexography course will learn how to operate flexo equipment and what is needed to complete a flexography print project. Specific areas of study may include pre-press operations, plate production and mounting, die cutting, inking systems and environment factors.
Screen printing is used to reproduce pictures on T-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and other materials. Screen printing is similar to a stencil in that once a background is applied with printing paste, the colored dye is then printed on the part of the fabric that is exposed. This course covers general concepts in exposure, coating and print materials. Students also have the opportunity to work with multi-color and single-color projects.
Graphics and Design
Within the printing industry, it's important to have a good understanding of graphics and what types are acceptable for different printing methods. A graphics and design course provides students with a general background in the types of graphics programs, files, fonts and color formats that may be used within the printing industry. Students may cover everything from CMYK and RGB color graphics to setting print margins and transferring font files. Course emphasis is on hands-on activities, and students use a variety of graphics software, such as InDesign and QuarkPress.
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