Photo-Lithographer or Electronic Originator

Due to the tremendous technological advances, especially in the area of computers, the trade of photolithography has undergone irreversible changes.

The term Desk Top Publishing (DTP) has become a household word and almost all the tasks previously done by the photo-lithographer are now done on high-powered computer systems. It is for this reason that a new trade combining the skills of photo-lithography and DTP or electronic origination was started.

The duties of photo-lithographers or electronic originators include all aspects of the work, which have to be done prior to the job being printed on a variety of printing presses. They handle the work from the time of the first instruction: doing type-setting; preparing line or half-tone pictures in single or multi-colour separations which allow for the job being printed in colour, the making up and laying out of the job in its final form with text, graphics, special effects and all other instructions which may be given by the customer; making positives or negatives and preparing the printing-plates for the presses.

The work is normally done indoors in clean, well-equipped and air-conditioned areas. Overtime and shift work is normal in this trade.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • printing companies
  • companies that specialise in origination
  • design studios
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can start own business

Further Information

Printing Industries Federation of SA
P O Box 1396
Gallo Manor, 2052
The Braids
113 - 115 Bowling Avenue
Gallo Manor, 2191
Tel: (011) 287-1160 Fax: (011) 287-1178

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work at a printing company
  • speak to a photo-lithographer or electronic originator and ask to observe them at work
  • work for the school newspaper or magazine
  • join the computer club of your school
  • consult the Registrar of Manpower Training about learnership programmes in your area

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations