Lithography is a printing process using oil and water. The traditional lithographic process begins when an artist draws a design on prepared limestone or an aluminium plate with oily ink or crayon. To printing enthusiasts, lithography can be a rewarding experience with many advantages over other printing methods such as relief and intaglio.
Lithography requires less effort than some other printing processes such as engraving. The designed and blank areas of the print are at the same level, making it easier for the artist to draw the image onto a flat surface. An artist can create a drawing and a proof in less time than an engraving, which has multiple steps. Many more copies of lithographs can be made at a faster pace than with some other printing processes.
Lithography is also a process that is used to create posters from an original artwork. This is known as lithographic reproduction. These reproductions are less expensive than an original drawing or painting by an artist and can therefore a larger audience can buy and enjoy them.
Using lithography, many prints can be made from the same drawing. Also, a piece of limestone a printmaker prepares specifically for lithography can be erased of its image after the printer makes copies. The limestone can then be reused to create a new image or design.
Besides being an art form, lithography is widely used in the printing industry in a process called offset lithographic printing. Printers use this type of printing to create books, newspapers and other commercial printed materials. This process is slightly different from traditional lithography. In offset printing, the printer applies ink to the printing plate, then to what is known as a rubber "blanket," which then transfers to paper to create the final image.
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