The printing industry

The print industry is globally one of the biggest industries, larger than the music industry or the video game industry.  It is in general in a slight decline in North-America, Europe, and Japan, but growing elsewhere.

This page describes

Types of printing companies

Printing companies can be categorized based on the type of customers they serve, the types of jobs they print, and the equipment they use. The printing market is often split into 4 segments:

Commercial printers

This is the largest market segment. Commercial printers typically print a wide range of products, from stationery to brochures and magazines. They use a mix of machines, typically including offset and digital presses.

Most commercial printers work for a wide range of customers:

  • Private persons
  • SOHO (small office, home office)
  • SME (small and medium enterprises)
  • Government & large enterprises

Some companies focus on specific markets, such as:

  • Quick printers – printing a variety of small jobs in small run lengths for walk-in customers and local businesses. Copy shops are one type of quick printers.
  • Forms printers
  • Wide-format printers – printing posters, banners, point-of-displays, and other large jobs on paper, canvas, textiles, and other substrates. This can be done using offset, screen printing, and increasingly large format digital inkjet presses.
  • Direct mail printers
  • Security printing – The segment of the printing industry that handles printing banknotes, passports, identity documents, driver’s licenses, vouchers, lottery tickets but also packages for luxury or pharmaceutical products.

Packaging printers

Packaging printers have specialized in printing all kinds of packaging such as boxes, cartons, bags, cans, tags, and labels. Packaging printers mostly use offset, flexo, or digital presses.

Publication printing

These companies focus uniquely on printing publications: newspapers, books, periodicals such as magazines or directories such as the yellow pages. Most printers have specialized in just one type of publication, such as newspapers. General commercial printers also print a significant number of books and magazines.


An in-plant is a printing facility that is part of a company or institution. It typically only produces print for its own employer, although sometimes excess capacity is used for commercial printing activities. Typical examples of in-plants are the print center of a university, the print department of a ministry, or the print division of banks.

Printing companies do not necessarily fit into just one category. Newspaper printing plants also try to get a piece of the commercial printing market, some commercial printers also do packaging work, etc. Not included in the above list is industrial printing – those are printing processes that are an integral part of the manufacturing process of some products, such as printing on ceramics or floor tiles.

There are additional industry sectors that are closely related to the above sectors. These include publishers, prepress services, and trade binding.

Largest printing companies

The printing industry is dominated by small to medium-size businesses. Many of the largest printing companies in the world are also active in other sectors, making it impossible to compile a list purely based on print activity. The largest printing companies in the world include:

  • Amcor – packaging manufacturer & printer, Australia + North-America, Europe, New Zealand, Latin America & Asia
  • Asahi Shimbun Company – newspapers & magazine publisher, Japan
  • Bertelsmann – mass media company, Europe + Asia & Latin America
  • Cenveo – commercial printer, USA + Europe & Asia
  • Cimpress – web-to-print commercial printer, Europe + USA, Latin Ameria, Asia & Australia
  • Crown – packaging printer, USA + Canada, Latin America, Europe & Asia
  • Dai Nippon Printing – commercial printer, Japan
  • Dangnali Zhongguo – commercial printer, China
  • De La Rue – security printer, UK
  • Gannett Company – newspaper & publishing, USA
  • Leo Paper Group – commercial printer, China
  • News Corp – mass media company, USA + Europe & Australia
  • Quad/Graphics – commercial printer, USA + Europe, Canada & Latin America
  • Reynolds Group Holdings – packaging printer & aluminum company, USA + Europe & New Zealand
  • R.R. Donnelley  – communications company, USA + Europe, Asia & Latin America
  • Smurfit Kappa Group – corrugated packaging, UK + Europe, North America & Latin America
  • Toppan Printing – commercial printer, Japan
  • Transcontinental – newspaper & packaging printer, Canada + USA
  • Westrock – corrugated packaging, USA + Europe, Latin America, Asia & Australia
  • Yomiuru Shimbun Holdings – newspapers & media, Japan

The first country listed is where the company is headquartered. Large publishers that are not featured in the above list most likely outsource printing. I haven’t found a list of Chinese printing companies sorted by turnover, but this overview lists the 10 largest of 2012.

The biggest print site in the world

The largest printing site is the Broxbourne,  UK plant of  News International, where The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph are printed. The site houses  12 Man Roland Colorman XXL web-offset presses, capable of printing up to 86000 newspapers per hour.

newspaper printing plant - News International

Many Chinese sites are also very large. These companies often provide housing for their employees, leading to sites that are the size of a small city.

Other sources of information

Print is big is worth a visit.

3 thoughts on “The printing industry

  1. Is there a current available list of the largest, by sales $’s, tag & label printers in North America? If so where can this list be found?

    1. I’m not aware of publicly available lists. Market analysis companies make a good living compiling such overviews.

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