Common Printing Terms

If you need further clarification about the meaning of a term or its application, please give us a call 979-845-2856.

Adhesive binding – A method of binding in which glue is used to hold the leaves in position at the spine.

Artwork – Any material or image prepared for graphic reproduction.

Background color – An area of color behind text or images

Backing up or 2 sided – Printing the second side of a printed sheet.

Basic size – A standard size of paper stock (the required size may be smaller or larger).

Bindery – The area of the workplace where print is cut, folded, collated, or bound.

Binding – Fastening together assembled sheets or signatures along one edge.

Bleed – A printed image (graphic) that extends beyond the trim edge of the paper.

Blind embossing – A technique where a pattern is embossed into the surface of unprinted paper to create an image or text.

Brochure – A pamphlet trifolded.

CMYK – Cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The four (subtractive) process colors that are used in four-color printed reproduction.

Collate – To gather sheets, signatures or page sections of a publication together, ensuring they are complete and in their correct order.

Color profile – Computer generated information about the printing specification which is used to set up the printing press prior to printing. In digital printing the printer will do it automatically.

Color proofing – A color proof is a visual indication that color separations will produce the required results.

Color separating – The process of separating the primary color components for printing.

Color strength – The relative amount of pigmentation in an ink.

Color printing – Printing more than one color on a sheet, usually four colors.

Coil binding – A method of binding individual pages together using a plastic coil. Allows the book to lie flat when opened.

Computer to plate (CTP) – A process whereby the image is transferred directly from the computer to the printing plate, avoiding the production of film.

Copy – Any material supplied by the customer – artwork, typescript, photographs, drawings – to be used in the production of printed material.

Cover – A term describing a general type of paper used for the covers of books, pamphlets, etc.

Creasing or Scoring – A method of enabling thicker materials to be folded without cracking

Creep – In a saddle stitched booklet the bulk of the paper causes the inner pages to extend further out than the outer pages when folded. When trimmed the inner pages are narrower than the outer pages.

Crop marks – Marks on each corner of sheet indicating where the sheet will be guillotined to the finished size.

Cutting – Flat sheets and untrimmed booklets, brochures and leaflets are trimmed to size with straight cuts using a guillotine cutter

Cutting out – The method of cutting paper or board to irregular shapes using a cutting form and platen. Widely used in producing folders

Cyan – A shade of blue used in the four-color process. It reflects blue and green and absorbs red.

Density – The lay of paper fibres relative to tightness or looseness that affects the bulk, absorbency and finish of the paper. Also, the degree of tone, darkness or color within a photo or reproduction that is measurable by a densitometer.

Design – The interpretation of an idea as a layout on paper. Often referred to as the initial draft of a brochure, leaflet or poster before the text and images have been finalised.

Digital printing– In printing, a term that covers digital printing from a computer file without the use of conventional inks and plates. Digital also refers to digital proofs which have been produced without film

Digital or Electronic file – An art file that resides on disk, usually in a native application format.

Electronic scanning – The scanning of an original by a light-sensitive cell that transmits electrical impulses to a light beam in ratio to the density of the original.

Embossing – A technique to raise the surface of an image or text to make it stand out from the page.

Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) – An image description format. EPS translates graphics and text into descriptions that can be used by the printer. The font and pictures themselves are encapsulated into the EPS code.

Finishing – Finishing embraces all of the steps of the production process after ink has been applied to the sheet

Finishing techniques – The term applied to laminating, embossing, UV varnishing, cutting out etc. which are used to enhance the finish of the job

Saddle Stitching – Folding printed sections which are then collated, stitched and trimmed to the finished size.

Foil blocking – A technique to apply an image to paper or board using metal foil. This technique is normally used for prestigious literature (Gold lettering is an example)

Folder – A machine that folds the paper after it has been printed, according to the finished size of the publication

Folding – The process of converting the flat printed sheet into a folded piece such as a brochure.

Gatefold – A fold which turns in on itself from both edges to the centre.

Grain (Machine direction) – The direction in which the fibres of a substrate (paper) lie. Folding against the grain will cause cracking.

Halftone – The reproduction of continuous tone artwork, such as a photograph through a cross-ruled screen that converts the image into a pattern of dots of various size. The principle relies on the frequency of the dots being fine enough so the viewer at a normal reading distance is unable to distinguish the pattern.

Hard copy – A physical proof which you can touch and feel as an alternative to a PDF or electronic proof which can only be viewed on a computer screen. Hard copy also refers to any item of artwork or text which is supplied on paper rather than as a computer software file.

Image manipulation – The technique of using computer software to alter or improve an image. Often used to remove blemishes or unwanted artifacts from photographs

Image resolution – The fineness or coarseness of digitised image, in dots per inch (DPI). The higher the DPI the clearer the image.

Impose – To plan films of pages etc. into correct position prior to plate making.

Imposition – The correct sequential arrangement of pages to be printed, with all margins in proper alignment, for printing plate production.

Imposition schemes – Plans for the arrangement of the pages of a book so that they will follow in correct sequence when folded.

Insert – Unsecured paper or card inserted between the leaves of a book or brochure. Also, a piece of printed material prepared for insertion into a publication.

JPEG Joint Photographic Experts Group – A highly compressed graphics format designed to handle computer images of high-resolution photographs as efficiently as possible.

Laminating – The process of applying a plastic film to a printed sheet to enhance and protect it. Laminates are available in matte and gloss finishes

Layout – A Sketch of printed work, showing the proposed position of all the elements, roughs, thumbnails etc. of the final printed piece before it goes to print.

Line copy (Line Art) – Any copy or artwork that has no gradations of tone and can be reproduced without the use of halftone screens.

Matte laminating – A matte finish used to enhance and protect a printed sheet. See laminating

Monochrome – An original in one color only.

Negative Film – containing an image in which the color values of the original are reversed.

Newsprint – A light, low cost, lower quality, absorbent paper, made from mechanical pulp.

Offset printing – A lithographic method of printing in which the ink is first transferred (offset) from the plate to a blanket and then transferred to the paper or board. The most commonly used printing method.

Overprinted – A term which describes when a color is printed on top of another, usually it refers to dark text which is printed on top of another, lighter color. It can also refer to text which is printed onto a previously printed flat sheet and is a technique which is often applied to printing business cards and stationary.

Overs – The quantity of a printed job produced above that which was ordered.

PDF Portable Document Format – file created from artwork for use in proofing through to producing plates for printing.

Perfect binding – A term used to describe a binding process in which the signatures/sheets of a book are held together by a flexible adhesive. Like textbooks or hardback books.

Perforated – A row of small incisions pressed into the paper surface to enable the paper to be torn accurately along the line of the perforation. Often used for tear off reply cards

Photo retouching – Treatment of a photograph to remove dust spots or blemishes, or to adjust or remove unwanted elements of the image, or add new elements to an image

Positive – A film or print that contains an image containing the same tonal values as the original.

PostScript – A page definition language (PDL) developed by Adobe Systems. A page of text and/or graphics saved as a PostScript file is stored as a set of instructions specifying the measurements, typefaces, and graphic shapes that makeup the page.

PPD file – PostScript Printer Description file. A file that contains screen angle, resolution, page size and device-specific information for a file to be printed on a PostScript device, such as a press.

Prepress – The preparation work required to turn camera-ready artwork into the printing plates needed for mass production (e.g. scanning, stripping and color separating).

Press check – The final check when a job is already on the press, or examining first printed sheets.
Primary colors In printing – yellow, magenta and cyan (subtractive primaries). In light – red, green and blue (additive primaries).

Process colors – The subtractive primary colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

Quality control – The process of taking random samples during the press run to check the consistency of quality.

Registration – The quality of alignment of the colored inks when applied to paper.

Ring binder – A binder which contains metal ‘rings’ which can be opened to insert predrilled paper. When closed, the paper is held in place. Ring binders are ideal for large documents or for documents where the content needs to be revised on a regular basis

Saddle stitching (Saddle wire or wire stitching) – Binding printed materials with wire by stapling the pages on the folded spine to produce a booklet.

Scan – To convert images into files (usually TIFF) for placing into artwork for printing.

Scanner – An electronic device that scans across the surface of artwork or transparencies producing continuous tone or screened halftone film in monochrome, or separated colors.

Sealing – A clear substance applied (usually to a silk or matt sheet) to aid drying and prevent rubbing and marking.

Self cover – A cover made from the same paper stock as the inside sheets.

Signature – A printed sheet to be folded.

Software – A computer program used to carry out a given task

Spoilage – The cost of unprofitable materials and labour that cannot be charged to a specific client.

Spot color – Any non-standard color (for instance gold or silver) used in addition to the four process colors (or instead of).

Spot gluing – Applying a spot of glue to attach one piece of material lightly to another.

Spot varnishing – Varnish is only applied to specific areas on the sheet such as a picture or a text headline to make it stand out.

Staggered folding – Where a sheet is folded so that one page overlaps another page to create to allow information from several pages to be seen together

Super calendaring – A machine procedure that produces a high finished paper surface that is extremely smooth and exceptional for printing.

Transparency – A clear, continuous tone original used for color photographic images.

Transparent Inks – that do not block out the colored inks that they print over, but instead blend with them to create intermediate colors.

Transparent copy – Illustrative copy such as a color transparency, through which light must pass in order for it to be seen or reproduced.

Trim areas – The area or amount of paper removed by cutting to the crop marks.

Trimming – The process of removing the unwanted edges of the printed sheet to achieve the finished size

Uncalendared Papers – that are not smoothed by going through the calendaring process.

Up – The number of similar sheets that can be produced on a larger sheet (two up, four up, etc.).

Varnishing – The application of oil, synthetic, spirit cellulose, or water based varnish to printed material (often dried via an ultra violet radiation process) to enhance appearance. Makes it glossy or shiney.

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