What Is Work-and-Turn in Printing Projects?

Printing the same thing on both sides of the paper

Man checking the printing quality

Getty Images / Dean Mitchell

Unlike sheetwise printing where each side of the sheet of paper is different, with work-and-turn each side of a sheet of paper is printed the same. Work-and-turn refers to how the sheet of paper is flipped over side-to-side to be sent back through the press. The top edge of the paper (the gripper edge) that went through on the first pass is the same edge to go in first on the second pass. The side edges are flipped. Using work-and-turn, you don't need a second set of printing plates because the same set is used for both sides.

Work-and-turn is similar to the work-and-tumble method; however, pages need to be placed on the page differently with each method so that you achieve the correct front-to-back printing.

Designers don't always have a say in which method is used. Printers may have a preferred method of handling the printing of the reverse side of the sheet so talk to your printer about the pros and cons of each method and determine if there is any significant advantage of one over the other for your specific print job. In many cases, whatever is customary for your printer will be fine.

Examples of Work-and-Turn

  1. You have a double-sided 5"x7" postcard that you are printing 8-up on a sheet of paper. Instead of putting 8 copies of the postcard on one side of the paper you set it up with 4 copies of the front in column A and 4 copies of the back of the postcard in column B. You have one set of printing plates for each color used and it is composed of both the front and back sides of your postcard. Once you run off one side of the sheet of paper and it dries it is flipped over and run through a second time so that the same thing is printed on that side of the paper. However, because of the way you arranged it for printing, the two sides of the postcard will print front-to-back (if they aren't arranged correctly, you could end up with 2 fronts on one postcard and 2 backs on another).
  2. You have an 8-page booklet. You have one set of printing plates for each color of ink. The printing plates contain all 8 pages You print all 8 pages on one side of the sheet of paper then print the same 8 pages on the other side. Note that pages must first be put in the correct order or imposition so that the pages print correctly (i.e. page 2 on the back of page 1) and it can vary depending on the number of pages and how it is to be printed, cut, and folded. After printing, each sheet of paper is cut and folded to create 2 copies of your 8-page booklet. 

Cost Considerations

Because it requires only one set of printing plates for printing each side work-and-turn printing can be less expensive than doing the same print job sheetwise. Depending on the size of your document you may also be able to save on paper by using work-and-turn.

More On Desktop Printing

The terms sheetwise, work-and-turn, and work-and-tumble typically apply to the handling of printed and imposed sheets during the commercial printing process. However, when manually doing duplex printing from your desktop or network printer you would also employ similar techniques when feeding the printed pages back through the printer. 

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Bear, Jacci Howard. "What Is Work-and-Turn in Printing Projects?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/work-and-turn-in-printing-1077944. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2023, April 5). What Is Work-and-Turn in Printing Projects? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/work-and-turn-in-printing-1077944 Bear, Jacci Howard. "What Is Work-and-Turn in Printing Projects?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/work-and-turn-in-printing-1077944 (accessed May 30, 2023).