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Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

Lithography originally used an image drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a smooth, level lithographic limestone plate. This traditional technique is still used in some fine art printmaking applications.

In modern lithography, the image is made of a polymer coating applied to a flexible plastic or metal plate. The image can be printed directly from the plate (the orientation of the image is reversed), or it can be offset, by transferring the image onto a flexible sheet (rubber) for printing and publication.

An offset lithograph, also known as a limited-edition print, is a reproduction by a mechanical process. Very often the artist signs a number of these "reproductions”.

Distinguishing lithographs from other printmaking processes can be especially difficult given the wide variety of prints available in the market.

Today, most types of high-volume books and magazines, especially when illustrated in colour, are printed with offset lithography, which has become the most common form of printing technology since the 1960s.