A Glossary of Common Printing Terms

Printing Tips - Printing Term Glossary

Common words take on uncommon meaning when they get “jargonized.” It happens in just about every industry, including printing. To help you understand us – and the printing process – better, we’ve compiled this glossary that covers many of the common terms used in printing.

We’ve focused on those words you’re most likely to encounter when working with your print manufacturer. If you come across an unfamiliar term in one of these definitions, you will likely find that word elsewhere in the glossary.

Are there print terms you would like defined that we didn’t cover below?

If so, let us know at Contact Us so we can get them added.

Alterations – Changes made by a printing customer after the customer has released artwork or copy.

Binder’s creep – In saddle-stitch binding, creep occurs when successive spreads or signatures extend beyond the previous spread or signature.

Binding – The method used to secure a publication’s assembled pages.

Blanket – The intermediate device between the plate and the paper that transfers the image in offset printing.

Bleed – Coverage to a page’s edge or edges, created by extending an image beyond the portion of the page that will be trimmed.

Blocking – A damaging problem caused by printed sheets adhering to each other.

Brightness – A measure of the amount of light paper reflects.

C1S – Paper coated on one side only.

C2S – Paper coated on both sides.

Chalking – Pigment dust resulting from ink that has dried improperly.

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (Key)—the four colors in four-color process printing.

Coated paper – Paper treated with a clear film to add gloss, and to seal and protect it.

Color balance – Achieving an image consisting of the proper color by using the right ration of cyan, magenta and yellow ink.

Color correction – Adjusting colors to achieve a certain appearance.

Color separations – In full-color process printing, the negatives and positives created when full-color images are changed to cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK), the process colors.

Computer to plate – Also called C2P or CTP, computer to plate refers to the ability to create a printing plate directly from a PDF, removing the need for film. CTP can reduce cost and time needed for plate creation process.

Cover stock – Paper heavy enough to serve as a durable publication cover.

Crop – Using a number of methods, such as masking or trimming, preparing an image to fit a prescribed space.

Crop marks – Marks used to tell printers and binders where to print or trim.

Digital plates – Plates created electronically with data from a prepress system.

Digital printing – Using digital data to print without plates.

Digital proof – A proof printed using an inkjet or laser printer from computer data.

DPI/PPI – Short for dots-per-inch and pixels-per-inch, interchangeable references to image resolution.

Dummy – A mock-up developed from the paper and binding that will be used for the finished product. Does not involve printing.

Elemental chlorine-free – Paper bleached with products other than elemental chlorine to produce fewer harmful byproducts.

Four-color process – Producing a full-color image using cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).

Gloss – The ability of a paper or coating to reflect light.

Hickey – Offset printing imperfections caused by contaminants such as dirt and particles of paper.

House stock – Paper a printer keeps in stock to meet a broad array of printing requirements.

Job specifications – A description that outlines, as precisely as possible, all elements of a printing job.

Layout – The appearance of a page or other publication unit as shown in a drawing.

Leaf – Two back-to-back pages of a publication on one sheet of paper.

Live area – Those parts of a printed unit that can’t be lost to trimming.

Makeready – Printing press setup, making sure all press conditions are ready for a particular print run.

Misregister – Poor placement of printed images.

Non-heatset – Sometimes called coldest, a process in web printing where ink dries naturally at room temperature rather than applying heat to speed ink drying.

Offset printing – Using a rubber blanket to transfer ink from a plate to paper to produce the printed piece.

Overrun – Extra copies of a printed piece above the number specified.

Page makeup – Electronically, assembling complete pages prior to output for printing or plating.

PDF – Portable Document Format saves a document’s full set of elements, including images and type, and can be read using reader software.

Perfect binding – Unlike saddle-stitching, this approach to binding places signatures one atop the other instead of folding them one inside the other.

Plate – Made of plastic, rubber, paper or metal, it holds the image to be printed.

Platesetter – Device that uses digital data to create a press-ready printing plate.

Pantone color – Also referred to as PMS Color, the Pantone Matching System uses swatches for selection of colors to make exact matching possible.

Post-consumer waste – Paper that would, in the normal course of things, be discarded after use. If recycled, it can be made part of the recycling process.

Postpress – Binding, finishing and delivery—the last steps in the printing process.

Prepress – These activities include color separations, platemaking and other items that must be completed before printing.

Print quality – How well a printed piece meets quality standards.

Printer’s spread – Pages in the order of printing. For a four-page piece, for example, pages 1 and 4 and pages 2 and 3 will appear together.

Rag paper – A minimum of 25% cotton fiber content earns this designation for paper.

Register – Alignment of images to accomplish a desired effect.

Register marks – Marks placed outside the live area to make sure all elements remain in register.

Resolution – A measure of the sharpness of images using the density of dots or pixels.

RGB – Shorthand for red, green and blue, which are used to create the range of colors produced by video monitors.

Rub – A term to describe the consequence of poor ink bonding. The ink readily rubs off the paper.

Saddle stitch – Binding that involves staple-like wires inserted through a publication’s gutter fold.

Scum – A printing problem resulting when an ink film prints in a plate’s non-image areas.

Service bureau – A provider who manipulates and outputs digital files used in the printing process.

Sheetfed press – Instead of printing on a roll of paper, a sheetfed press prints on individual sheets.

Signature – An aligned sequence of pages.

Slur – Slurring occurs when the pressure on the blanket is inadequate, causing the ink to smear.

Stock – Another name for paper used in the printing industry.

Tolerances – The specified amount of variation allowed for various printing values, such as dot size, register and chemical concentrations, among others.

Trim – The process of cutting off unwanted paper after printing and binding.

UV coating – Liquid added to protect and enhance appearance of printed pieces and cured using ultraviolet light.

Varnish – Like a UV coating, added to enhance appearance and protect the printed piece but not cured with UV light.

Virgin paper – Paper that does not include recycled material in its manufacture.

VOC – Volatile organic compound. A gas put off by some materials that can be detrimental to health.

Web press – Using a roll of paper instead of individual sheets, a web press is commonly employed for long runs and large quantities.

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