Print Terms



Acetate: A thin and flexible sheet of transparent plastic that’s often used to protect covers in items like training manuals. 

Artwork: Normally refers to “print ready artwork” which is a final file that can be used by a commercial printer to create the desired print materials. However artwork can also refer to the elements required to make up the page to be sent to the printer.

Aqueous Machine Varnish – Clear varnish that is applied over the top of litho print to seal the ink and prevent scuffing. This therefore also allows for instant finishing to take place.



Backing Board:  Is normally a thick grey chipboard of around 1800 micron that provides a backing for items such as notepads giving the product rigidity.

Barcodes: A method of representing data in a visual and a machine-readable form of information on a scannable, visual surface.

Binding: This is a term used to bind or fasten a print product together.

Bleed:  When design elements such as images, colour blocks etc. extend to the edge of a printed item, a bleed allowance is required. This is simply a continuation or extension of the design element beyond the edge of the finished document. Usually at least a minimum of 3mm is required all round.

Blind Emboss – A subtle emboss effect achieved by embossing a design onto either a plain unprinted area or a solid block of colour, without corresponding with specific elements of the printed design.

Bulk: A term sometimes used when describing the thickness and feel of a piece of paper.

Board: Is a general term to describe the heavier weight grades of paper and is the most common substrate used in items like packaging.

Bond: Multi-purpose, uncoated paper. A good example would be the paper used in office copiers.



Case Binding: Often referred to as hardcover, this traditional binding method achieves a high-quality and durable end result.

CMYK: Also known as ‘four colour process’, CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. It’s a globally recognised term that is used in all spheres of the print industry and across most printing methods.

Coated Paper: Paper stock to which a coating has been applied, giving it a smooth matt or gloss finish.

Collation: A method of gathering printed sheets in a certain sequence. A good example would be a book that is printed in sections which are then folded so that after it is bound and trimmed the pages are all in order.

Colour Bars: A strip of specific different colours, tints and screens that is printed outside the crop marks of the printed area on the sheet which helps the press minder monitor the registration, consistency and colour throughout the print run.

Colour Sequence: The order in which inks are printed in the press.

Crease: Lines or guides in the document that show where to fold or crease.

Creep: Refers to the moving or shift that happens to the margins in a document when pages are folded during the finishing process of a booklet. The amount of creep can vary depending on the thickness of paper and the number of pages.

Crop Marks: Lines put onto the pages outside of the document area to show where the document or print will be trimmed.

Crossover: An image or rule on one printed page that carries over to an adjacent page of folded work.

Coverage: The extent to which ink covers the page. This is normally spoken about in percentages.



Deboss:  Similar process to embossing but where a sunken design is stamped into the paper as opposed to a raised design.

Die Cut: A print finishing process for cutting shapes out of a sheet of paper or board using a die block made up  of sharp rules in the shape that is required.

Die Trace: Is the line in a design file that denotes the shape of the item to be cut out. This “shape” is what a die block is then made from and is used for cutting the shape out of a printed sheet.

Digital: An alternative print process to litho, digital is a broad term used to describe several different print methods including laser printing, inkjet printing etc. Minimal setup time and slower running speeds mean that this process is best suited to one-off prints and shorter production runs. Important to note that not all “digital presses” can be compared to litho. Sadly many manufactures are labelling their upgraded “colour copiers” to “digital presses” in an attempt to increase sales leaving the customer with a cheaper price but not the quality they deserve or are paying for.

Digital Proof: Refers to either a proof printed on a digital press or an emailed proof.

Dust Jacket: A detachable outer dust wrapper around the front and back of a book, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations.



Embossing: The process of creating raised images on paper or board.

Endpapers or End sheets: Used to bind the hard cover and book block together by being glued to the inside of the hard cover and the first page of the book block.



Flat Size: The size of a sheet of paper prior to folding it to the finished size.

Foil: A speciality process which applies a metallic thin foil to an area using heat via a foil block to transfer the image onto the sheet.

Font: The font refers to the style of letters used when creating a document for print.



Grain Direction: Each sheet of paper has a grain direction. This direction is the direction that the wood pulp fibers are laid during manufacturing. It is more difficult to fold against the grain than with it. This is where cracking becomes noticeable and many times cannot be avoided as folds of the final piece are needed in both directions.

Grammage: Refers to grams per square meter. This relates then to the weight of the paper.

Guillotine: A sharp blade used to cut and trim printed paper or the final print product accurately.

Gusset: This is additional space given to a product to increase capacity. Eg: a gusset in a folder allows for many more pages to be inserted.



Hard Copy Proof: Refers to a proof that is done on paper, resembling the final product that clients check in all aspects and approves before going to production.

Hi-Res:  An abbreviation for ‘High Resolution’ and is used when referring to the quality of print-ready artwork required in order to achieve a satisfactory end result.



Image Quality: Is simply the level of detail in a printed image. Higher resolution means higher detail and can be measured in dots per inch (DPI). The more dots (of ink) that are printed per inch, the higher the resolution of the image – therefore the higher the quality in terms of sharpness and detail.

Imposition: The arrangement of pages on a printing form that ensures the correct page order after the printed sheet is folded and trimmed.

Interleaves: Printed pages loosely inserted in a publication.



Kerning: In typography, this is the process of adjusting the visual spacing between characters, usually to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing result.

Kiss Cut: This is where the cut only penetrates through the top layer of a sheet of self-adhesive label stock, leaving the base sheet intact and the top layer easy to pull off.



Laminate: Thin plastic film that is applied to the surface of a printed item to achieve a desired texture/finish or increase its durability on items such as covers or items with heavy ink coverage. Gloss or Matt.

Landscape: This is where the width is greater than the height of a document.

Leaf: A sheet of paper containing 2 pages, one on each side of the sheet. Eg: A4 printed both sides is 2 pages but 1 leaf.

Litho – Short for lithographic printing, a commonly used traditional print method using for decades as the benchmark in printing. The litho print process is best suited to longer production runs due to its relatively long setup times and fast running speeds.

Long Edge: In binding in portrait mode this refers to the longest  allows pages to be turned side-to-side like a book.

Loop Stitch – As saddle stitch but with an extended loop in the wire staple which means the book can be inserted into a ring binder.



Machine Varnish:  Clear varnish that is applied over the top of the litho print to seal the ink and prevent scuffing. This also allows for instant finishing to take place. This is applied to coated stocks only as uncoated stocks would simply soak up all the varnish.

Metallic inks: A spot colour ink in which the pigments are replaced by very fine metallic particles. Typically gold or silver but not limited to this.

Micron: An abbreviation for ‘Microns’ (1 micron = 1/1000th of a millimetre). A measure of paper thickness (not necessarily directly related to gsm).



Opacity: The quality and thickness of the paper defines the opaqueness of it. If it isn’t opaque enough, your design might show through to the other side especially if you have used solid colours in areas.

Overprinting: Any additional printing over an area that’s already been printed.



Padded: This refers to the binding of stacks of sheets of paper that have been glued on one edge. The glue secures the sheets as a unit but allows for the top sheet to easily be removed while keeping the bottom sheets secure in the stack.

Page Orientation – If an item’s height is greater than its width it’s referred to as portrait, and vice versa. Establishing the orientation of an item helps to clarify details such whether to bind a book on the short edge or the long edge. An example would be a Letterhead which is A4 size – 297mm height by 210 width making it portrait. But if I turned the sheet 90 degrees the sheet would then be 210 in height and 297 in width making it landscape. It is important to request the correct size otherwise the print quote could be done as portrait when you wanted it landscape. So make sure you state exactly what you want as an end product.

Pages:  Represents one side of a sheet (leaf) of paper. An A4 piece of paper has 2 sides meaning 2 pages.

Pantone: An internationally recognised, standardised colour matching system.

PDF – Stands for ‘Portable Document Format’, a file format commonly used for supplying artwork for print.

Perfect Binding: This also refers to a softcover book binding method is rather a hot melt glue  that does not require much curing time however is not as strong as PUR. Also provides a square back finish.

Plate: The metal plate used on a printing press that transfers ink to the paper

Plasticoil Binding: Is a mechanical binding method that uses pre-formed plastic spirals that are looped through punched holes in the binding edge. Due to its coil like nature it bounces back into shape even under heavy use. Also gives the product a lay-flat look and feel.

Plus Cover – A term used to refer to a printed book that utilises a different (usually heavier weight) stock for the cover compared to the inside pages (e.g. “I’d like a quote for a brochure, 8pp + 4pp cover”). Here the insides may be a 150gsm and the cover a 250 or 300 gsm.

Portrait:  If an item’s height is greater than its width it’s referred to as portrait, and vice versa.

Process Colours: CMYK process colours use a combination of four ink colour called Cyan, Magenta, Yelo and Black to create thousands of colours in the colour gamut. Most printing is done using process colours.

Proofing: The best way to avoid expensive mistakes in printing. It’s important to pay close attention to the proofs you receive to ensure all aspects of the proof is checked to ensure the end product matches your expectation.

PUR Binding: This refers to a softcover book binding method that uses Polyurethane Reactive (PUR) adhesive, which creates clean and perfect edges. PUR book have square backs with spines. This type of glue requires 24 hrs to cure properly but is extremely strong and a good alternative to thread sewing.



Ream: Is the amount of sheets of paper in a pack. (eg: photocopy paper comes in a ream of 500 sheets) 

Register: To accurately position an image or text onto paper, register marks are used as reference points to help make sure the printing work is accurate at every step.

RGB: The color space of Red, Green and Blue which computers use to display images on your screen. An RGB computer file must be translated into CMYK in order to be printed accurately.

Rich Black: Black on its own is not dense enough to create a beautiful solid colours when printing so where solids of black is required in a printed piece small percentages of the other process colours are added to give the black a deeper look. Depending on those percentages a rich black can be warm (more magenta) or cold (more Cyan).



Saddle Stitch:  A binding method that uses 2/4 wire staples in the spine to hold a book together. Suitable for thinner books like magazines usually no more than 96 pages depending on the paper stock used.

Score: A indentation that is made on the paper or board to allow it to bend in a desired direction to open easily.

Self-Cover: A term used to refer to a printed book that uses the same type and weight of stock throughout.

Shrink Wrap: A protective plastic wrapping that is wrapped around an article and then shrunk by heat to form a tight-fitting parcel.

Short Edge:  binding allows the pages to be oriented correctly if they are flipped vertically, as in a notepad.

Size: The finished size of the item to be printed. An example would be a magazine where the pages are printed on large sheets 4 or 8 up and then folded and trimmed and bound to get the final result of a A4 finished product. An A5 postcard folded becomes a final size of A6.

Soft-touch Laminate: Another type of laminate that is used to give printed items a soft, matt, velvet-like surface texture. Ideally suited to items where a high-end, luxury, tactile finish is required.

Spot Colour: This is achieved by actually mixing ink into the desired colour you want in your print project, as opposed to using the CMYK process to achieve it.

Spot UV Varnish – A clear varnish that is used to highlight or draw attention to specific areas of a printed item.

Spine: The Spine of a book refers to the outside edge of the book where the pages are gathered and bound. In addition to providing an anchor point for the pages, the spine provides the hinge action that allows the book's cover and pages to open and closed

Stock: The paper, board or other material that is being printed onto.

Strut: The mechanism attached to the back of a board that enables the board to stand on its own.

Substrate: The material being used to produce the product.



Template: Refers to a predesigned format that can be added to or changed

Thread-sewn: A very strong binding which ideal for high-quality, long-lasting publications and those that need to be opened flat, without splitting along the spine. The printed sheets are folded and collated into signatures. These signatures are then sewn and hot melt glue applied and a cover is drawn on. 

Tip-in: The process of inserting something into a printed piece either as a loose sheet or as a sheet that is glued close to the inside spine somewhere in the finished product.

Transparency: This refers to images or text that aren’t completely opaque. Just make sure to flatten your transparency and spot colour to CMYK to avoid issues when printing. 

Trapping – A minuscule overlapping of adjacent design elements in a print ready artwork file which aids colour registration on press and helps to avoid unsightly gaps in the print.

Trim: This is the line cut to produce the finished size. The trim cuts through the bleed area to ensure a continuous and sharp edge around a design. 

Typo: A spelling mistake in the printed text material. 

Typography: Everything related to the text on the printed product. Your printer will want to know the layout of your text, along with colour and style.



Uncoated: Paper stock with no coating applied, usually used for items that will be written on or laser printed (e.g. letterheads, forms etc.)

UV Curing: A drying method which uses light instead of heat. It is a photochemical process where the high-intensity UV light instantly cures or dries inks, coatings and adhesives.

UV Varnish: A thin coating which is applied and dried via UV light to a printed sheet for protection and appearance.



Vector Graphics: Digital images constructed from lines and shapes in a two-or-three-dimensional space that can be scaled without any loss of quality.

Vignette: An illustration where the background gradually fades away until it blends into the unprinted paper.



Wire binding/Wire-o-binding: A mechanical binding method using pre-formed wire combs that are looped through punched holes in the binding edge. Particularly effective where ‘lay-flat’ properties are required.