Printing Press Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Sets up and operates digital, letterpress, lithographic, flexographic, gravure, or other printing machines. Includes short-run offset printing presses.

This career is part of the Arts, Audio-Video Technology and Communications cluster Printing Technology pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Collects and inspects random samples during print runs to identify any necessary adjustments.
  • Examines job orders to determine quantities to be printed, stock specifications, colors, or special printing instructions.
  • Verifies that paper and ink meet the specifications for a given job.
  • Starts presses and pulls proofs to check for ink coverage and density, alignment, and registration.
  • Changes press plates, blankets, or cylinders, as required.
  • Obtains or mixes inks and fills ink fountains.
  • Feeds paper through press cylinders and adjusts feed and tension controls.
  • Loads presses with paper and makes necessary adjustments, according to paper size.
  • Secures printing plates to printing units and adjusts tolerances.
  • Cleans ink fountains, plates, or printing unit cylinders when press runs are completed.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Embosser -- Tends machine that imparts raised design or finish on cloth, coated fabrics, or plastic sheeting, by means of heat and pressure from engraved steel rollers.
  • Music Copyist -- Copies musical scores onto stencils or manuscript paper for reproduction.
  • Prepress Proofer -- Makes single or multicolored prepress proofs of text and graphics.
  • Silk Screen Printer -- Tends silk screen machine that prints designs, patterns, lettering, or other images on assorted materials and products, for example glassware, ceramics, metal, plastic, or electronic components.
  • Binding Printer -- Tends machine that prints identifying information on bias binding.
  • Collating Machine Operator -- Sets up and operates collating machine to perform functions for example assembling and perforating, stapling, gluing, folding, or cutting sheets of paper, forms, or signatures in specified sequence to form sets.
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