Printing Glossary and Terms

Printing glossary
Printing specialists love to dream up odd and wonderful names for even the most basic print processes. I think it must make them feel important. Anyway, I have started a glossary of printing terms which I’ll update as and when I get inspiration. Let me know if I have missed anything!

Backing Up
Printing the reverse side of a sheet already printed on one side.
Black and White
Originals or reproductions in single colour (black).
Printed area which extends off the trimmed area. It is impossible to print all the way to the fringe of the paper sheet. To accomplish this effect it is necessary to print a bigger area than is necessary and then trim the paper down. Usually a designer would permit an additional 4mm-5mm of bleed to colour and picture areas to permit for a tiny leeway when trimming.
Thick paper over 200gsm in weight, often used for folders, business cards, postcards, brochure covers etc.

Business Card
Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared in the coursework of formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card usually includes the giver’s name, company affiliation (usually with a logo) and contact information. Get prices for printed business cards.
Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black – used as the basic colours in the printing industry. See ‘Four Colour Process’. See my article What is full colour (or CMYK or process) printing?
The degree of tones in an picture ranging from highlight to shadow.
Coated Stock
Paper which has a coating usually of china clay. It can be gloss, silk or matt and is suitable for jobs requiring a fine finish such as colour brochures and annual reports.
To bring together and manage printed matter in a specific order.
Crop Marks
In printing, marks placed on the copy to indicate the fringe of the paper. Used as a guide when cutting (or trimming) documents to done size.
The process of using sharp steel rules to cut special shapes, such as the pockets of a folder.
Digital Printing
Printing processes in which information is transferred from a computer directly onto paper, without the necessity for film and printing plates. Digital printing is faster and more cost-effective for small/medium print runs and allows special techniques such as personalisation and printing-on-demand.
Dots Per Inch (DPI)
Measure of the resolution of input devices such as scanners, display devices such as monitors, and output devices such as laser printers, digital printing presses and monitors. See my article Resolution – your essential guide.
Making the holes in paper for use in a ring binder.
A printing press equipped to print both sides of a piece of paper in one pass.


A kind of protective enclosure for papers and other flat objects; involves placing the item between two sheets of transparent polyester film (available in various thicknesses) that are subsequently sealed around all edges.Any process that follows the actual printing. Can include folding, creasing, stitching, binding and the like.
A tiny leaflet, often printed onto a thick paper, often used to promote bars or nightclubs. Get prices for printed flyers.
A folder is used to hold loose papers together for organisation, protection and/or presentation. Folders usually consist of a sheet of thick paper which is folded in half. One or more pockets may be affixed inside to contain loose paper documents. Get prices for printed folders.
Four-Colour Process
The most common process for producing full colour print. The three ink colours are Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black – often often called CMYK. The inks can be overprinted and combined in a variety of different proportions to produce a variety of colours.
Abbreviation for ‘grams per square metre’. This indicates the weight of paper or other stock. For example a typical photocopier paper is 80gsm, a nice letterhead paper might be 120 gsm, a postcard would be about 300gsm. See my article Choosing paper for your print project.

A plastic film bonded by heat and pressure to a printed sheet for protection. Available in matt or gloss finish.
An rectangular artwork or photograph where horizontal dimension is greater than the vertical.
A leaflet usually consists of a printed sheet of paper not larger than international standard A4 in size. Leaflets are used to convey information and are often used by companies, organisations and individuals to promote products, services, events and activities. Get prices for printed flyers.
A piece of paper – usually A4 or A5 in size – used by a company or organisation for official correspondence. Letterheads usually feature the name, logo and contact details of an organisation. Get prices for printed letterheads.
Lithographic Printing (litho)
A standard (non-digital) print process. The process works by first transferring an picture to narrow metal, paper, or plastic printing plates. Rollers apply oil-based ink and water to the plates. Only the inked picture portion is transferred to a rubber blanket that then transfers the picture onto the paper as it passes between it and another cylinder beneath the paper.
Although paper is usually measured in grams per square metre (weight), it is sometimes measured in microns (thickness). A micron is unit of measure equal to one millionth of a metre or .00004″. See my article Choosing paper for your print project.
Pantone, Pantone Matching Process and PMS + are Pantone Inc’s industry-standard trademarks for colour standards, colour information, colour reproduction and colour reproduction materials, and other colour related products and services, meeting its specifications, control and quality requirements.
Transportable Document Format – The industry standard for saving files in a suitable format. Speedy, cheap and increasingly stable, often used for viewing proofs and for supply of final artwork.
Ideal Bound
A way of adhesive binding multi-section jobs. Individual sections are collected together and the backbone is ground off (usually 3mm). Glue is then applied to the backbone and a cover pulled on before the product is trimmed to size.

An upright, rectangular artwork or photograph where vertical dimension is greater than the horizontal.

An rectangular piece of printed card, usually A6 or A5 in size, posted without an envelope and used for promotion or as a greeting. Get prices for printed postcards.

A poster is any large piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface. Posters are often used as a kind of promotion or by campaigners and protesters to communicate a message. Get prices for printed posters.

All procedures (and costs) associated with bringing a job to press, such as design, artwork, proofs, setup etc.

A version of a document produced for the purpose of review before it is printed. See my article Proofs – seldom, ever print without one!

Two hundred sheets of paper.

Red, green, blue additive primary colours.

Saddle Stitch
In binding, to fasten a booklet by wiring it (stapling) through the middle fold of the sheets.

To impress or indent a mark in the paper, to make folding simpler.

Spiral Binding
A binding, as used in notebooks, in which the pages are fastened together by a spiral of wire or plastic that coils through a series of holes punched along the fringe of the document.

Spot Varnish
A way of highlighting an area of a page by selectively applying a gloss varnish to it.
Paper or other material to be printed. See my article Choosing paper for your print project.

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