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Printing Machinist

Apprenticeship Year 10 Preferred

Printing machinists set up and operate letterpress, lithographic, flexographic and gravure printing presses.

They work on a range of printed products, including packaging, stationery, greeting cards, books and newspapers, depending on the printing method used.

Offset lithography is the main process of printing and involves producing a print from a plate using a flat surface (planographic).

It is used mainly in the production of newspapers, magazines, catalogues, cardboard packaging, books and general printed products.

Letterpress printing is the oldest form of printing, in which ink is applied to a raised surface and transferred directly to paper through pressure.

This process is used mainly as a specialised printing process.

The types of printed material produced by this method include stationery and hot-foil stamped and embossed products.

Flexographic printing uses a raised surface on a flexible rubber or photopolymer plate to produce flexible packaging such as bread bags and confectionary wrappers.

Gravure printing uses a recessed cylinder to remove excess ink from the paper's surface, producing an engraved design effect (intaglio).

This process is used mainly for long-run packaging work designed for food and other consumables.

Printing machinists work in both small businesses and large manufacturing companies, and with single and multi-colour printing presses.


    Printing machinists may perform the following tasks:

  • make printing plates
  • fit printing plates or cylinders on presses, mix the inks that are applied to them and adjust the colour flow to the image
  • adjust the paper-feeding devices that separate and feed sheets through the machine
  • monitor machines and print quality
  • carry out minor repairs and routine maintenance
  • set up and operate 'in-line' finishing functions


  • enjoy practical and manual activities
  • good eyesight (may be corrected) and normal colour vision
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • able to carry out detailed work
  • mechanical aptitude

Interest Area

Manual/Practical Technical/Engineering Artistic/Creative


Apprenticeship Year 10 Preferred

To become a printing machinist you usually have to complete an apprenticeship in Printing and Graphic Arts (Printing).

Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10.


Printing machinists work in publishing houses, newspaper production and printing firms, and in both private and government in-house print shops, mainly on offset machines and digital printing equipment.

Printing presses are increasingly becoming computer controlled, affecting the skill level of the occupation and employment opportunities.

With experience, and sometimes further training, it is possible to progress to supervisory and management positions.

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More Information - External Links

Job Outlook for Printing Machinist Innovation and Business Skills Australia FuturePrint Printing Industries Association of Australia

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