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Printing is the process by which ink is applied to a substrate in order to leave an impression. Whilst printing is a simple principal, there are many commercial processes used to achieve many different print effects and each process naturally has its own commercial advantages and limitations.

At Disruptive Printing we specialise in selecting the optimum print process for every job; and because printing is our specialism, we are often able to increase efficiencies and enhance quality through good process selection. Some of the more common print processes we use are described below, but please do contact us if you have an unusual or specific process requirement. We use a small number of trusted partners to produce specialised print works and always achieve excellent quality and value across all processes offered.

Quality Assured: All of our core print processes operate to ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 14001 Environmental Management standards.

Print Processes

3D Printing

Sometimes known as “AM” (additive manufacturing) or stereolithography, 3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional object from a 3D computer model.

Our specialist CAD designers create a virtual 3D model of the object and then “print it” using extruded plastic materials that are built up in layers to create the 3D object.

Recent advances in print resolution and strength have enabled 3D printing to become a viable option for manufacturing aesthetic models and even some functional parts. It can also be very effective as a rapid prototyping process and is often more cost effective than traditional prototyping techniques like CNC or SLS.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is usually preferred when print volumes are low and speed really matters. As each print is created individually from a digital file, there is no requirement to make plates and high quality print production can commence almost immediately.

There are many forms of digital printing available but they are all capable of producing high quality works and commonly use toners and inks to achieve printed effects. The high costs of toners and inks means that digital printing is usually most viable when unit volumes are low (when order costs are less than the costs of plate manufacture) and for that reason other processes are usually preferred for print works with high pagination or orders over 1000 units.

Lithographic Printing

Commonly known as “litho”; lithographic printing can be “sheet-fed” or “web-fed” meaning that the paper stock is either supplied to the press as individual sheets or as a continuous roll or web of paper; but irrespective of the paper form or whether heat setting is employed to dry the ink, all lithography works on the physical principal that oil and water don’t mix.

Printing plates are first manufactured and the positive design areas (text and images) are coated with a water-repellant or “hydrophobic” substance, whilst the negative areas are water retaining “hydrophilic”. When ink and water is introduced to the plates, the ink adheres to the positive image whilst the water cleans the negative image. This produces high quality prints and is ideally suited to medium length print runs up to 1,000,000 units.

Offset Lithographic Printing

Most modern lithographic printing is produced using the offset method. In offset lithography, the ink is applied to the plate to form the positive image but is not applied directly to the paper. Instead it is first transferred to a rubber belt or blanket (offset). The image on the blanket is then transferred to the paper stock to create the printed material.

The rubber blanket is “washed” with water or a water based solution commonly known as the fountain solution. This cleans the negative image and the indirect transfer of ink from the blanket is found to enhance print quality because the flexible, rubberised blanket makes an improved contact with the stock materials. All lithographic printing methods require plates to be made before commencement.

Waterless Lithographic Printing

Waterless lithographic printing eliminates the water or dampening system used in conventional litho printing. Instead, it uses specialised printing plates that are coated in silicone rubber and specially formulated inks to control the ink distribution without the need for water.

The image surface of a waterless plate is described as intaglio (meaning recessed). This enables the waterless plate to carry a greater volume of ink than a conventional plate and also allows extremely high screen rulings, ranging from 300 to well over 800 LPI (lines per inch).

Waterless plates used on sheet-fed presses are commonly rated for runs of 100,000 to 200,000 impressions whilst plates designed for use on web-offset presses can yield 300,000 to 500,000 impressions before replacement is required.

Direct To Substrate

As it’s name suggests, this digital printing method applies ink directly to the substrate rather than to a vinyl or paper “label” that is then adhered to the substrate. By printing direct, print quality is generally enhanced, assembly stages can be eliminated and costs can be reduced.

Direct to substrate printing has obvious commercial applications where substrates are “difficult” 3D shapes and it is extensively used to print packaging and promotional merchandise. It is also used to create large format banners & signs that are highly resistant to light fade and weathering.

Our state-of-the-art printing equipment enables us to print directly onto any material and produce high resolution, photorealistic images. We can even print white onto clear.

Flexographic Printing

Commonly known as “flexo” or “gummidruck”, flexographic printing uses flexible printing plates made of rubber or plastic. The inked plates have a slightly raised image (relief) and are rotated on a cylinder which transfers the image directly to the substrate.

Flexography uses fast-drying inks and is a high-speed print process that can print onto many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials.

Its a highly efficient process that is often used to print continuous patterns such as for giftwrap and wallpaper and is ideally suited to medium to long print runs.

For these reasons flexographic printing is commonly used to print paper and plastic bags and a wide range of packaging materials.

Thermographic Printing

Although this type of printing includes thermal roll printing within its category definintion, when we use thermographic print processes it is usually to achieve a raised print effect that adds textural interest to designs.

This ingenious method achieves effects similar to those produced by engraving but at a much reduced cost that enables its application across a much wider product range.

The paper or card stock is first printed with specialised slow drying ink, then the wet ink is coated with an exceptionally fine matt powder made from plastic resin. Excess powder is removed using a vacuum system and the print is then cured or set at very high temperatures. Curing causes the ink and the powder fuse together perfectly to produce a ‘raised print’ effect with a very smooth finish.

Finishing Techniques

Finishing is the general term printers use for anything that happens to a job after it’s been printed. Finishing techniques complete the product and can transform ordinary looking printed materials in to something much more interesting and dynamic. There are a huge range of finishes that can add decorative and functional features to printed materials. Some of the more common print finishes are listed below but we are always happy to provide bespoke finishes to really differentiate clients materials on request.

Blind Embossing

The process of stamping raised letters or images into paper using pressure and a die, but without using foil or ink to add colour to the raised areas. Braille is an example of blind embossing.


The opposite effect to embossing where letters or illustrations are pressed into a sheet of paper using a metal or plastic die to create a depressed (debossed) image.

Foil Stamping

To cover paper with a thin, flexible sheet of metal or other material. The foil, which may be clear or opaque, comes in a range of colours, and is carried on a plastic sheet. Stamping separates the foil from the plastic and makes it adhere to the paper.


The application of a plastic film to the surface of printed matter in order to enhance its appearance and increase its durability. Laminated finishes are available with either gloss, silk or matt characteristics and can be applied to one or both sides of materials.

Spot UV

Refers to the application of a high gloss varnish to only specific parts of the paper or card surface (spot) in order to differentiate the design where it has been applied. The high gloss characteristics of the varnish create a marked visual contrast to the untreated areas without the application of colour. UV (ultraviolet) light is used to instantly cure the varnish and complete the process.

Die Cutting

Die cutting cuts away a specified section of the paper or card to create an internal design and/or shape the periphery of the piece.  It is mainly used to add an interesting decorative element to work and enhance the visual impact for viewers. Additional cutting methods that are also available include laser and kiss cutting.

Duplex & Triplex Boards

Duplexing or triplexing refers to the process of bonding two or three sheets together respectively. However, the process is not limited to this number of sheets and the possibilities are extensive. Different colours, types and weights of materials can be combined to produce interesting articles that present different visual and tactile properties.


Perforation, or perf cutting, is a process that creates a cut-out area in a substrate to weaken it so that it can be detached.

There are many different styles of perforating that can be used to add novel decorative effects to printed materials.


To organise individual paper sheets and sections to ensure that they are all present and are in the correct order. Often combined with numbering and tabbing operations to ease navigation of large print works.


The act of cutting flat printed or unprinted paper on a guillotine to achieve the desired dimensions and perfect edges. Other materials such as plastics, foamex and di-bond are normally cut individually using blades or laser cutting tools.


The process of drilling of holes in printed materials to facilitate mounting and assembly operations and also in folded sections of trimmed or untrimmed paper which will permit insertion over rings or posts in a binder.


The process of cutting an index or tabs along the edge of a book to assist users to easily find sections. Also used to describe adding printed tabs to collated works prior to binding operations.



Binding is a process through which the various pages that comprise a job are gathered and securely held together so that they function as a single publication. Disruptive Printing offers many different types of binding from basic comb binding to perfect bound publications.

To learn about our binding options please click to the right.

Adhesive Binding

Also called perfect binding; adhesive binding is a relatively low cost method of binding in which the pages are trimmed at the back, then held together and fixed to the cover by means of flexible adhesive.

Back Cover Binding

A style of mechanical binding where the wire or plastic comb is inserted through the back side only of a one-piece cover.

Burst Binding

A method of unsewn adhesive binding in which the sections are ‘burst’ by being punched through the spine to allow the adhesive to link the paper in each section, and each of the sections to each other.

Case Binding

A method of binding in which the cover is made separately but consists of rigid or flexible boards covered with paper or other material, in such a manner that the covering material surrounds the outside and the edges of the board. Covers always project beyond the trimmed edges of the text pages.

Comb Binding

A type of mechanical binding that uses a piece of rigid vinyl plastic sheeting die-cut in the shape of a comb or rake and rolled to make a cylinder of any thickness. The pages are punched with slots along the binding edge and the comb is inserted to bind them together.

Dovetail Binding

A type of adhesive binding where, prior to the last fold being made on the folding machine, a wedge of paper is punched out of the spine of the section using a specially designed punching wheel. A lower viscosity adhesive is then forced into the slots of the gathered sections. This forms a wedge, or ‘dovetail,’ of adhesive within the centre of the section thus keying them together.

Flat Wire Stitching

To stitch with wire through the side of gathered work at the binding edge.

French Sewing

A number of gathered and collated sections sewn together, usually without tapes, on one continuous thread to form a sewn book. This is the method used by semi-automatic sewing machines.

Full Binding

A style of binding in which the covering material is one piece of the same material. Also known as ‘whole bound’.

Mechanical Binding

Method of binding that uses Wire-O, spiral, plastic comb, plastic slide etc. to bind.

Overcast Sewing

A method of attaching single leaves together to form a section or complete book by piercing holes down the spine and sewing with a strong thread.

Saddle Stitching

A method of binding one or more sections with or without a cover by means of wire staples through the centrefold.



Folding is a simple concept that can be applied to create many interesting products and user experiences. We provide a wide range of folding options that include: single fold, roll fold, z-fold, letter fold, cross fold/French fold, double parallel fold, 4 panel gate fold, map fold and “almost infinite” concertina fold.

To learn about our folding options please click to the right.