Lithography

Lithography (from Ancient Greek λίθος, lithos, meaning "stone", and γράφειν, graphein, meaning "to write") is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water.[1] The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works.[2][3] Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.[4]

Lithography originally used an image drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a smooth, level lithographic limestone plate. The stone was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, etching the portions of the stone that were not protected by the grease-based image. When the stone was subsequently moistened, these etched areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied and would be repelled by the water, sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would finally be transferred to a blank paper sheet, producing a printed page. This traditional technique is still used in some fine art printmaking applications.

In modern lithography, the image is made of a polymer coating applied to a flexible aluminum plate. The image can be printed directly from the plate (the orientation of the image is reversed), or it can be offset, by transferring the image onto a flexible sheet (rubber) for printing and publication.

As a printing technology, lithography is different from intaglio printing (gravure), wherein a plate is either engraved, etched, or stippled to score cavities to contain the printing ink; and woodblock printing or letterpress printing, wherein ink is applied to the raised surfaces of letters or images. Today, most types of high-volume books and magazines, especially when illustrated in colour, are printed with offset lithography, which has become the most common form of printing technology since the 1960s.


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