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Print Terminology


Absorption : The property that causes paper to assimilate vapours or liquids that comes into contact with it.

Against the Grain : Folding or feeding paper at right angles to the grain direction of the paper.

Art Paper : Also known as coated paper, a term used to describe paper that has been coated with a compound (often china clay) that imparts certain characteristics such as a Matt or Gloss finish.

Artwork (abbr. A/W) : The process that follows the initial design stage. The arrangement of text, graphics and illustrations into a print-ready form.

Backing up : The process of printing on the second side of a printed sheet.

Basis Weight (gsm) : The basis weight of paper is the weight per unit area. This can be expressed as the weight in grams per square metre (gsm or g/m2)

Bindery : The department of the factory where final trimming, stitching, insertion and any necessary off-press folding is done.

Blanket : In offset printing, a rubber sheet that is clamped around a cylinder, to which the inked image is transferred from the plate and from which it is transferred to the paper.

Bleed : The printed image that extends beyond the edges to be trimmed on a sheet or page.

Blend : A smooth transition between two colours, also known as a graduated tint.

Blind Emboss : An impression of an un-inked image onto the back of a sheet which produces a raised 'embossed' image on the front of the sheet.

Blocking : In binding, to impress or stamp a design upon the cover. The design can be blocked in coloured inks, gold leaf or metal foil.

Bond Paper : A grade of writing or printing paper where strength, durability and permanence are essential requirements; used for letterheads, business forms, etc. A grade of paper suited for letterheads, business forms etc.

Brightness : The percentage reflectance of blue light or brilliance of the paper.

Bulk : A term used to specify the thickness or volume in relation to the weight of the paper. It is calculated from the calliper and basis weight.

Caliper : The thickness of paper, usually expressed in micrometres (also known as microns or ‘μ')

Carbonless paper (NCR) : Paper coated with chemicals that enable transfer of images from one sheet to another with pressure from writing or typing.

Case Bound : A hardback book made with stiff outer covers. Cases are usually covered with cloth, vinyl or leather.

CMYK : The abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black), the 4 process colours. When combined together in varying proportions; they can be made to produce the full colour spectrum.

Collating : Gathering together sheets of paper from a book, magazine or brochure and placing them into the correct order.

Colour Separation : The process of separating colour originals into the four process colours (CMYK) for print production.

Concertina fold : A method of folding in which each fold opens in the opposite direction to its neighbour, giving a concertina or pleated effect.

Continuous stationery : Forms that are produced from reels of paper and then fan folded. These can be either single or multi-part forms.

Continuous Tone : A photographic image that contains gradient tones from black to white.

Contrast : The tonal gradation between the highlights, middle tones, and shadows in an original or reproduction. 

Creep : Phenomenon when middle pages of a folded section extend slightly beyond the outside pages.

Cross direction : In paper the direction across the grain. Paper is weaker and more sensitive to changes in relative humidity in the cross direction than the grain direction.

Crop : To trim the edges of a picture or page to make it fit or remove unwanted portions.

Crop Marks : Lines near the margins of artwork or photos indicating where to trim, perforate or fold.

CTP : Abbreviation of 'Computer-to-plate'. The process of producing the plates used by the printing press directly from the computer with no films involved.

Curl : In paper, the distortion of a sheet due to differences in structure or coatings from one side to the other, or to absorption of moisture on an offset press.

Cyan : One of the four process colours. A hue of a subtractive primary, it reflects or transmits blue and green light and absorbs red light.

Cylinder Gap : In printing presses, the gap or space of a press where the mechanism for plate (or blanket), clamps and grippers (sheeted) is housed.

Debossing : An image pressed into paper so it lies below the surface.

Densitometer : A densitometer is used to measure and control the density of colour inks on the paper.

Density : The degree of darkness of light absorption or opacity of printed images.

Die-cutting : The process of stamping out specialised shapes such as folders with a custom made cutter made of sharp metal rules on a wooden block (also called a die).

Digital printing : A form of printing whereby information is transferred direct from the computer to the printing press and then direct to paper. The benefits are for very short runs or for personalised print. There are those who feel that the quality is not yet to the standard of offset litho, however, some feel that it is.

Digital proof : A proof output direct from the computer. The colours are not 100% accurate.

Direct Mail : Includes all direct response advertising communications through mail or other delivery services including: catalogues, cards, card decks, letters, brochures, pamphlets, flyers, video tapes, audio tapes, diskettes, and promotional items.

Direct Marketing : Any direct communication to a consumer or business recipient that is designed to generate a response in the form of an order (direct order), a request for further information (lead generation), and/or a visit to a store or other place of business for purchase of specific product(s) or service(s) (traffic generation).

Dot Gain : A printing defect in which dots print larger than intended, leading to loss of detail or causing darker colours or tones; due to the spreading of ink on stock. The more absorbent the stock, the more dot gain.

Dots Per Inch (dpi) : See ‘Resolution'.

Drilling : Holes drilled into a product that will allow insertion over rings or posts in a binder of some description.

Dummy : A mock-up or sample of a proposed job made up with the actual material and cut to the correct size to resemble the final product and show bulk, style of binding etc.

Duotone : An alternative to standard greyscale, it is a method of enhancing an image by printing it in two colours rather than one. Normally, black is used together with a further colour, which offers a softer, more detailed result.

Duplex Paper : Paper with a different colour or finish on each side.

Embossing : A process performed after printing to stamp a raised (or etched) pattern into the surface of paper, using engraved metal embossing dies, extreme pressure, and heat. Embossing styles include blind, deboss and foil-embossed.

File Format : The system by which data is held in a particular type of computer file.

Finishing : This covers all operations after printing; also the hand operations of lettering and ornamenting the covers of a book.

Flush (left or right) : To align, to be even with. Flush left means the left ends of lines of type line up vertically; flush right means to line up the right ends of type

Foil Stamping : A metallic finish; or other embossed finishes applied by specialist equipment.

Font : A range of glyphs of one specific character set, typeface, size, and style.

Form Rollers : The rollers, either inking or dampening, which directly contact the plate on a printing press.

Fountain Solution : In lithography, a solution of water, a natural or synthetic gum and other chemicals used to dampen the plate and keep non-printing areas from accepting ink.

Four colour process printing : Colour printing by means of the three subtractive primary colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) and Black superimposed; the colours of the original having been separated by a photographic or electronic process. Also known as full colour.

Four-up, Three-up, Two-up : Number of similar items printed on one sheet of paper. Also called four-to-view, three-to-view, etc.

French Fold : Two folds at right angles to each other.

Ghosting : A double or ‘ghost' image resulting from inadequacies of the inking system, i.e. uneven ink take-off from the rollers. Ghosting always appears on the same side of the sheet that the printing takes place.

Greyscale : The depiction of shades of grey between black and white, using only a black halftone plate.

Grippers : Metal fingers in a sheetfed printing press that clamp onto paper and control its flow as it passes through to the delivery end of the press.

Gumming : In plate making, the process of applying a thin coating of gum to the non-printing areas of a lithographic plate.

Gutter : The blank space at the line or fold where facing pages meet.

Halftone : A technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of dots of various sizes creating an optical illusion.

Head Margin : The unprinted space between the first line of printing and the top of the page.

Hickeys : In offset lithography, spots or imperfections in the printing due to dirt on the press, dried ink skin, paper particles, etc.

Hue : The main attributes or properties of a colour that distinguishes it from other colours.

Imposition : The order in which the pages of a printed product are placed so that they appear in the correct order after folding

Impression Cylinder : In printing, the cylinder on a printing press against which the paper picks up the impression from the inked plate in direct printing, or the blanket in offset printing.

Ink-jet printing : In digital printing, a plateless printing system that produces images directly on paper from digital data using streams of very fine drops of dyes which are controlled by digital signals to produce images on paper.

Insert : Leaflet or other printed material inserted loose in a publication or mailing package.

Inserter : Mailing equipment that inserts letters into envelopes.

Inset : Leaflet or other printed material bound in with the pages of a publication rather than inserted loose.

Jog : To shake a stack of papers, either on a machine or by hand, so that the edges line up.

Kerning : The adjustment of spacing between certain letter pairs, A and V for example, to obtain a more visually pleasing appearance.

Kiss-cut : A die-cutting process where the paper is partially cut or ‘kissed' by the die. Often used for peel-off stickers.

Laid Paper : Paper with a pattern of parallel lines at equal distances, giving a ribbed effect.

Laminating : The application of a thin transparent film coating, usually with a high-gloss or matt finish, to the surface of printed matter to enhance its appearance and to increase it durability.

Landscape : Oblong paper, having its long sides at head and foot.

Laser Printer : A printer that works on the same principle as a photocopy machine, but instead of reflective light uses a laser beam to create the latent image on the photo-electrostatic media.

Layout : The drawing or sketch of a proposed printed piece. In plate making, a sheet indicating the settings for a step-and-repeat machine. 

Lithographic Printing : A printing process based on the principle of the natural aversion of water to oils. The areas to be printed receive and transfer ink to the paper, the non-printing areas are treated to attract water and repel the ink.

Loose-leaf : A method of binding that allows the insertion and removal of pages for continuous updating. e.g. a ring binder.

Magenta : One of the four process colours. A hue of a subtractive primary, it reflects or transmits blue and red light and absorbs green light.

Make-Ready : The work carried out to set up a press before the job is run.

Matt : A non glossy finish.

Offset printing : A printing technique in which the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the stock being printed.

On Demand : Usually refers to printing output only when it is needed instead of having it stored on the shelf.

Opacity : The property of the paper that blocks the transmission of light and the amount of ink showing through the sheet.

Origination : A term used to describe all of the processes which prepare a job for the printing stage.

Otabind : OTA Bookbinding is a method of Bookbinding that offers an elegant binding solution with numerous advantages over conventional soft cover Bookbinding. Mimicking the construction of a case bound book and benefitting from real strength advantages as well as excellent lay-flat and no spine degradation.
Due to its enhanced durability and strength, OTA Bookbinding is commonly used on text books, training manuals, software guides, recipe books and other reference books.
A layflat adhesive binding style, the Otabind process involves adhering a book block to a paper crepe liner at the spine. A cold-setting glue is used to hold pages together, creating a spine that's extremely pliable. This binding method creates a cover that floats free of the spine, giving it layflat characteristics.

Page Count : Total number of pages, including blanks and printed pages without numbers.

Pantone®reg; Colours : Premixed ink colours that are often specified for printing as a spot colour. A large number can be matched using CMYK (Pantone Matching System) but will not be exactly the same colour as its Pantone counterpart.

Paper Grain : Machine made paper is made up of many fibres, which in general, tend to line up in one direction due to the nature of the process. This produces a preferred direction or grain, along which it is easier to fold, bend, or tear the paper. Cut sheet laser printers generally use long grain paper in which the grain runs parallel to the long side of the paper.

PDF : An ‘open standard' file format originally developed by Adobe Systems that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted.

Perfect Binding : A bookbinding method whereby the pages are bound using dispersion adhesive or thermoplastic rather than sewn to the cover.

Perfecting : The process of printing both sides of one sheet during a single pass through the press.

Perforation : Running a dotted score into paper to allow the paper to be pulled apart.

pH Number : A number used for expressing the acidity or alkalinity of solutions. Pure water at 25°C is considered to be neutral at a value of in a scale ranging from 0 to 14. Solutions with values below 7 are acidic, above 7 are alkaline or ‘basic'.

Picking : The lifting of the paper surface during printing. It occurs when pulling force (tack) of ink is greater than surface strength of paper.

Pixel : A pixel is the smallest resolvable point of a raster image. It is the basic unit of digital imaging.

Plate : A metal sheet with a specially coated emulsion on its surface that will produce an image whilst exposed during the CTP process. During printing, the image on the plate picks up ink, which is then indirectly transferred to paper.

Plate Cylinder : The cylinder of a press where the plate is mounted.

Point : A typographic unit of measurement equal to 1/12 pica or 1/72 inch (0.3515mm). The point size of a font is measured from the bottom of the descenders to the top of the ascenders. Points are always used to express type size.

Portrait : Oblong paper, having its short sides at head and foot.

Pre-flight : In digital prepress, the test used to evaluate or analyze every component needed to produce a printing job. Pre-flight confirms the type of disk being submitted, the colour gamut, colour breaks, and any art required (illustrations, transparencies, reflective photos, etc.) plus layout files, screen fonts, printer fonts, EPS or TIFF files, laser proofs, page sizes, print driver, crop marks, etc.

Pre-press : The steps required to transform the finished original copy into the printing plates or other forms needed for reproduction.

Pre-printed Form : A cut sheet, fan folded or continuous-roll form that has been offset printed with constant copy or design onto which variable data can be imaged.

Process Colour : Colour specified in percentages of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. When superimposed during printing the four colour printing process, their separate plates can recreate millions of different colours.

Proof : A representation of the finished print produced for customer inspection for errors to be highlighted and corrected prior to printing.

Ream : Five hundred sheets of paper.

Register : In printing, fitting of two or more printing images in exact alignment with each other. 

Registration marks : Crosshairs or other marks placed on artwork that ensure an exact alignment.

Resolution : The number of dots per inch (dpi) in a computer-processed document. The level of detail retained by a printed document increases with higher resolution. Digital images use pixels per inch or ppi.

Reverse-out : Type appearing white on a black or colour background, either a solid or a tint.

RGB : An acronym for Red, Green and Blue. RGB is a colour model used for computer monitors and colour video output systems. Colour separations for litho printing cannot be made directly from RGB files and need to be converted to CMYK first.

Rosette : The formation created by the dots that make up four colour process images. The dots overlap each other in a cluster, because they are not perfectly round and are at angles to each other. This cluster resembles the arrangement of petals in a rose.

Saddle stitch : A binding process in which a pamphlet or booklet is stitched through the middle fold of its sheets using metal wires.

Score (Crease) : To partially cut or crease with a rule into heavy paper or board to break the grain and make the fold cleaner and easier.

Self-cover : The paper used inside a booklet is the same as that used for the cover and is generally printed on the same press run.

Sheet Fed : Relating to a printing technique whereby paper is fed into the printing press in single sheets, as opposed to paper on a roll.

Simplex : Printing done on only one side of each sheet. Opposite of duplex.

Solid : An area on the page that is completely covered by the ink.

Spot colour : Any area of colour that is not printed using a CMYK process set. The coloured areas are produced using self-coloured inks, such as Pantone®reg; inks and require their own printing plate. Spot colours do not apply to digital printing, as the machines can only reproduce CMYK.

Spread : Two or more adjoining pages that would appear in view on sheet.

Step-up : A term used to describe the positioning of documents several times onto the same sheet of paper to avoid paper wastage.

Stock : A term for paper or any other material to be printed on.

Tack : In printing inks, the property of cohesion between particles- the separation force of ink needed for proper transfer and trapping on multi-colour presses. A tacky ink has high separation forces and can cause surface picking or splitting of weak papers.

Thermal Printer : A non-impact printer that uses special heat sensitive paper. The paper passes over a matrix of heating elements to change the colour of paper to produce characters.

Tints : Various even tone areas (strengths) of a solid colour.

Tolerances : The specification of acceptable variations in register, density, dot size, plate or paper thickness, concentration of chemicals, and other printing parameters.

Trapping : The slight overlapping of two colours to prevent gaps or white lines from appearing along the edges of an object due to misalignment or movement on the printing press.

Turnaround : The amount of time required to complete a job.

Typeface : A set of characters that share common design features, also known as a font family.

UV inks : In printing, solvent-less inks that are cured by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. They are used extensively in screen printing, narrow web letterpress and flexographic printing

UV varnish : A liquid laminate that is bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.

Varnishing/sealing : The application of an oil, synthetic, spirit, cellulose or water varnish to a surface to offer protection against marking and enhance its overall appearance.

Viscosity : A broad term encompassing the properties of tack and flow.

Wash up : To clean ink from rollers, fountains and other components of a press.

Wire-o binding : A method of binding books by punching square or round holes along the spine and wire binding along the spine, so that the book can lay flat.

Work and tumble : To print one side of a sheet of paper then turn the sheet over from gripper to back using the opposite gripper edge but the same side guide to print the second side.

Work and turn : To print one side of a sheet of paper then turn the sheet over from left to right and print the second side using the same gripper edge to print the second side.

ISO 216 International Standard Paper Sizes : All ISO 216 paper sizes (except DL) have the same aspect ratio; 1: 2 . This ratio has the unique property that when cut or folded in half width-wise, the halves also have the same aspect ratio. Each ISO paper size is one half of the area of the next size up.

Size (mm)

A0 841 x 1189

A1 594 x 841

A2 420 x 594

A3 297 x 420

A4 210 x 297

A5 148 x 210

A6 105 x 148

The weight of each sheet is also easy to calculate given the basis weight in grams per square metre (g/m2 or "gsm"). Since an A0 sheet has an area of 1m2, its weight in grams is the same as its basis weight in g/m2. A standard A4 sheet made from 80gsm paper weighs 5g, as it is one 16th (four halvings) of an A0 page. Thus the weight, and the associated postage rate, can be easily calculated by counting the number of sheets used.

Envelope Sizes : Size (mm) Description

C3 324 x 458 to fit an A3 sheet

C4 229 x 324 to fit an A4 sheet

C5 162 x 229 to fit an A5 sheet

C6 114 x 162 to fit an A6 sheet

DL 220 x 110 to fit a compliment slip