What Is Duplex Printing?

Maggie Worth

Duplex printing means that, during a single command cycle, both sides of a sheet of paper are printed. Such printing saves paper. It is also commonly used for graphic design proofs and in production of both text and graphic documents. Some printer models do not perform the duplex function.

Both sides of a sheet of paper are printed during duplex printing.
Both sides of a sheet of paper are printed during duplex printing.

Duplex printing is different than manually printing on one side of a page, removing the sheet, reinserting it upside down, and printing again. In duplex printing, the printer actually prints side one, ejects the paper, pulls it back onto the print surface, and prints the second side before ejecting the final piece. This function is automatic, and no manual intervention is required unless something goes wrong.

Duplex printing may help offices save paper.
Duplex printing may help offices save paper.

Only certain printers can perform this function. Duplex printers can be color or black and white and can be consumer or commercial models. The program from which the piece is printed must also be set to duplex. This is most commonly accomplished by selecting a drop-down option or radio button on the print screen or in printer setup.

Many consumers and businesses use duplex printing as a paper-saving strategy as they can generally print the same amount of material on half the number of sheets. Often, this is part of an effort to go green or reduce the amount of waste generated. In addition, however, saving paper means saving money that can be better used for other initiatives.

In other cases, duplex printing is a vital part of the design of a piece. For example, a folded program might have an image on the cover and a schedule of events on the inside. Duplexing allows the printer operator to load paper and select print only once. Care must be taken to set up the print file so that all faces print correctly. For example, if the program file were set up incorrectly, the cover image might appear right-side up, while the inside text prints upside down.

Many pieces are printed with duplex printing, including fliers, instructional manuals, and more. Pieces printed on a heavier substrate, such as postcards, are generally produced on a printing press, which uses different technology than a printer. In design departments, however, designers use duplex printing to produce realistic hard proofs of two-sided pieces. Even if the final piece will print on a press, it is often easier for a client to review and understand a proof if has been duplexed and cut to the appropriate size.

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