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How are takeaway menus printed?

Menu printing is the life blood of any takeaway business in the UK. It is the primary and most important marketing tool used to promote a takeaway business, but how are takeaway menus printed?

Our takeaway menus are printed using four coloured inks on high speed offset lithography printing machines. Lithographic or “litho” menu printing commonly uses flexible aluminium printing plates with a polymer coating. The takeaway menu image to be printed is etched into the polymer coating to create hydrophilic regions that accept a film of water which will repel the greasy ink and hydrophobic regions that repel water and accept ink. The water is applied to the plate first by dampening rollers; the water covers the plate and is repelled by the emulsion of the image area. Then the ink is applied by inking rollers which is repelled by the water and sticks only to the image area, where there is no water. The takeaways menu image can be printed directly to the paper but is normally “offset” by transferring it onto a rubber roller and then onto the paper. This rubber roller squeezes off the water so that the paper does not get wet from the water. 


Before it can be printed the takeaway menu image needs to be separated into four colours and etched onto four printing plates. These are called process colours and are Cyan (a blue), Yellow, Magenta (a red) and Black. Our menu printing process creates these plates using a direct laser imaging in a platesetter called a CTP or Computer-To-Plate machine. It is the positive image in the emulsion that remains after processing; the non-image emulsion used to be removed using chemicals although our modern plates do not require this processing.

Photographic quality takeaway menu images are produced using a process called screening or halftoning. This technique simulates a continuous tone by using dots which vary in size, shape or spacing. It relies on an optical illusion where tiny dots are blended together into smooth tones by the human eye. If you look at any printed takeaway menu under a magnifying glass you can clearly see the dots used to create these tones and varying colours. Our menu printing plates are made up of tiny dots which when overlapped and combined together create our full colour takeaway menus. The opaque quality of the ink allows halftone dots of different coloured ink to combine to create even more colours.

Once developed the menu printing plates are applied to the lithographic printing press so that all four process colours can be applied one after another to one side of the paper. The printing inks are applied in the following order Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and finally Black. The rollers are adjusted to ensure that the printed image remains in registration, i.e. all the colours are printed in the correct position to make up the final image. Once one side of the menu has been printed it must be allowed to dry thoroughly before being put through the printing machine again to print the reverse side. This removes the risk of image transference from wet ink.


Multiple menu images are printed simultaneously on each sheet of paper, this is a process called batch printing where multiple menus are printed at the same time. Once both sides have been printed and allowed to dry they must be cut up and trimmed to size. Once they are the correct size they are folded and boxed ready for dispatch to takeaways throughout the UK.

Please remember that all our menu printing prices are fully inclusive of takeaway menu design, menu artwork, full colour, double sided menu printing, menu folding and delivery to one UK Mainland address. With Cheap Takeaway Menus there are absolutely no hidden menu printing costs.  


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About the Author

Kevin Moyse

With over 19 years creative marketing experience Kevin has a wonderful knowledge of takeaway restaurant industry and specialises in creative takeaway menu design and printing.

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