Make and maintain lithographic printing plates

Business Sectors (Suites): Machine Printing
Developed by: Improve
Approved on: 29 Feb 2020


This standard is for lithographic printers whose job includes making plates and storing plates for reuse.

Lithographic printing plates can be created by several methods, including computer to plate systems, imaged either on-press and off-press, through exposure in a light cabinet using film in contact with the plate, or through 'printing' plate material using a laser printer or other proprietary system.

This standard requires the printer to be able to produce lithographic plates by one method. Where a computer to plate system is employed, the requirement is for the printer to be able to run a previously imposed and ripped file to plate. There is no requirement for imposition or file handling to be included. Typically, printers will do this where a plate re-make is required when the pre-press technicians are not available.

For analogue plate making, the printer would select the correct film together with any masks, would place the film, mask and plate on 'pins' in an exposure frame, expose the plate to light for the correct time, and once the exposures for each film/mask combination was complete, the plate would be developed, either by hand or by machine.

Storage of lithographic printing plates for re-use involves cleaning ink from the plate using plate cleaner, washing any chemical residues from the plate surface, and, for metal plates, 'gumming' the plate and drying the gum. Once ready for storage, the plate has to be located and identified so it can be quickly located when required again.

Performance criteria

You must be able to:


Create lithographic printing plates

  1. identify plate material for platemaking to meet specifications
  2. check imaging/exposure equipment and your work area are safe and ready for operation
  3. check online processing equipment is ready for operation following standard operating procedures
  4. load plates into imaging/exposure equipment following standard operating procedures
  5. begin the imaging/exposure of plates, confirm UV or laser light cannot create a health and safety risk
  6. develop plates following standard operating procedures
  7. check plates have been processed and non-image areas 'desensitised' to meet specifications
  8. check plates for exposure, completeness of images and free from physical damage or blemishes
  9. complete any records required by your company **

Store lithographic printing plates for re-use

10. identify plates for storage and check that they have not suffered any physical or image damage that would prevent the plate from being re-used in the future
11. report any plate wear or damage to the appropriate person(s) before storage
12. clean printing ink from plates, using a suitable press chemistry that will not cause damage to the surface or image of the plates
13. check any plate cleaner residues are washed from plates following standard operating procedures
14. apply protective coating required and 'buff down' to an even and dry finish
15. identify storage locations and any other plates being stored as part of a set following standard operating procedures
16. place plates in storage following standard operating procedures
17. complete labelling/identification requirements following standard operating procedures
18. report any problems to the appropriate person(s)

Knowledge and Understanding

You need to know and understand:

Health and safety

  1. your duties and responsibilities for health and safety as defined by any specific legislation covering your job role
  2. manufacturer's health and safety requirements relevant to your job
  3. how to stop machines in the event of an emergency**


4. how to communicate with colleagues

Workplace policy and practice

5. workplace objectives, priorities, standards and procedures

The identification and assessment of printing options

6. the stages in the printing process from pre-press to printed product

Time and resources

7. how to maximise productivity

The operation of equipment

8. the operation of offset lithographic platemaking equipment


9. the principles of offset lithographic printing and platemaking *

The causes and treatment of common faults

10. raw material faults
11. processing faults
12. machine faults *

Administrative procedures

13. recording and reporting


14. any specific environmental legislation that covers processes in your company
15. control of pollution

Quality assurance and control

16. techniques for controlling quality
17. equipment for controlling quality in offset lithographic platemaking

Problem solving

18. sources of information *


19. the types and characteristics of lithographic printing plates
20. how to maintain the quality of printing plates during storage and handling


Scope Performance

Scope Knowledge





Links To Other NOS

External Links

Version Number


Indicative Review Date

28 Feb 2025





Originating Organisation


Original URN


Relevant Occupations

Printers, Printing Machine Minders and Assistants, Printing Trades

SOC Code



machines; printing; lithographic; equipment; flexographic; operate; maintain; inks; coatings;