Printing Jargon


Like most industries, print comes with its own terminology. Here is a helpful guideline in trying to understand some of the jargon used in the print industry.


Authors Alterations, changes other than corrections, made by a client after the proofing process has begun. AAs are usually charged to a client as billable time.

A Sizes
An International Industry Standards range of sizes of paper.

The amount to which a paper will take up and hold a liquid.

The first stage of drying of ink in the printing process.

Acid-Free Paper
Paper which does not contain any acid.

Art Director
The individual responsible for overseeing the visual creative and production process and managing other creative individuals.

The finished composition or the graphical elements used in printing or electronic publishing.

The part of lower case letters that rise above the x-height.


B Sizes
An International Industry Standard range of paper sizes.

To print on the reverse side of a printed sheet.

The imaginary line on which non descending letters of text sit.

The process of attaching loose sheets of paper into a book or other multi page document. Mechanical binding methods include Plastic Comb Binding, Ring Binding and Wiro Binding. Bookbinding methods include Saddle- Stitched, GST, Side Stitched, Section Sewn, Section Sewn and Perfect Binding.

Blade Coated Paper
Paper coated by a process in which the freshly applied wet coating is smoothed and the excess removed by a thin metal blade.

The cylinder on a lithographic printing press, covered with a rubber blanket, that carries the image from a plate to a sheet.

A chemical treatment used to whiten, brighten paper pulp.

The part of an image extending beyond the trim marks on a page.

Blind Embossed
A logo, text or design which has been stamped into a sheet of paper or board to create a relief.

A DOS native graphics file format not generally used in professional printing or online design.

Paper weight usually over 170gsm.

BRC (Business Reply Card)
A postage paid postcard that is pre-addressed back to the sender.

BRM (Business Reply Mail)
An envelope or other “letter size” mailer with postage paid and addressed back to the sender.

To expose light sensitive media to light. i.e. burning a negative; burning a printing plate; or burning a CD.


Cartridge Paper
Coated or uncoated paper with a slightly rough texture.

Choke (Choking)
When trapping colour closing the open spaces in a graphic to be filled
with another colour.

CLUT (Colour Look Up Table)
A set of conversion values for the display of colour images in an RGB environment.

The acronym for the four process colour inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

Coated Paper
Material coated on one or both sides with china clay and latex to fill up surface irregularities and improve the printing surface.

Colour Separation
Literally separating the areas of a piece to be printed into its component spot and process ink colours. Each colour to be printed must have its own printing plate.

Colour Space
The parts of the visible spectrum which can be reproduced in a given medium.
(i.e. RGB for computer monitors, CMYK for print, web safe index colours for
the world wide web).

Composite Image
A photograph or other graphic image that is made of a combination of multiple images.

Computer-To-Plate (CTP)
The process of creating printing plates directly from computer using no film.

Contract Proof
A final printer’s proof which the client signs as OK to print – usually now produced digitally by hi-resolution large-format ink jet.

The process of creating a three dimensional (3D) item from a flat sheet of paper.
i.e. envelope conversion / box conversion.

The prose or other text used in advertising and printed material.

A group of legal rights granted to the author or creator of written or visual work. All work appearing with the symbol or the word “copyright” is protected by its creator or his heirs.

Copy Writer
The individual who writes the prose or ‘copy’ for an advertisement or brochure.

An indentation made by a dedicated machine in thick paper to prevent cracking and/or to enable folding.

A colour proofing system by DuPont. Now superseded by digital contract proofs.

Crop Marks
Small lines that show the document edge -necessary for register and trim.

CTP (Computer-To-Plate)
The process of creating printing plates directly from computer using no film.

The blue used in four-colour printing.


DAM (Digital Asset Management)
Database systems used to track and manage computer files in computer graphics environments.

The application of water to the lithographic plate on a printing press.

Damping Roller
The roller on a printing press which applies water directly to the printing plate.

Density (ink)
The measure of tonal values.

A precision optical instrument used to measure the density of colours in colour work.

Desktop Publishing
A process for creating camera ready and plate ready artwork on a personal computer. Though once in vogue, this term is now usually associated with low end, less professional design.

Die Stamping
To cut paper, card or board to a particular size and shape with a metal die.

Digital Imaging
The process of creating a digital copy of an illustrated or photographic image.

Digital Photography
The process of recording images using a digital camera or a conventional camera with a digital adaptor.

Digital Printing
A modern form of electronic printing that uses no printing plates. A digital press looks more like a large photocopier and images paper instantly usually by toner based technology. It gives great flexibility for short runs and variable data printing.

The smallest element of halftone.

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.

Double Page Spread
Two facing pages of a printed item.

Double Coating
Coating paper or board twice – usually on both sides.

Dots per Inch. Defines the resolution of a computer generated screen.

Drop Shadow
A shadow placed behind an image or type to help make the image stand out.

The ink reservoir in a lithographic printing press.

A mock-up of a brochure or book in the correct size, layout and sometimes paper.

A photograph printed using two colours.


Electronic Publishing
A process by which information is created and/or distributed in electronic or magnetic formats. (i.e. CD ROM or web.) The usage of this term has expanded to include digitally created designs that are reproduced on conventional printing presses.

Em Space
A lateral space equal to the width of the lower case letter ‘m’.

A mechanical process for raising an area of paper to create letterforms, shapes and textures.

The chemically treated side of photographic film. (The dull side, not the shiny side.) Depending on the printing process involved, film will be requested as “right reading” emulsion up or emulsion down.

A polyester or polypropylene film applied to both surfaces of a sheet to improve its durability.

En Space
A lateral space equal to half an em space, roughly the width of the lowercase letter ‘n’.

Engraved Printing
Raised printing produced by a cutaway plate. A similar effect can be achieved with thermography.

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 colour control.


Transparent material made of acetate with a light-sensitive emulsion for recording an image.

Film Negative
A photographic image on film in which the highlights and shadows are reversed.

Film Positive
A black image on a background of clear film.

The surface characteristics of paper produced by mechanical means.

The alignment and registration of individual images or plates within a page.

A chemical which makes an image permanent in a photographic process, usually film or plates.

Letterpress printing from flexible rubber or polymer plates. Used primarily for printing cartons.

Fluorescent Ink
Ink that has bright and luminous colour due to phosphorous chemicals in

Fluorescent Paper and Board
A white base paper or board coated with a mixture of fluorescent pigments.

Foil Stamping
A mechanical process that results in the bonding of coloured foil to paper.

The page number at the head or the foot of a page.

A specific typeface in a specific point size and style. e.g. Arial is a typeface whilst Arial Bold 12pt is a font.

Four Colour Process
The method of printing in full colour by producing four colour plates for printing in cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

FPO (For Position Only)
A low resolution image inserted into a layout to be replaced by a full resolution image before or during the prepress process.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
The method for uploading and downloading files to/from internet server systems.

French Fold
A sheet of paper printed on one side only and then folded twice to form an uncut four-page section.


A paper fold in which both sides are overlapped across the middle of the sheet.

Collating the sections of a book in the correct order for binding.

A secondary image which appears as a lighter area on a subsequent print due to local blanket impressions from previous image areas.

An eight bit (256 colours or shades of grey) or less computer file format.
Though commonly used to post photographic images to computer bulletin boards, GIF files are almost never used for professional printing.

A shiny reflective coating given to paper.

The pattern of fibres in a sheet of paper.

A non-text item (Illustration or photograph) to be printed.

Graphic Design
A process using visual elements (pictures and type) to communicate a concept or idea.

Graphic Designer
An individual who solves communication problems, using visual elements (pictures & type) to convey an idea or concept.

On printing presses these are fingers that keep the sheet in place and carry it through the machine.

Usually nonsense words and letterforms used in a design to approximate the flow of written language. Used before final text is available.

Gripper Edge
The edge which is caught by the grippers as a sheet of paper is fed into a press.

GSM (grams per square metre)
Unit of measurement used to measure paper weight in printing.

A machine used to cut or trim a large number of sheets of paper accurately.


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.

A proprietary colour separation process, developed by Pantone, that uses six (6) instead of four process colours. (CMYK plus Orange and Green)

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
The scripting language which is the basis of the world wide web.

A spot on a printed sheet usually caused by a speck of dust. Most noticeable on solid areas of ink.

An indexed piece of text which, when clicked with a pointing device (i.e. a mouse) prompts new information to be loaded to the viewer’s computer system.


An individual who draws or paints or otherwise creates original artistic images for use in commercial art.

A high resolution device that prints directly to plate.

The process of positioning multiple pages on a flat sheet of paper to be printed at one time.

Impression Cylinder
A cylinder of a printing press which supports one surface of the sheet while the other surface receives its printed image from the blanket cylinder.

A unit of measurement equal to six (6) picas or seventy two (72) points.
Normally used by design clients and printers.

Ink Duct
The trough that supplies ink to the printing press.

Inking Roller
A printing press roller that carries ink from the trough to the plate.

Ivory Board
High quality board with a bright appearance and rigid feel. Used particularly for invitations and business cards.

A programming language developed and owned by Sun Microsystems. Java holds the promise of write once run anywhere programming. (i.e. A program can be written on a Unix system and run on Windows or Macintosh computers).


A scripting environment similar to HTML, and like HMTL a subset of the SGML group of scripting languages.

Joint Photographic Electronic Group. A common standard for compressing image data for electronic delivery (CD ROM or Web). JPEG is not commonly used in printing because of data loss which leads to degraded images.


To adjust the lateral space between individual letters.

A line, often a box around a graphic image.

Knock Up
The adjustment on one or two edges of a stack of sheets so that they can be cut squarely.


A matt or gloss surface transparent plastic coating applied to paper or board through heat or pressure.

Laid Paper
Uncoated paper with a ribbed appearance.

Lay Edges
The edges of a sheet which are placed to one side on a printing press to make certain that the sheet will be held correctly by the grippers and have uniform margins when printed.

The design of a piece of printed work.

The space, measured in points, between consecutive lines of type (Originally from the strips of lead placed between lines of metal type.)

The sheets of paper bound in a book, each side of which constitutes a page.

Linen Finish
Imitation linen texture on a paper’s surface.

Printing from a dampened, fat surface using oil-based inks using the principle of the mutual repulsion of oil and water.


Machine Proof
A proof of the job directly off the printing press.

The shade of red from the standard four colour printing inks.

Paper made from manila hemp or softwood kraft pulp.

Paper with strongly stained fibres to give a marbling effect.

Matt Art
Paper coated with clay to give a dull finish.

Match Print
A colour proofing system developed by 3M. Now superceded by digital contract proofs.

Mechanical Artwork
Board mounted, camera ready artwork intended for use in traditional (non digital) prepress.

Metallic Ink
Printing inks containing metallic particles producing the effects of gold, silver, bronze or copper.

A printing fault where patterns of dots appear within halftones.

Moisture Content
The amount of moisture in paper. Usually expressed as a percentage of its weight. 7-8% Is typical for litho papers with less than 5% usual for digital papers.

An image made up of differing tones in one colour.

Irregular spots or blotches in a printed area that should be even in colour.


NCR (No Carbon Required)
A term used for carbonless paper.

Film that has been exposed and processed to fix a reverse image.

A low-quality paper used for printing newspapers.

Printing a unique number on a job, usually sequentially.


Offset Printing (Offset Lithography)

Currently the most common commercial printing method, in which ink is offset from the printing plate to a rubber roller then to paper.

Non-transparency in printing papers or inks.

A process in which low-resolution files are replaced automatically by high-resolution files during pre-press.

Any source material or image intended for reproduction.

Printing over a previously printed area.


The term for the numbering of pages in a book.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)
The primary international system of standard colour matching used in computer software, paper and inks worldwide.

Paste-up (1)
The process of physically adhering artwork, galleys, and other type to a paste board other substrate, usually with hot wax or other adhesive.

Paste-up (2)
The product of the paste-up process.

Paste Board
The physical substrate, usually composed of a stiff paper board, used for composing camera ready artwork.

PDF (Portable Document Format)
A proprietary file format developed by Adobe Systems for the transfer of designs across multiple computer platforms.

Printing both sides of a sheet simultaneously.

Perfect Binding
A book binding process where pages are glued together and directly to the cover of the book.

Broken slotted cuts or rules impressed into paper or board so it can be torn in the correct place.

Photo CD
A proprietary format developed by Eastman Kodak for storing photographic images on a compact disc. Images can be easily accessed for use in professional printing.

Photo Copy
A mechanical printing process that uses a light sensitive printing element, electrostatic toner and a heating element to fuse the toner to the paper.

Photo Illustration
An image, primarily consisting of a photograph or composite image containing a photograph.

An image or picture made by exposing light sensitive film with a camera.

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.

Pixel Depth
The amount of data used to describe each coloured 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.

Plate Cylinder
The cylinder that supports the inked plate on a printing press.

A machine which produces printing plates directly from data without the need for film.

Plate Ready Film
Final photographic film. or other artwork used to burn printing plates. No additional paste-up or stripping should be required if artwork is actually plate ready.

PMS Colour (Pantone Matching System)
A proprietary colour system for choosing and matching specific spot and process

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.

A digital page description language which defines the content and layout of a page. It is a registered trade mark of Adobe Inc.

The various printing related services, performed before ink is actually put on the printing press. (i.e. stripping, scanning, colour separating, etc.

Press Proof
A sheet of paper used as reference while printing.

Press Run
The total number of copies produced in one printing.

The process of applying ink to paper.

Printing Plate
A light sensitive metal printing plate which carries the image to be printed. The plate is developed like film, then used on a printing press.

Process Colour
The mechanical process of reproducing a full colour image with the three primary subtractive colour inks (CMYK/ Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). When viewed under a magnifying glass, the individual colour halftone dots can be seen in a process colour image.

Production Artist (Pasteup Artist)
A skilled worker who produces finished camera ready or plate ready artwork from the visual elements and instructions provided by the designer or client.

The basic material used in papermaking.


Reflective Art
Artwork which is neither digital nor transparent. Reflective art requires either scanning or camera work to be printed.

The quality of alignment of the different coloured inks as they are applied to paper. (i.e. If the inks can be seen to overlap improperly or to leave white gaps on the page, the printing is said to be out of register.

How well a computer graphic reproduces fine detail.

The deliberate alteration of a computer image, physical artwork or photography.

500 sheets of paper of the same size, quality and weight.

A continuous length of paper wound on a core.

The ability of paper or board to reflect light.

The positioning of images accurately on a sheet using register marks.

Register Marks
A set of fine line crosses added to original artwork to provide reference points for accurate printing or finishing.

Letterpress or Flexographic printing method using a raised image.

Scanning, camera work, and film make-up. Reversed Out Printing. White or lighter text reversed out of a background of solid colour.

The ability of a paper or board to perform on a printing press without trouble.

RGB (Red Green Blue)
The colours used by a computer monitor to create colour images on the screen.


Saddle Stitch
A book binding process where pages are stapled together through the spine of the book. Traditionally performed on a V shaped saddle.

Sans Serif
A type face that has no tails or curled points (serifs) at the ends.

Satin Finish
A coated paper with a sheen to the surface.

To imprint a crease. It is preferable to score heavy paper before folding it in order to avoid cracking.

Originally a transparent film onto which is printed a very fine matrix allowing a continuous tone image such as a photograph or transparency to be broken down into tiny dots. Screens can also be referred to in terms of DPI (dots per inch) or dots per centimetre and the finer the screen, the better the quality of reproduction. Newspapers use coarse screens of around 85 DPI and magazines use around 150 DPI and can go up to 400 DPI.

Screen Ruling
The number of lines per inch (or centimetre) on a halftone screen – equal to the number of dots per inch on the printed image.

A sheet folded to form four or more book pages.

A type-face that mimics the appearance of hand written text.

The curls and points that appear as adornment on some typefaces.

Service Bureau
The facility that provides professional services to graphics and printing professionals. (i.e. plate ready film, match prints, etc.)

The unwanted transfer of printing ink from a printed sheet to an opposite facing surface.

SGML (Standard Graphic Markup Language)
The parent scripting environment which includes subset languages like HTML, DHTML, XML and Java Script.

A single sheet of paper.

Sheet Fed
A printing press using single sheets as opposed to reels of paper.

Side Perfs
A perforated line running down the sides of continuous stationery.

Signature (Sig)
All pages of a book or other bound print job, to be printed on a single pass through a printing press. On small presses 2 pages, on larger presses always a number divisible by 4 or 8 pages. (Bound pages are always in groups divisible by four, 2 outside and 2 inside pages.)

Silk Finish
A coated paper with a sheen to the surface.

Spot Colour
Single colours applied to printing when process colour is not necessary (i.e. one, two and three colour printing), or when process colours need to be augmented (i.e. a Fluorescent pink headline or a metallic tint).

Spot UV
A machine printed varnish, hardened by ultra-violet light and applied in specific areas on the printed sheet.

Spread (1)
A design that encompasses two or more facing pages (i.e. the centre spread in the morning newspaper).

Spread (2)
Literally, spreading the ink around a coloured object so that there is no gap between it and the next coloured object. (i.e. yellow text on a blue background.)

Style Sheet
A page or group of pages designating the typefaces to be used in a design. i.e. Headlines, captions and body text.

A printed colour example.


A printing process that results in raised type similar to engraved printing.

Thumb Index
An index where the divisions are cut into the edge of the publication.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)
A bitmapped file format used for the reproduction of continuous tone images such as photographs and illustrations.

The effect achieved by breaking up colour into a percentage using dots, which allowing the base white paper to show through.

The process of closing gaps between different colour inks as they appear on the printed page. Trapping colour is achieved by use of chokes and spreads.

Trim Marks
Marks on a printed sheet indicating where the paper is to be cut or trimmed.
Two up, three up, etc. Printing where one or many document pages are printed
on the same side of a sheet.

A specifically designated style of type e.g. Times or Helvetica.

The layout and design of type.


URL (Universal Resource Locator)
The address of files and sites on the internet.

UV Varnishing
A machine printed varnish, hardened by ultra-violet light. This can be over the complete printed sheet or applied in specific areas (Spot UV).


A transparent solution printed over ink to produce a glossy finish to the surface.

A high quality strong paper imitating parchment used mainly for certificates.

Vector Graphics
Any of a number of graphics formats including EPS and DXF which describe objects on the screen not as coloured pixels but as mathematically defined shapes. Vector graphics can be rescaled to any size without any effect to file size.

Virgin Fibre
Freshly manufactured paper or board pulp fibre – not recycled.


An individual design incorporated into paper during manufacture which is visible when viewed against a light.

A continuous reel of paper.

Web Fed
A printing machine with paper supplied by a reel rather than single sheets.

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.

Wire-O Binding
A mechanical binding using a series of double wire loops formed from a single continuous wire.

Paper containing no mechanical wood pulp.

Work and Tumble
The printing of one side of a sheet and then turning it from front to back to print the second side. The same alignment of the side edges on the press is maintained.

Work and Turn
The printing of one side of a sheet and then turning it from side to side to print the second side. This only occurs when both sides of a sheet are set on one plate.

Wove Paper
Paper made on a roll of closely woven, finely textured wire, leaving no marks on the surface of the paper.