The Historical Evolution of Full Color Printing

People normally take it for granted how the mass production of colored printing works, especially with all the machines that will do the job for us. Computerized printing machines are complex tools being widely used with ease today. But for modern people, it does not matter how exactly it does its magic. What matters is how one can make it work. Even these days the concept of doing full color printing is left to those who make a business out of mass producing important images like business cards, tarpaulin sheets and four-colored colored brochures.

The bustling industry of full color printing in New Hyde Park, New York, has started somewhere else. For those who are truly curious as to how full color printing works, one could unlock its mystery by looking at its historical development and manual practice. Knowing how it works without the use of smart machines will give one a clearer idea why such a magical task nowadays is conceivable.


This land is seemingly the mecca of pragmatic human technology. There is a comical modern quotation stating that “Everything in nature is created by God, while everything else is made in China”. Nonetheless, without pun intended China is one of the major innovators in the history of human civilizations. To them humanity credited four major inventions such as gunpowder, paper production, compass and printing. It is due to the latter that the earliest predecessors of today’s proverbial full color printing in New Hyde Park are none other than the same media industry that existed in the ancient Forbidden City. However, it is a technical misnomer to put “full color” in these formative stages of image printing. The woodblock process entails carving of images on the wooden surface, putting ink on the precise engravings and sealing each empty paper or printable material. In the earlier period preceding the Ming Dynasty, Chinese printing made use of two colors and their civilization wrote two encyclopedic references on early woodblock printing technology.

Renaissance Europe

The predominant Renaissance European achieved much in the area of overhauling aspects of human technology and this can be seen particularly in arts and architecture. The mass production of printed images was one of the many feats that Renaissance Europe has developed to a whole new level. It was in these times where lighting contrast and “shadow hatching” effects on images were first introduced through the use of an intaglio woodblock called “mezzotint”.

Pre-Industrial 19th Century

Full color printing was pretty much realized only in the early and late 19th Century approaching the modern age. It is in these times where the method called “chronolitograph” was utilized in order to conjure a more life-like and picturesque images that mimics the power of a masterpiece painting. Chronolitograph is the application of modern three-color separation theory that printing companies still apply today. By overlapping images printed in green, yellow and red; one can produce a realistic colored image.


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