An imagesetter is a high-resolution output device used in the printing industry to produce film or plates for traditional offset printing. It converts digital text and graphics into a format that can be etched onto printing plates. These plates are later used in a printing press to transfer the desired image onto paper or other surfaces.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword ‘Imagesetter’ is: /ˈɪmɪdʒˌsɛtər/

Key Takeaways

  1. Imagesetters are high-resolution output devices that convert digital files into film negatives or positives, which are then used in the prepress stage for printing.
  2. These devices use laser technology to expose light-sensitive film or plates, achieving high-quality and precise reproductions of the original digital images.
  3. Although they have largely been replaced by modern computer-to-plate (CTP) systems, imagesetters are still used in specific applications that require high-resolution film output or when working with older printing equipment.


The term “Imagesetter” holds significant importance in the technology and printing industry, as it refers to a high-resolution output device that plays a crucial role in the pre-press stage of printing.

Imagesetters transfer digital text, images, and graphics onto film or printing plates, using laser technology, with remarkable precision and clarity.

This process ensures high-quality printing by retaining all intricacies of the original digital design.

As a vital component of the printing workflow, imagesetters have revolutionized the industry by providing efficiency, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional methods, significantly impacting the way professional printing is conducted today.


An Imagesetter serves a significant purpose in the realm of graphic arts and publishing, providing specialized technology for the challenging task of transferring digital art, photographs, and texts onto film, paper, or even metal plates. These instruments work to maintain the highest possible level of detail and accuracy in the reproduction process.

This is particularly crucial in industries such as print media, advertising, and packaging, where fidelity to the original design is vital to maintain branding and messaging. Imagesetters thus act as a bridge between the digital world and the physical world of print, ensuring that the final product accurately reflects the designer’s original intention.

To accomplish this level of precision, Imagesetters utilize one of several techniques such as laser technology, thermal, or even inkjet printing methods. These techniques, coupled with the use of proprietary software, enable Imagesetters to create high-resolution, sharp, and consistently replicated materials.

They separate color information and accurately reproduce intricate details, shades, and patterns, thereby preserving consistent color fidelity throughout numerous iterations. By providing a reliable and efficient method of digital-to-physical media transfer, Imagesetters continue to play an indispensable role in the ever-evolving landscape of creative design and print media.

Examples of Imagesetter

Print industry: Imagesetters are widely used in the print industry for the production of high-quality magazines, brochures, and other printed materials. They ensure that the typography, images, and other design elements are accurately reproduced on paper. In this context, imagesetters have been used for many years in creating film negatives or positives for offset printing plates, ensuring precise registration and sharp detail in the final print.

Newspaper publishing: In the newspaper industry, imagesetters play a crucial role in the prepress process of creating printing plates for large-format presses. These machines are capable of generating high-resolution output, usually at 1,200 dots per inch (dpi) or higher, which makes them suitable for producing the fine text and images required for newspapers. The imagesetter’s ability to handle large format sizes allows for efficient production of newspaper pages, which are then transferred to the printing plates.

Graphic design and prepress services: Many graphic design firms and prepress companies employ imagesetters as part of their equipment lineup. These organizations use imagesetters to output client proofs and film for print jobs, allowing for accurate color matching and ensuring the final printed product meets the designer’s vision. Additionally, imagesetters are often used to produce color separations, which are essential for the color printing process.Note: While imagesetters were a critical piece of technology in these industries, newer technologies like computer-to-plate (CTP) systems and high-quality digital printing have reduced the reliance on imagesetters in recent years. However, they are still used in some applications due to their high-resolution output and capabilities in handling print media file formats.

Imagesetter FAQ

1. What is an Imagesetter?

An Imagesetter is a high-resolution output device that is used in the pre-press industry for generating high-quality film or paper-based output for further processing. It transfers digital files or page layouts onto film or paper sheets, which are then used in the printing process. The device uses cutting-edge technology such as laser exposure and photographic principles to produce crisp and clear images with high quality and accuracy.

2. How does an Imagesetter work?

An Imagesetter works by using lasers to expose light-sensitive materials like photographic film or special paper coated with photosensitive chemicals. The digital information is sent from a computer to the Imagesetter, and it is then processed and translated into images on the film or paper. This output is used for creating printing plates or other materials needed for the final printing process, ensuring sharp and high-quality results.

3. What are the key advantages of using an Imagesetter?

Some key advantages of using an Imagesetter include:

– High-resolution output with exceptional image quality

– Precise and accurate reproduction of digital files or page layouts

– Greater control over the pre-press process, ensuring optimal print results

– Enhanced productivity, as the digital-to-film process is faster than traditional methods

– Reduced production costs due to less material waste and minimal errors

4. What types of files can an Imagesetter process?

Imagesetters can process various types of digital files, including PostScript (PS), Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), PDF, and TIFF. It is essential to ensure the file formats are high-resolution and properly converted into a format that the Imagesetter can read and process to achieve the desired output quality.

5. What industries commonly use Imagesetters?

Imagesetters are commonly used in industries that require high-quality printing results and a high level of detail, such as the publishing, advertising, packaging, and graphic design industries. They are also prevalent in specialized sectors like screen printing, flexography, and offset lithography, where they play a significant role in the pre-press process.

Related Technology Terms

  • Raster Image Processor (RIP)
  • High-resolution printing
  • Computer-to-Plate (CTP) technology
  • Halftone screening
  • PostScript language

Sources for More Information


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