How Do I Become an Offset Press Operator?

Alex Newth

An offset press operator works with large offset printers to reproduce a variety of paper-based products for commercial clients such as businesses and newspapers. Most commercial print shops use offset printing, but to become an offset press operator you must have training — not specifically a college degree — and qualities unique to this form of printing. Patience, technical knowledge and the ability to mix inks and work in a changing environment are just a few of the skills required to become an offset press operator.

Offset printing is used to make books, brochures, business cards, posters and a host of other types of print goods.
Offset printing is used to make books, brochures, business cards, posters and a host of other types of print goods.

Unlike digital presses, for which the operator normally just clicks a button on the computer, working an offset printer is much different and much more intense. A pre-press procedure that consists of setting up plates and mixing inks can take hours to do properly. This means some sort of training is normally required before you can become an offset press operator. Some colleges and technical schools offer degrees in working offset press machines, but apprenticing at an offset printing business is just as good in this market.

Most of the skills required for working an offset press are required in the pre-press stage of printing. Being able to mix inks, which requires an eye for color and mathematic skills to ensure the correct amount of each color is used, is exceedingly important for a person who wants to become an offset press operator. If there is too much or too little ink, the print will either be dull or over-saturated. If the colors are not mixed correctly, then the print will not come out as the customer specified.

Technical knowledge is needed in this job for two main reasons. The large and various parts mean offset printers are considerably difficult to repair. Being able to identify and correct a problem will save the company money because repair people will have to be called less. The second reason comes into play during the pre-press stage. Pressure between the rollers and plates has to be accurately measured or the machine will not print correctly; it can even break if the pressure is too hard on the rollers.

Offset press operators often spend hours, and go through hundreds of sheets, before the pre-press stage is completed. This process requires a high amount of patience on the side of the operator. Every job is setup in a unique way, so the operator must be able to change for each job. Without these qualities, it will be difficult to become an offset press operator.

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