Printing Glossary


Here is a list of commonly used terms in the printing and design industries with their useful definitions.


Accordian Fold:
A term used for two or more parallel folds which open like an accordion.

Against the grain
At right angles to direction of paper grain.

Aqueous Coating (AQ Coating)
A clear, non-toxic finish used to add brilliance and durability to many products. Aqueous coating is not as durable or glossy as UV coating.


Basis Weight
Weight (in pounds) of a ream of paper (500 sheets) in the basic size for that grade.

The amount of information that can be transmitted over a network such as the Internet in a certain amount of time.

The smallest unit of measuring information on the computer. A single bit can only hold two values, 0 and 1, by combining bits together you can get more information.

The thick rubber mat on a printing press that transfers ink from the plate to paper.

When an image extends off all four sides of the printed area without a border. If you want the image to extend to the edge of the paper, then we must cut 1/8 inch off the printed original to allow for the tolerance of the printing process. Design full-bleed projects with the cutting process in mind.

Book Paper
Generic term for coated and uncoated papers. Basic size is 25 x 38.

Bond Paper
A grade of writing or printing paper generally manufactured for letterheads, or forms.

The area between the edge of the image and the edge of the paper.

Paper thickness. Sometimes used as the number of pages per inch.

Bulk Rate
The process of preparing and sorting mail to qualify for reduced postage rates. The lowest postage rates are available if you sort and automate the addresses on your mailing list. Bulk-Rate postage is lower than First-class, but Bulk-Rate has a longer delivery time.

In order to receive postal discounts, your mail must be grouped according to postal zone, boxed in special containers according to postal standards. A bar-coded label attached tells the post offices equipment where the mail piece goes.

A measurement of digital data capable of holding a single charter. 1 byte=8 bits.

Blind Embossing
A design which is stamped without metallic leaf or ink, giving a bas-relief effect.


Thickness of paper in mils, or thousandths of an inch.

Card Stock
A heavyweight paper also known as Cover. Used as covers of catalogs, brochures, books or business cards.

Cast Coated
Paper coated and dried against a polished cylinder for a high-gloss finish.

Coated Paper
Paper with a layer of coating applied to one or both sides, to acheive a particular finish such as gloss. Dot gain is significantly less on coated papers providing sharper images and they are used frequently in 4 colour process work as well as in black and white halftones.

A paper surface created by air drying, giving the paper a wavy look.

Misshaping of a sheet due to moisture absorption or differences between sides of a two sided sheet.

Choke (Choking)
When a publication is printed with several interacting spot colours, gaps or colour shifts may appear between objects. Choking closes this gap by slightly overlapping a dark colour over the boundary of a light colour.

Color Bar
A standard used to compare color accuracy of an image for output.

Color Correction
Adjusting an image to improve overall output color.

Colour Key
A printer's proof that consists of four layers of coloured acetate that represents the colour separation process for a particular job.

Colour Matching
A colour sample book is used to match colours with standard inks used by most printers. The printer will then prepare separate printing plates for each colour. The colours are chosen from those provided by a colour matching system, such as Pantone. Use of a colour matching system permits consistency of the colour of time and among diffrent jobs.

Colour Separation
The separation of a full-colour image into the four primary printing ink colours (CMYK).

The words (text)  that are used in your design.

Continuous Tone
An unlimited range of color and shades of grays.

CYMK stands for Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black. 'K' represents black rather than 'B' so that it isn't confused with blue. CMYK is the standard for full colour printing.  4/0 is 4 colors one side only and 4/4 is 4 colors both sides:

Puncture marks holding business forms together.

To trim or remove unwanted portions from an image in order to make it the proper proportion or composition for a design.

Crop Mark
A small mark outside the printed area used to show where a product should be cut.


An arrangment of images, text, colors, logos and other graphic elements which is both informative and esthetically pleasing.

Desktop Publishing
The use of a computer to create documents that can be printed. Specialized software is used to add copy and graphics to a document, which is then output to a printer or imagesetting equipment.

A shape or engraved block usually made of metal used to cut or stamp an image onto paper or cardstock. For example, to produce a circular business card, a die of the exact size of the circle would be created and then used to cut the cards.

Die score or cut
To die score a piece is to make a "steel rule" die, composed of thin pieces of steel that will stamp a line or rule where your piece needs to fold. This action compresses the paper and allows for ease of folding and prevents cracking. To die cut is to create a steel rule die and to cut the printed piece like a cookie. The most common example of this is a "presentation folder with pocket".

Digital Proof
Color separation data is digitally stored and then exposed to color photographic paper creating a picture of the final product before it is actually printed with ink.

Digital Printing
New printing technology in which electronic files are used to create images on press. Typically used for on-demand printing and to personalize documents. Generally used for short runs of 500 copies or less.

Direct Imaging
A process where a digital image files is converted into CMYK bitmaps (ripped) and burned directly into the plates by a laser, eliminating the costly and environmentally questionable film step.

This is a process where no film is used. A job will go direct to plate and then print eliminating an extra step, producing better quality.

Dot Gain
The spread of ink on paper, causing the dots which make up the image to print larger then they where on film or plate. The images may become distorted, appearing darker with less clarity.

Dots per Inch (DPI)
A measure of computer screen and printer resolution that is referred to as the number of dots that a device can print or display per inch. The more dots per inch, the sharper the image.

The drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding.

A two-color halftone of the same image created by using two screens, two plates, and two colours.

A sample layout that shows the position of graphics and text for the final printed piece. Also, a blank layout showing general look and size of a piece.

A proof of final film using a light sensitive paper. Its purpose is to verify accuracy of film before burning plates.


A coated sheet or the coating on a sheet.

English Finish
A book paper term for sheets that are smoother and more consistent than machined sheets.

Impressing an image in relief to achieve a raised surface.

Light sensitive coating found on printing plates and film.

Engraved Printing
A printing process using recessed plates. Ink sits in the recessed wells of the plate, and when pressure is applied, raised letters and images appear on the front of the page.

EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)
A computer graphics file format developed by Adobe Systems that usually contains object-oriented files.

A patented method of binding perfect bound books so they will open and lay flatter.


A paper surface textured by the passing of the paper while wet between two pieces of fabric during manufacturing.

File Extensions
Three-digit designations at end of a file name that tell the computer what format the file has been saved in. (Examples: .doc, .txt, .pdf, .psd)

Term describing the characteristics of a paper's surface.

Flat/spread size
This is the size of your piece before folding. (Example: and 8 1/2 x 11" 4 page brochure spread out as a 2 page "spread" would be 17 x 11 ") NOTE: IN PRINTING THE WIDTH IS ALWAYS THE FIRST DIMENSION GIVEN.

Foil Stamping
The application of foil to paper. May also be combined with embossing for added interest or effect.

Fold type
The type of fold you require in order to finish your piece. A letter fold is a paper folded in thirds with each end folding towards the center.

Four-Color Process
The process by which full-color photographs and artwork is reproduced. Four halftones —one for each of the primary colors, plus black —are printed one on top of the other, creating the range of color that was in the original.  4/0 is 4 colors one side only and 4/4 is 4 colors both sides.

Four over four (written shorthand as 4/4)
Represents colour printing on both sides of the card. Four represents the four colour format (CMYK) and "over" indicates the four colour format is on the front and back. 4/4 is the standard for printing at Ultra X-Press, but you can also request 4/1, which would be four colour over black and white.

French fold
Two folds at right angles to each other.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, allows computers to speak to each other. FTP is used to make files available for transfer over the Internet. Anyone with access to the internet can use FTP. In some cases you may need network access and/or username and password information. The primary benefit of FTP, as opposed to E-Mail, is the size/speed at which files can be sent and received.


Gang Run
A printing process whereby multiple jobs are run on a single large sheet of paper.

A faint printed image that appears on a printed sheet where it was not intended. More often than not this problem is a function of graphical design. It is hard to tell when or where ghosting will occur. Sometimes you can see the problem developing immediately after printing the sheet, other times the problem occurs while drying. However the problem occurs it is costly to fix, if it can be fixed. Occasionally it can be eliminated by changing the color sequence, the inks, the paper, changing to a press with a drier, printing the problem area in a separate pass through the press or changing the racking (reducing the number of sheets on the drying racks). Since it is a function of graphical design, the buyer pays for the increased cost.

A shiny look reflecting light.

The direction in which the paper fiber lie.

An item to be printed that is not copy (text); includes photographs and illustrations.

Graphic Design
The use of graphic elements, images and text to communicate an idea or concept.

Graphic Designer
The person who conceptualizes and develops the graphic design.

Graphic File Format (GIF)
A graphic file format commonly used by computer bulletin boards, not appropriate for printing.

256 levels of gray from black to white.

The metal fingers on a printing press that hold the paper as it passes through the press.

Ground Wood Pulp
Wood pulp made by machine for newsprint and magazine papers


A very thin line or gap about the width of a hair or 1/100 inch.

The way that tints or grays are printed is by breaking the solid color down into a pattern of dots so small that they cannot be seen by the unaided eye. When this technique is used to created a uniform area of lighter color, it is called a "screen tint." When it is used to reproduce a photograph it is called a "halftone."

Reoccurring unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, dried ink.

High Res
The resolution of an image indicates the number of dots per inch (dpi). High resolution is usually anywhere from 300 dpi to 2,500dpi.

Coated paper with low ink absorption has good holdout. The ink sets on the surface of the paper and tends to be sharper.

Hole Punching or drilling
To allow for insertion to a binder or other use.


Someone who develops original artwork for use in commercial applications.

Image area
Portion of paper on which ink can appear.

A system that takes digital design file and produces film negatives that older processes require to make the printing plates. Sometimes this is referred to as Lino, after one of the first brands of imagesetters.

A high resolution output device for producing film used to create plates for a printing press, in computer imaging, a device that outputs type, line art and photos.

The process of arranging the pages of a document so that when the sheets are printed and later folded for binding, the pages will be in the proper order. Also arranging multiple copies of a smaller document (such as a business card) to fill a larger printing sheet.

Postal information place on a printed product.

Ink fountain
The reservoir on a printing press that hold the ink.

A type of printer that works by spraying ionized ink at a sheet of paper. Inkjet printers are capable of producing high quality print resolutions up to 2400 dots per inch. Newer models offer even higher resolutions.


JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
A file format used for color images. It retains a higher degree of color and files are smaller. Uncompressed JPEG can be used for high-quality printing.


Kilobyte (KB)
A measurement of data equal to 1,024 bytes.

Knock out
To mask out an image.


Laid finish
Simulating the surface of handmade paper.

Laid paper
A watermark, giving a closely lined look in the finish.

Laminate or Lamination (Gloss or matt)
To cover with film, to bond or glue one surface to another.

Laser Papers
Papers with special coatings or hard finishes that are optimized for laser printers and copiers.

Lines per inch
The number of rows of dots per inch in a halftone.

The space between lines of type, measured from the baseline of one line to the baseline of the next. The quantity is measured in points, such as 6 point type, 8 point, etc. Each point equals approximately 1/72th of a inch.

Line Screen
The number of dot lines created per inch, or lines per inch (LPI).

Low Res
The resolution of an image indicates the number of dots per inch (dpi). Low resolution is usually anywhere from 72 dpi to 250 dpi.

See Line Screen.


A magnifying lens used by printers to examine the details of printed materials. Use of a Lupe permits an individual to see the individual colour halftone dots used in process colour printing.

Matte finish
Dull paper or ink finish.

This is a process used to delete unwanted areas of an image while maintaining its shape.

Mechanical Pulp
Same as ground wood pulp. Pulp produced by grinding logs and wood chips into pulp.

Megabyte (MB)
A measurement of data equal to 1,024 kilobytes.

A piece that is handmade by the graphic artist to better show you how your finished piece will look. It generally will be folded and bound the exact way it will be done in production. Sometimes also referred to as a "comp".

An undesirable result in an image when a texture or screen is placed one on top of another. The image will appear fuzzy or wavy.


The image on film that makes the white areas of originals black and black areas white.

Paper made primarily from ground wood pulp.

Number of pages
How many pages does your book or printed brochures have? This is different from how many sheets of paper (a sheet of paper has two sides and is therefore two pages).


Offset paper
Term for uncoated book paper.

Offset Printing
Also called Offset Lithography,  it is a process in printing where ink is spread on a plate then transferred to paper by using a blanket and pressing down.

Using an intermediate surface used to transfer ink.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Software that translates images of scanned text characters into actual text that can be then be edited.

The amount of show-through on a printed sheet. The more opacity or the thicker the paper the less show-through. (The thicker/heavier the paper the higher the cost.)

Outline halftone
Removing the background of a picture or silhouetting an image in a picture.

The transparent cover sheet on artwork often used for instructions.

Overrun or overs
Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + - 10 % to represent a completed order.)


PCW (Post Consumer Waste)
Percentage of fiber used in the process of making paper that has been previously used.

PCR (Post Consumer Recycled)
An indicator that a paper or cardstock is comprised of Post Consumer Waste fiber (percentages can vary)

PDF (Portable Document Format)
A popular way of formatting documents so they can be viewed and printed on multiple platforms without changing. PDF is a modified Postscript format developed by Adobe as a standard for the web and for printing.

Perfect bind
A squared off edge, with scored hinges for ease of opening and glued in pages define this type of bindery. An example would be your standard "pocket" or "soft cover" in book printing.

To perforate or die score in holes that allow one to cleanly remove a coupon or page from the piece with ease.

Printers nightmare that occurs as the surface of a sheet lifts off during printing. Generally a paper manufactures quality control problem.

PMS (Pantone Matching System)
An ink colour matching system created by Pantone. Pantone ink colors are not able to be reproduced by CMYK Process, as they may include metallics, fluorescent colors, and very vibrant hues.

Equivalent to 1/72th of a inch, points are the units of measurement of type, such as 6 point, 10 point, etc.

Postscript fonts have very smooth edges and are used in most printing applications. Writing Postscript is similar to sending files to an office printer, but the information is collected in an electronic file that can be read by prepress computers which RIP files prior to output. Postscript files can be converted to PDF format.

The processes performed on a printing order prior to its going to the press to be printed. Examples are file preparation, file modification, preparing film, stripping, creating proofs and making plates. Most up to date prepress operations have or are converting to all digital processes and work with customer provided electronic files.

Printing Plate
A thin object (plate) made of either metal or paper which is light sensitive and causes an image to be transferred to paper while on a printing press. The image is burned onto the plate from film by the use of high intensity light. The surface of the plate is treated or configured so that only the printing image is receptive to the ink which transfers to the printed object.

A method of checking for errors prior to printing an order. A press proof is used by the printing press operator to ensure the correctness of the finished product during the production of the order.

Unit of measure in typesetting. One pica = 1/6 inch.

Process Colours
The subtractive primaries: yellow, magenta and cyan, plus black in four-colour process printing.

Process Printing
The printing from a series of two or more halftone plates to produce intermediate colours and shades.

A reproduction process that uses a light sensitive printing element, toner, and heat to fuse the toner to the paper producing the copy.

Photo Illustration
An image produced by the use of one or more photographs.

Short for picture element. These are the dots that form the picture on a monitor. The smaller the pixel, the more detail in the picture.

Pressure-sensitive paper
Paper material with self sticking adhesive covered by a backing sheet.

Pixel Depth
The amount of data used to describe the coloured dots on a computer monitor.

A metal sheet of coated material that transfers ink from the printing press to paper.

Primary Colors
Are made up of red, green and blue, which are Additive Primaries, which create white light; and cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, which are Subtractive Colors, which are used for printing.

Process Colors
Overlapping dots of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK) used to simulate a large number of different colors.

A close representation of how the finished product will look. Also called a "hard copy proof."


Graphics composed of pixels on a bitmap, allowing for solid colored objects and graphics as we see them. Raster images cannot be enlarged without losing quality. 

Five hundred sheets of paper.

Right-hand page of an open book.

Recycled Paper
Paper consisting of some amount of previously discarded paper.

Reflective copy
Copy that is not transparent.

To position print in the proper position in relation to the edge of the sheet and to other printing on the same sheet.

Register marks
Cross-hair lines or marks on film, plates, and paper that guide strippers, plate makers, pressmen, and bindery personnel in processing a print order from start to finish.

Putting two or more images together so that they are exactly aligned, and the resulting image is well defined.

The number of pixels that can fit into one inch determines the sharpness and quality of an image. Computer monitors are 72-96 DPI while most printed materials are printed at 300 DPI or above.

The opposite of what you see. Printing the background of an image. For example; type your name on a piece of paper. The reverse of this would be a black piece of paper with a white name.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)
When mixed together these colors create a white light. Computer monitors display color in RGB.

Right-angle fold
A term used for two or more folds that are at 90 degree angles to each other.

Rule Up
A flat proof with lines drawn on it to show where the piece will be cut, perforated and folded.


Saddle stitch
Two staples added to the center of the piece on the fold line,

Scanning is the process that records your images as a digital file from a photograph.

A linear indent made in paper or cardstock to facilitate folding, without cracking along the fold edge.

Screen angles
The angles at which halftone, duo tones, tri tones, and color separation printing films are placed in order to have correct registration and a clear image.

Using the same paper as the text for the cover.

Side stitch
The stapling of sheets or signatures on the side closest to the spine.

A printed sheet with multiple pages arranged on it (see imposition), that is folded so that the pages are in their proper numbered sequence, as in a book.

The binding edge of a book or publication.

Spiral bind
A type of binding where a metal or plastic wire is spiraled through holes drilled along the binding side of a document.

Split Run
An order with the same front side but may have two or more different backsides.

Planned paper waste for all printing operations.

Spot Colour
A single colour ink or varnish applied to printed material, primarily used when process colours are not appropriate or able to be used, such as with metallic inks.

Spot varnish
Varnish used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet.

When a publication is printed with several interacting spot colours, gaps or colour shifts may appear between objects. A spread closes the gap by overlapping a light foreground object to a dark background.

A procedure for placing the same image on plates in multiple places.

A proof mark meaning let the original copy stand.

A term for unprinted paper.

The positioning of film on a flat prior to plate making.

Any surface on which printing, stamping, embossing, etc. is done.

Sulphate Pulp
Paper pulp from wood chips pressure-cooked in a solution of caustic soda and sodium sulphide. Also known as kraft.


Tab Delimited
Having tabs as separators between data elements. For example, in a database or spreadsheet, the tab key can be used to move from one field or cell to the next. The file is tab-delimited (even though the user also has the option to use the mouse to move around). The data from one of these files can be exported into a tab delimited text file.

Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
A file format for exchanging bitmapped images between applications.

Text paper
Grades of uncoated paper with textured surfaces. Fine quality papers often used for announcements, booklets, annual reports, and other jobs where a variety of surface textures and colors are desired.

Text ink
The ink you require for the inside of your piece. This is described by the number of inks you require and the two numbers used are separated by a slash sign /. If the front of your piece has 4 colors and the back has 1, then your piece would be described as 4/1 or "four over one". There are 2 main kinds of inks, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) for process printing such as for color photos, and spot color inks, such as Pantone.

Text stock
The paper that is required for the inside of a periodical, or entire piece if there is not a different cover paper.

Thermography/Raised Printing
A finishing technique applied to wet inks that raises the ink and gives the effect of embossed printing without using costly dies.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)
A TIFF is one of most widely supported file format for storing images on a computer. It can handle a range from one bit to 24 bits of photographic image, but as an older format, images saved as TIFF files tend to be larger than JPEG or .PSD formats.

Transfer tape
A peel and stick tape used in business forms.

The overlapping of one color over a different, adjacent color to ensure that no white space is visible where the two colors meet, especially when there are slight variations in the registration of the two colors during the printing process. Or the process of printing wet ink over wet or dry previously printed ink.

Paper or cardstock are now made from renewable resources other than trees, such as bamboo, cotton, hemp or minerals.

Trim marks
Similar to crop or register marks. These marks show where to trim the printed sheet.

Trim size folded
The final size of your piece once folded. (Example: if you fold a letter sized sheet in half the folded size is the trim size would be 8.5" x 5.5"

To layout words, text and logos for printing.


Paper that is not treated with any coating or process to give it a glossy, smooth or textured surface. Most copier paper, laser printer paper and stationery is uncoated paper.

Production of fewer copies than ordered. See over run.

UV Coating
Plastic coating that is applied after the printing process. This yields a very tough, almost un-scratchable surface that is more durable than aqueous coatings.


A thin, protective coating applied to a printed sheet for protection or appearance, available in gloss or matt finishes.

A file format where images are composed of smaller shapes, curves or line segments which are mathematically defined. Unlike Raster images, vectors are resolution independent and can be stretched or resized without loosing quality. Logos, for example, should be created as vectors for this reason, as they may need to be applied in large sizes such as on billboards or signage.

A more dimensionally stable, usually translucent substrate made from plasticized cotton. Often used in applications where tracing is required, such as architectural plans.

The left hand page of an open book.


A term for planned spoilage.

A distinctive design created in paper at the time of manufacture that can be easily seen by holding the paper up to a light.

A roll of printing paper.

Web press
The name of a type of presse that prints from rolls of paper instead of sheets.

Wire O / Wire-O Binding
A binding trade name for a mechanical binding using double loops of wire through a hole.

With the grain
Folding or feeding paper into the press or folder parallel to the grain of the paper.

Wove paper
A paper having a uniform unlined surface with a smooth finish.