Printing Tricks of the Trade. What is Trending?

pensTools of the Trade from Yesteryear

Yes, above are the tools that created our printed media, a mere twenty years ago. Every word, period, figure, diagram, page or column was typeset through a cold photographic process, cut out, pasted in place, and then the real work began…

Any corrections or changes were similarly typeset, trimmed to miniscule sizes, adhesive applied, lined up perfectly on a light table so the high-watt fluorescent bulbs showed through the original to hand-paste the corrections over the existing characters, words, lines or paragraphs to get everything to line-up perfectly or not so perfectly, as the case may be. It was an art. It was also tedious, time-consuming work.

After the corrections were stripped in by-hand, it still was far from being print-ready. Every cut-line, every paste-mark, every single page, column or image had irregular lines around them that would show up in print as grey-to-black lines or shadows. Therefore, each page was run through a photographic reversal process, creating a film negative–black background with white characters or images. On this photo stock, cut-lines now appeared as white or clear streaks on the chemically prepared negative.

That’s where our fine, varied sizes of ink tips came in. A graphic artist would select the ink tip which was closest in size to the line, streak or shadow and fill-in the cut-lines with black ink. Too thick and it created a blob effect on the master; too thin and the cut lines still showed after printing. Then you had to start the whole process over again.

Once the reversal was perfect, it was reversed again on white photographic paper, trimmed to page size–black characters on white gloss with all the make-ready lines now hidden. But the printing process hasn’t even begun yet!

The next step was to take those pages in layouts of four, eight, or sixteen and create a metal plate with the copy heat-pressed into the plate, similar to engraving. The indentations in the metal plate which were the tiny characters that made up words was covered with ink, pressed into the grooves, and printed from the plate onto paper. A metal plate would only hold ink for so long. With the force of the printers heat “pressing” the text onto hundreds or thousands of large sheets of paper, many plates had to be recreated as exact duplicates. Pages were trimmed to size in multiples of four after they were printed and dried. This process was for text or line drawings only. Pictures were printed separately and inserted hy-hand, then run through the same process to print.


We have been enjoying the ease of typesetting and formatting on our personal computers and home business printers for some time. Now we have gone to tablets, smart-phones, smart-TVs, etc. We can print directly from our phones, watches, and many other technological devices with new gizmos cropping up every year, every season, every month. 

Just remember…what you put in a device is what comes out. Corrections, changes, proofreading, and editing is a process that can’t be forgotten or ignored. Use a professional writer/editor to achieve professional quality. Words and images in print, whether they’re online or on the most beautiful stock in the world, mean nothing if they can’t be understood or don’t get your message across. Websites may be new, unique, glitzy, but if the words are unrecognizable to the layman who needs your services and expertise, you’re not going to get any business.

Just some thoughts on where we’ve come from and how to stay-in-your-zone to be respected, accepted, and sought after in all your specialties.

business cards

Sometimes reality is over-rated anyway…




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