Printing Terms


Aqueous Coating: Coating in a water base and applied like ink by a printing press to protect and enhance the printing underneath.


Back Up: (1) To print on the second side of a sheet already printed on one side. (2) To adjust an image on one side of a sheet so that it aligns back-to-back with an image on the other side.

Bind: Usually in the book arena, but not exclusively, the joining of leafs or signatures together with either wire, glue or other means.

Bindery: A department within a printing company responsible for collating, folding and trimming various printing projects.

Bleed: The area of artwork that is extended beyond the actual dimensions of the document. It is used to avoid strips of white paper showing on the edges of your print should the batch be misaligned when cut to size. Any objects in your artwork that touch the edges of the document require bleed, for instance a background color or image should spread to cover the entire bleed area as should any objects that creep in from the side of the page. Minimum bleed is usually 1/8 inch.


Camera-ready Copy: Mechanicals, photographs and art fully prepared for reproduction according to the technical requirements of the printing process being used. Also called finished art and reproduction copy.

Case Bind

Case Bind: To bind using glue to hold signatures to a case made of binder board covered with fabric, plastic or leather. Also called cloth bind, edition bind, hard bind and hard cover.

CMYK: Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colors.

Coated Paper: Paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity and ink holdout. Mills produce coated paper in the four major categories cast, gloss, dull and matte.

Commercial Printer: Printer producing a wide range of products such as announcements, brochures, posters, booklets, stationery, business forms, books and magazines. Also called job printer because each job is different.

Composition: (1) In typography, the assembly of typographic elements, such as words and paragraphs, into pages ready for printing. (2) In graphic design, the arrangement of type, graphics and other elements on the page.

Comb Bind

Comb Bind: To bind by inserting the teeth of a flexible plastic comb through holes punched along the edge of a stack of paper. Also called plastic bind and GBC bind (a brand name).

Cover: Thick paper that protects a publication and advertises its title. Parts of covers are often described as follows: Cover 1=outside front; Cover 2=inside front; Cover 3=inside back, Cover 4=outside back.

Creep: Phenomenon of middle pages of a folded signature extending slightly beyond outside pages. Also called feathering, outpush, push out and thrust. See also Shingling.

Crop Marks: Crop marks are the little lines that sit around the edge of the document showing where the area of bleed ends and the proper document area begins, they work alongside bleed to tell the print worker where the paper needs trimming. Crop marks are usually hairline or 0.25pt in thickness and are set in Registration Black. It is best to offset the actual lines 1/8" from the actual trim line.

Cutting Machine: A machine that cuts stacks of paper to desired sizes. The machine can also be used in scoring or creasing.


Die: Device for cutting, scoring, stamping, embossing and debossing.

Die Cut: To cut irregular shapes in paper or paperboard using a die.

DPI (Dots Per Inch): Considered as dots per square inch. Measure of resolution of input devices such as scanners, display devices such as monitors, and output devices such as laser printers, imagesetters and monitors. Abbreviated DPI. Also called dot pitch.

Drill: In the printing arena, to drill a hole in printed matter.

Dull Finish: Flat (not glossy) finish on coated paper; slightly smoother than matte. Also called suede finish, velour finish and velvet finish.


EPS (Encapsulated Post Script): Computer file containing both images and PostScript commands.

Estimate: Price that states what a job will probably cost. Also called bid, quotation and tender.


Fifth Color: Ink color used in addition to the four needed by four-color process.

Finish: (1) Surface characteristics of paper. (2) General term for trimming, folding, binding and all other post press operations.

Finished Size: Size of product after production is completed, as compared to flat size. Also called trimmed size.

French Fold

Folder: A bindery machine dedicated to folding printed materials.

Fold Marks: With printed matter, markings indicating where a fold is to occur, usually located at the top edges.

Foldout: Gate fold sheet bound into a publication, often used for a map or chart. Also called gatefold and pullout.

Format: Size, style, shape, layout or organization of a layout or printed product.

Four-color Process Printing: Technique of printing that uses black, magenta, cyan and yellow to simulate full-color images. Also called color process printing, full color printing and process printing.

French Fold: A printed sheet, printed one side only, folded with two right angle folds to form a four page uncut section.


Gate Fold: A sheet that folds where both sides fold toward the gutter in overlapping layers.

Gate Fold

Gloss: Consider the light reflecting on various objects in the printing industry (e.g., paper, ink, laminates, UV coating, varnish).

Graphic Arts: The crafts, industries and professions related to designing and printing on paper and other substrates.

Graphic Design: Arrangement of type and visual elements along with specifications for paper, ink colors and printing processes that, when combined, convey a visual message.

Graphics: Visual elements that supplement type to make printed messages more clear or interesting.

Gutter: In the book arena, the inside margins toward the back or the binding edges.


Head(er): At the top of a page, the margin.

Head-to-tail: Imposition with heads (tops) of pages facing tails (bottoms) of other pages.


Image Area: The actual area on the printed matter that is not restricted to ink coverage.

Inserts: Within a publication, an additional item positioned into the publication loose (not bound in).


Laminate: A thin transparent plastic sheet (coating) applied to usually a thick stock (covers, post cards, etc.) providing protection against liquid and heavy use, and usually accents existing color, providing a glossy (or lens) effect.

Landscape: Artist style in which width is greater than height. (Portrait is opposite.)

Layout: A sample of the original providing (showing) position of printed work (direction, instructions) needed and desired.

Letter Fold

Leading: Amount of space between lines of type.

Letter fold: Two folds creating three panels that allow a sheet of letterhead to fit a business envelope. Also called barrel fold and wrap around fold.

Letter Paper: In North America, 8 1/2' x 11' sheets.

Lightweight Paper: Book paper with basis weight less than 40# (60 gsm).

Logo (Logotype): A company, partnership or corporate creation (design) that denotes a unique entity. A possible combination of letters and art work to create a "sole" entity symbol of that specific unit.


Manuscript (MS): An author's original form of work (hand written, typed or on disk) submitted for publication.

Margin: The distance from the edges of the document where no design elements are located. This is to avoid having your objects look as if they are about to fall of the page or even worse actually get cropped off when the document is trimmed. The amount of margin is personal preference, but 1/8", 1/4" or 1/2" is usually used depending on the size of the overall design.

Matte Finish: Flat (not glossy) finish on photographic paper or coated printing paper.

Mechanical: Camera-ready assembly of type, graphic and other copy complete with instructions to the printer. A hard mechanical consists of paper and/or acetate, is made using paste-up techniques, and may also be called an artboard, board or paste-up. A soft mechanical, also called an electronic mechanical, exists as a file of type and other images assembled using a computer.

Mechanical Bind: To bind using a comb, coil, ring binder, post or any other technique not requiring gluing, sewing or stitching.


Offset Printing: Printing technique that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket to paper instead of directly from plate to paper.

Opacity: (1) Characteristic of paper or other substrate that prevents printing on one side from showing through the other side. (2) Characteristic of ink that prevents the substrate from showing through.

Opaque: (1) Not transparent. (2) To cover flaws in negative with tape or opaquing paint. Also called block out and spot.


Page Proof: Proof of type and graphics as they will look on the finished page complete with elements such as headings, rules and folios.

Pagination: In the book arena, the numbering of pages.

Panel: One page of a brochure, such as one panel of a rack brochure. One panel is on one side of the paper. A letter-folded sheet has six panels.

Parallel Fold

Parallel Fold: Method of folding. Two parallel folds to a sheet will produce 6 panels.

Perfect Bind: To bind sheets that have been ground at the spine and are held to the cover by glue. Also called adhesive bind, cut-back bind, glue bind, paper bind, patent bind, perfecting bind, soft bind and soft cover. See also Burst Perfect Bind.

Perfecting Press: Press capable of printing both sides of the paper during a single pass. Also called duplex press and perfector.

Perforating: Taking place on a press or a binder machine, creating a line of small dotted holes for the purpose of tearing off a part of a printed matter (usually straight lines, vertical or horizontal).

Pixel: Short for picture element, a dot made by a computer, scanner or other digital device. Also called pel.

Plate: Piece of paper, metal, plastic or rubber carrying an image to be reproduced using a printing press.

Post Bind

Platemaker: (1) In quick printing, a process camera that makes plates automatically from mechanicals. (2) In commercial lithography, a machine with a vacuum frame used to expose plates through film.

PMS: Reference to Pantone Matching System. The correct trade name of the colors in the Pantone Matching System is Pantone colors, not PMS Colors.

Portrait: An art design in which the height is greater than the width. (Opposite of Landscape.)

Post Bind: To bind using a screw and post inserted through a hole in a pile of loose sheets.

Prepress: Camera work, color separations, stripping, platemaking and other prepress functions performed by the printer, separator or a service bureau prior to printing. Also called preparation.

Process Color

Prepress Proof: Any color proof made using ink jet, toner, dyes or overlays, as compared to a press proof printed using ink. Also called dry proof and off-press proof.

Printer Spreads: Mechanicals made so they are imposed for printing, as compared to reader spreads.

Process Color (Inks): The colors used for four-color process printing: yellow, magenta, cyan and black.


Reader Spread: Mechanicals made in two page spreads as readers would see the pages, as compared to printer spread.

Resolution: Sharpness of an image on film, paper, computer screen, disc, tape or other medium.

RGB: An additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors.


Saddle Stitch: To bind by stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine, as compared to side stitch. Also called pamphlet stitch, saddle wire and stitch bind.

Saddle Stitch

Satin Finish: Alternate term for dull finish on coated paper.

Scanner: Electronic device used to scan an image.

Score: To compress paper along a straight line so it folds more easily and accurately. Also called crease.

Selective Binding: Placing signatures or inserts in magazines or catalogs according to demographic or geographic guidelines.

Self Cover: Usually in the book arena, a publication not having a cover stock. A publication only using text stock throughout.

Self Mailer: A printed item independent of an envelope. A printed item capable of travel in the mailing arena independently.

Side stitch: To bind by stapling through sheets along, one edge, as compared to saddle stitch. Also called cleat stitch and side wire.

Specifications: Complete and precise written description of features of a printing job such as type size and leading, paper grade and quantity, printing or binding method. Abbreviated specs.

Spectrophotometer: Instrument used to measure the index of refraction of color.

Spine: Back or binding edge of a publication.

Spiral Bind

Spiral Bind: To bind using a spiral of continuous wire or plastic looped through holes. Also called coil bind.

Spot Color or Varnish: One ink or varnish applied to portions of a sheet, as compared to flood or painted sheet.

Spread: (1) Two pages that face each other and are designed as one visual or production unit. (2) Technique of slightly enlarging the size of an image to accomplish a hairline trap with another image.


Tabloid: Using a broadsheet as a measure, one half of a broadsheet.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format): Computer file format used to store images from scanners and video devices.

Template: Concerning a printing project's basic details in regard to its dimensions. A standard layout.

Text Paper: Designation for printing papers with textured surfaces such as laid or linen. Some mills also use 'text' to refer to any paper they consider top-of-the-line, whether or not its surface has a texture.

Transparency: Positive photographic image on film allowing light to pass through. Also called chrome, color transparency and tranny. Often abbreviated TX.

Trap: To print one ink over another or to print a coating, such as varnish, over an ink. The first liquid traps the second liquid. See also Dry Traps and Wet Traps.

Trim Size: The size of the printed material in its finished stage (e.g., the finished trim size is 5 1\2 x 8 1\2).


Uncoated Paper: Paper that has not been coated with clay. Also called offset paper.


Varnish: Liquid applied as a coating for protection and appearance.