Printing Terminology

Just for fun, here is a glossary of printing terminology to provide you with way more than you ever wanted to know about the printing process!

Bindery and Finishing

  • Accordion fold: Bindery term, two or more parallel folds which open like an accordion.
  • Banding: Method of packaging printed pieces of paper using rubber or paper bands.
  • Bind: To fasten sheets or signatures with wire, thread, glue. or by other means.
  • Bindery: The finishing department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.
  • Binding: The process of attaching loose sheets of paper into a book or other multipage document.
  • Bulk pack: Boxing printed product without wrapping or banding.
  • Bundling: Pressing and storing folded signatures between boards to flatten folds and prevent wrinkles and waves that may appear due to changes in temperature and humidity.
  • Collate: A finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order.
  • Comb bind: To bind by inserting a plastic “comb” into punched holes.
  • French fold: Two folds at right angles to each other.
  • Perfect Binding: A book binding process where pages are glued together and directly to the cover of the book.
  • Saddle Stitch: A book binding process where pages are stapled together through the spine of the book. Traditionally performed on V shaped saddle.
  • Side stitch: Binding by stapling along one side of a sheet.
  • Stitch: Staple. Stitchers somewhat resemble sewing machines with a spool of wire which forms the finished staples.
  • Trim marks: Similar to crop or register marks. These marks show where to trim the printed sheet.
  • Wire-O Binding: A method of wire binding books along the binding edge that will allow the book to lay flat using double loops.

Digital and Computer

  • BMP: A computer graphics format not generally used in professional printing.
  • Digital Printing: A system of printing, which involves linking state of the art printing presses and computers, bypassing the traditional route of making printing plates.
  • Desktop Publishing: A process for creating camera ready and plate ready artwork on a personal computer.
  • Digital Imaging: The process of creating a digital copy of an illustrated or photographic image.
  • Digital Printing: A system of printing, which involves linking state of the art printing presses and computers, bypassing the traditional route of making printing plates.
  • EPS: Encapsulated Postscript File. A vector based, computer graphics file format developed by Adobe Systems. EPS is the preferred format for many computer illustrations, because of its efficient use of memory and fine color control.
  • Generation: Stages of reproduction from original copy. A first generation reproduction yields the best quality.
  • GIF: An eight bit (256 colors or shades of grey) or less computer file format.GIF files are almost never used for professional printing.
  • JPEG: Joint Photographic Electronic Group. A common standard for compressing image data. JPEG is not commonly used in printing because of data loss.
  • PDF: Portable Document file. A proprietary format developed by Adobe Systems for the transfer of designs across multiple computer platforms.
  • Photocopy: A mechanical printing process that uses a light sensitive printing element, electrostatic toner and a heating element to fuse the toner to the paper.
  • Pixel Depth: The amount of data used to describe each colored dot on the computer screen. i.e. Monochrome is 1 bit deep. Greyscale is 8 bits deep. RGB is 24 bits deep. Images to be printed as CMYK separation should be 32 bits deep.
  • PostScript: The computer language most recognized by printing devices.
  • RGB: Red Green Blue, the colors used by a computer monitor to create color images on the screen.
  • TIFF: Tagged Image File Format, a bitmapped file format used for the reproduction of continuous tone images such as photographs and illustrations.

Paper Information

  • Against the grain: At right angles to direction of paper grain.
  • Basis weight: Weight in pounds of a ream of paper cut to the basic size for its grade.
  • Bond paper: Strong durable paper grade used for letterheads and business forms.
  • Bond & carbon: Business form with paper and carbon paper.
  • Brightness: The brilliance or reflectance of paper.
  • Bulk: Thickness of paper stock in thousandths of an inch or number of pages per inch.
  • Caliper: Paper thickness in thousandths of an inch.
  • Carbonless: Pressure sensitive writing paper that does not use carbon.
  • Carload: A truck load of paper weighing 40,000 pounds.
  • Cast coated: Coated paper with a high gloss reflective finish.
  • Chipboard: A board made up of pasted layers of pulp.
  • Coated paper: A clay coated printing paper with a smooth finish.
  • Cover paper: A heavy printing paper used to cover books, make presentation folders, etc.
  • Gloss: A shiny look reflecting light.
  • Grain: The pattern of fibers in paper, board, and other materials. During manufacture, most fibers will line up parallel to each other resulting in a predominant grain direction. Grain direction influences the strength of paper and board and has implications for folding, gluing, etc.
  • High-bulk paper: A paper made thicker than its standard basis weight.
  • Laid finish: Simulating the surface of handmade paper.
  • Matte finish: Dull paper or ink finish.
  • Micrometer: Instrument used to measure the thickness of different papers.
  • Offset paper: Term for uncoated book paper.
  • Opacity: The amount of show-through on a printed sheet. The more opacity or the thicker the paper the less show-through.
  • Point: For paper, a unit of thickness equaling 1/1000 inch. for typesetting, a unit of height equaling 1/72 inch.
  • Pressure-sensitive paper: Paper material with self sticking adhesive covered by a backing sheet.
  • Ream: Five hundred sheets of paper.
  • Self-cover: Using the same paper as the text for the cover.
  • Skid: A pallet used for a pile of cut sheets.
  • Spine: The bound edge of a book or its cover.
  • Substance weight: A term of basis weight when referring to bond papers.
  • Text paper: Grades of uncoated paper with textured surfaces.
  • Watermark: A distinctive design created in paper at the time of manufacture that can be easily seen by holding the paper up to a light.
  • Wove paper: A paper having a uniform unlined surface with a smooth finish.

PrePress and Design

  • Alteration: Change in copy of specifications after production has begun.
  • Blueline: A printer’s proof, traditionally¬†blue on white paper.
  • Break for color: Also known as a color break. To separate mechanically or by software the parts to be printed in different colors.
  • Burn: Exposing a printing plate to high intensity light or placing an image on a printing plate by light.
  • Butt: Joining images without overlapping.
  • Camera-ready copy: Print ready mechanical art.
  • CMYK: The acronym for the four process color inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
  • Choke (Choking): When trapping color closing the open spaces in a graphic to be filled with another color.
  • Chrome: A term for a transparency.
  • Color correction: Methods of improving color separations.
  • Color filter: Filters uses in making color separations, red, blue, green.
  • Color matching system: A system of formulated ink colors used for communicating color.
  • Color Separations: The process of preparing artwork for printing by separating into the four primary printing colors.
  • Composite Image: A photograph or other graphic image, that is made of a combination of multiple images.
  • Continuous-tone copy: Illustrations, photographs or computer files that contain gradient tones from black to white or light to dark.
  • Contrast: The tonal change in color from light to dark.
  • Conversion: The process of creating a three dimensional (3D) item from a flat sheet of paper. i.e. envelope conversion / box conversion.
  • Copy: The prose or other text used in advertising and printed material.
  • Crop: To cut off parts of a picture or image.
  • Cyan: One of four standard process colors. The blue color.
  • Double burn: Exposing a plate to multiple images.
  • Draw-down: A sample of ink and paper used to evaluate ink colors.
  • Drop-out: Portions of artwork that do not print.
  • Dummy: A rough layout of a printed piece showing position and finished size.
  • Duotone: A halftone picture made up of two printed colors.
  • Em Space: A lateral space equal to the width of the lower case letter “m”.
  • Emulsion: Light sensitive coating found on printing plates and film.
  • En Space: A lateral space equal to half an em space, roughly the width of the lower case letter “n”.
  • Flat: An assembly of negatives taped to masking materials for platemaking.
  • Flush Left: To justify lines of text so that they are even on the left side.
  • Flush Right: To justify lines of text so that they are even on the right side.
  • Flop: The reverse side of an image.
  • Focaltone: A proprietary color matching system for process color.
  • Galley proof: Text copy before it is put into a mechanical layout or desktop layout.
  • Graphic: A non text item (illustration or photograph) to be printed.
  • Greek: Usually nonsense words and letterforms used in a design to approximate the flow of written language. Used primarily before final text is available.
  • Hairline: A very thin line or gap about the width of a hair or 1/100 inch.
  • Halftone: A reproduction of a continuous tone image (i.e. a photograph or painting) using fine dots of varying size and spacing to reproduce the shades and textures of the original.
  • Hard copy: The output of a computer printer, or typed text sent for typesetting.
  • Hexachrome: A proprietary color separation process, developed by Pantone, that uses six (6) instead of four process colors.
  • Highlight: The lightest areas in a picture or halftone.
  • Image area: Portion of paper on which ink can appear.
  • Imagesetter: A high resolution device that prints directly to plate ready film.
  • Impose: To lay pages out on a large sheet for press. Imposition is critically important for the bindery as it will determine how the printed piece will (or will not!) fold.
  • Justified: Text that is aligned so that it is even on both edges.
  • Kern: To adjust the lateral space between individual letters.
  • Keylines: Lines on mechanical art that show position of photographs or illustrations.
  • Leading: The space, measured in points, between consecutive lines of type. (From the strips of lead placed between lines of hot type.)
  • Line copy: High contrast copy not requiring a halftone.
  • Lines per inch: The number of rows of dots per inch in a halftone.
  • Magenta: Process red, one of the basic colors in process color.
  • Marginal words: Call outs for directions on various parts of a business form.
  • Mask: Blocking light from reaching parts of a printing plate.
  • Mechanical separation: Mechanical art overlay for each color to be printed.
  • Mechanical: Camera ready art all contained on one board.
  • Middle tones: The tones in a photograph that are approximately half as dark as the shadow area.
  • Moire: Occurs when screen angles are wrong causing odd patterns in photographs.
  • Negative: The image on film that makes the white areas of originals black and black areas white.
  • Non-reproducing blue: A blue color the camera cannot see. Used in marking up artwork.
  • Ok sheet: Final approved color inking sheet before production begins.
  • Outline halftone: Removing the background of a picture or silhouetting an image in a picture.
  • Overlay: The transparent cover sheet on artwork often used for instructions.
  • Pica: A unit of measurement equal to twelve (12) points or one sixth (1/6) of an inch. Used by designers and other graphics professional for its precision.
  • PMS color: (Pantone Matching System): A proprietary color system for choosing and matching specific spot and process colors.
  • PMT: Abbreviated name for photomechanical transfer. Often used to make position prints.
  • Point: A unit of measurement equal to 1/12th of a pica or 1/72nd of an inch. Normally used to measure type size or fractions of a pica for the design process.
  • Prepress: The various printing related services, performed before ink is actually put on the printing press. (i.e. stripping, scanning, color separating, etc. . .)
  • Process blue: The blue or cyan color in process printing.
  • Process Color: The mechanical process of reproducing a full color image with the three primary subtractive color inks (CMYK/ Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) and black. When viewed under a lupe, the individual color halftone dots can be seen in a process color image.
  • Process colors: Cyan (blue), magenta (process red), yellow (process yellow), black (process black).
  • Ragged left: Type that is justified to the right margin and the line lengths vary on the left.
  • Ragged right: Type that is justified to the left margin and the line lengths vary on the right.
  • Reflective copy: Copy that is not transparent.
  • Register marks: Cross-hair lines or marks on film, plates, and paper that guide strippers, platemakers, pressmen, and bindery personnel in processing a print order from start to finish.
  • Reverse: 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.
  • RIP: Stands for “Raster Image Processor”. A device which processes an electronic file and then sends the information on the an imaging device; i.e. an imagesetter.
  • Rip film: A method of making printing negatives from PostScript files created by desktop publishing.
  • Sans Serif: A type face that has no tails or curled points (serifs) at the ends.
  • Scanner: Device used to make color separations, halftones, duo tones and tri tones. Also a device used to scan art, pictures or drawings in desktop publishing.
  • Script: A type face that mimics the appearance of hand written text.
  • Serif: The curls and points that appear as adornments on some type faces.
  • Shadow: The darkest areas of a photograph.
  • Silhouette halftone: A term used for an outline halftone.
  • Stripping: The positioning of film on a flat prior to platemaking.
  • Vignette halftone: A halftone whose background gradually fades to white.

Printing Process

  • 4-color-process: The process of combining four basic colors to create a printed color picture or colors composed from the basic four colors.
  • Back up: Printing the second side of a sheet already printed on one side.
  • Blanket: The thick rubber mat on a printing press that transfers ink from the plate to paper.
  • Bleed: Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet after trimming.
  • Butt fit: Printed colors that overlap one row of dots so they appear to butt.
  • Color bar: A quality control term regarding the spots of ink color on the tail of a sheet.
  • Color Key: A printer’s proof, actually four sheets of colored acetate, for examining the quality of process color separations. This process is normally used when printing on a press capable of fewer than four colors at once.
  • Crash number: Numbering paper by pressing an image on the first sheet which is transferred to all parts of the printed set.
  • Crop marks: Printed lines showing where to trim a printed sheet.
  • Densitometer: A quality control devise to measure the density of printing ink.
  • Density: The degree of color or darkness of an image or photograph.
  • Dot: An element of halftones. Using a loupe you will see that printed pictures are made many dots.
  • Dot Gain: A phenomenon, which occurs when wet ink comes in contact with paper. As the halftone dots are applied to the paper, the wet ink spreads, causing the dots to increase in size and halftones to appear darker. A number of factors affect dot gain.
  • Engraved Printing: Raised printing produced by a cutaway plate. A similar effect can be achieved with thermography.
  • Gang: Getting the most out of a printing press by using the maximum sheet size to print multiple images or jobs on the same sheet. A way to save money.
  • Ghosting: A faint printed image that appears on a printed sheet where it was not intended.
  • Grippers: The metal fingers on a printing press that hold the paper as it passes through the press.
  • Gripper Edge: The edge of the sheet which is held by the printing press grippers. Images cannot be bled off this edge of the sheet.
  • Hickey: Reoccurring unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, dried ink.
  • Impression: Putting an image on paper.
  • Imprint: Adding copy to a previously printed page.
  • Ink fountain: The reservoir on a printing press that hold the ink.
  • Knock out: To mask out an image.
  • Loupe: A magnifying glass used to review a printed image, plate and position film.
  • ¬†Makeready: All the activities required to prepare a press for printing.
  • Offset Printing (Offset lithography): Currently the most common commercial printing method, in which ink is offset from the printing plate to to a rubber roller then to paper.
  • Overrun or overs: Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + – 10 % to represent a completed order.)
  • Perfecting press: A sheet fed printing press that prints both sides of a sheet in one pass.
  • Photo Plate: A light sensitive printing plate. The plate is developed like film, then used on a printing press.
  • Plate Ready Film: Final photographic film used to “burn” printing plates.
  • Press Proof: A sheet of paper used as reference while printing.
  • Register: To position print in the proper position in relation to the edge of the sheet and to other printing on the same sheet.
  • Show-through: Printing on one side of a sheet that can be seen on the other side of the sheet.
  • Side guide: The mechanical register unit on a printing press that positions a sheet from the side.
  • Signature: Normally refers to a large press sheet that folds and makes up a portion of a book. Signatures can be 4, 8, 12, 16 , 24, 32 pages or more. Even a single sheet, however, can be considered a “2-page” signature.
  • Split fountain: Putting more than one ink in a printing fountain to achieve special color affects.
  • Spoilage: Planned paper waste for all printing operations.
  • Spot Color: Single colors applied to printing when process color is not necessary (i.e. one, two and three color printing), or when process colors need to be augmented (i.e. a fluorescent pink headline or a metallic tint).
  • Stock: The material to be printed.
  • Substrate: Any surface on which printing is done.
  • Thermography: A printing process that results in raised type similar to engraved printing.
  • Up: Printing two or three up means printing multiple copies of the same image on the same sheet.
  • Washup: Removing printing ink from a press, washing the rollers and blanket. Certain ink colors require multiple washups to avoid ink and chemical contamination.
  • Web Press: A high speed printing press that prints on both sides of a continuous roll of paper. Web presses are used for high volume printing such as newspapers and magazines.
  • Work and tumble: Printing one side of a sheet and turning it over from the gripper to the tail to print the second side using the same side guide and plate for the second side.
  • Work and turn: Printing one side of a sheet and turning it over from left to right using the same side guides and plate for the second side.

Special Processes

  • Blind embossing: An image pressed into a sheet without ink or foil.
  • Die cutting: Curing images in or out of paper.
  • Die: Metal rule or imaged block used to cut or place an image on paper in the finishing process.
  • Deboss: To stamp in such a way as to leave a depressed area on a finished piece.
  • Emboss: A mechanical process for raising an area of paper to create letterforms, shapes and textures.
  • Foil: A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing.
  • Foil emboss: Foil stamping and embossing a image on paper with a die.
  • Flood: To cover a printed page with ink, varnish, or plastic coating.
  • Kiss die cut: To cut the top layer of a pressure sensitive sheet and not the backing.
  • Laminate: To cover with film, to bond or glue one surface to another.
  • Perf: Short for perforation.
  • Press number: A method of numbering manufacturing business forms or tickets.
  • Score: A crease put on paper to help it fold better.
  • Stamping: Also foil stamping, blind stamping. Producing an image on the cover of a book using a raised die to deboss and area, with or without foil.
  • UV coating: Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly.
  • Varnish: A clear liquid applied to printed surfaces for looks and protection. (UV coating looks better.)