Printing & Graphic Design Terminology

 – the capacity a paper has for accepting liquids, like the inks or water used to run offset presses.
Alkaline Paper – usually used where aging resistance is desired.
Aqueous Coating – a water-based coating applied after printing, it gives a gloss, dull, or matte finish, and helps prevent the underlying ink from rubbing off.

 – fastening papers together for easy reading, with wire, thread, glue, or plastic combs.
Blanket – covers the cylinder on an offset press and holds the inked impression.
Bleed – an image or printed color that runs off the trimmed edge of a page.
Blind Embossing – stamping raised letters or images into paper using pressure and a die, but without using foil or ink to add color to the raised areas.
Blueline – a printer’s proof, actually blue on white paper, created by using negatives. Generally not used anymore.
BMP – (Bitmap) a computer graphics format.
Bond Paper – a type of office reprographic paper, widely used for letterheads and business forms. Bond papers are characterized by strength, durability, and performance during electronic printing.
Brightness – the reflectivity of paper.
Bristol Paper – solid or laminated heavyweight paper made to a caliper thickness of .006″ or higher. Bristols are generally used for tags, covers, and file folders.
Bulk – the thickness of a stack of paper, technically measured as the thickness of a specified number of sheets under a specified pressure.
Burn – to expose photo sensitive media to light, i.e. burning a negative or burning a printing plate.

 – paper that is coated on one side only (Coated 1 Side).
C2S – paper that is coated on both sides (Coated 2 Sides).
Caliper – the thickness of a single sheet of paper, as measured with a tool called a micrometer, and expressed in units of thousandths of an inch.
Camera Ready – type and/or artwork that is in its final position, with no changes needed before printing.
CMYK – abbreviation for the four process color inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
Coated Paper – paper with an outer layer of coating applied to one or both sides. Coated papers are available in a variety of finishes, like gloss, dull, and matte.
Color Separation – separating the areas of a piece to be printed into its component spot and process ink colors.
Copy – the written information and other text used in advertising and printed material.
Crop Marks – small lines placed at the corners of a form to indicate where the page is to be trimmed.
Curl – the waviness of a sheet of paper generally seen along its edges. Paper tends to curl along, rather than across, the grain of the paper.

 – pressing letters or illustrations into a sheet of paper, right-reading, so that the impressions can be felt on the back of the page and the letters or illustrations look sunken.
Deckle Edge – the feathery edge on a sheet of paper.
Densitometer – an instrument used throughout a print run to measure the optical density of ink on paper.
Density – the weight of a sheet of paper as compared to its bulk.
Die-cutting – using a metal-edged die to precision cut, or to cut shapes into a piece of paper.
Digital Printing – transfers the image directly onto plain paper immediately, without traditional offset rollers and plates.
Dot Compensation – adjusting the size of the dots in halftones or four-color images to allow for dot gain and to ensure that the color and detail of the image print as intended.
Dot Gain – a printing term which describes wet ink coming in contact with paper and spreading as it is transfers.
Double Parallel Fold – a method of folding paper, where it’s folded in half and then in half again.
DPI – (dot per inch) the number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one-inch measure. Generally, the more dots per inch, the more detail is captured, and the sharper the resulting image.
Dull Coated – a coated paper finish that falls between glossy and matte.
Dummy – an unprinted mock-up of a book or brochure. A dummy is made of the same paper stocks that will be used in the finished piece.
Duotone – an image printed with two colors, generally black and a second color.
Embossing – pressing letters or illustrations into a sheet of paper, wrong-reading, so that the impressions can be felt on the front of the page and the letters or illustrations look raised.

 – (Encapsulated Postscript File) a vector based, computer graphics file format developed by Adobe Systems.

 – the surface characteristics of a paper.
Finishing – preparing printed pages for use. Most printed jobs require one or more finishing steps, such as trimming, folding, or binding.
Foil Stamping – to cover paper with a thin, flexible sheet of metal or other material.
Form – the assembled pages and images as printed on a single large sheet, before trimming.
Four-color Process – a method that uses dots of magenta (red), cyan (blue), yellow, and black to simulate the continuous tones and variety of colors in a color image.

 – two or more parallel folds on a sheet of paper with the end flaps folding inward.
Gloss – coated paper’s shiny or lustrous appearance; also the measure of a sheet’s surface reflectivity.
Grade – a generic paper category, such as writing, offset, cover, tag, and index paper.
Grain – the direction in which more fibers lie in a sheet of paper.
Grain Long – grain running along the length, or long side, of a sheet of paper.
Grain Short – grain running along the width, or short side, of a sheet of paper.
Gripper – the row of clips holding the sheet of paper as it speeds through the press.
Gripper Edge – the leading edge of paper that moves through a printing press or folding machine.

 – a printed picture that uses dots to simulate the tones between light and dark.
Hickey – an irregularity in the ink coverage of a printed area.

 – assembling printed matter in a way so it will print in correct sequence, or the correct number of times on each sheet.
Index Paper – a stiff, inexpensive paper with a smooth finish.

 – to shake a stack of papers, either on a machine or by hand, so that the edges line up.
JPEG – (Joint Photographic Electronic Group) a common standard for compressing image data.

 – to adjust the lateral space between letters.

Laid Finish
 – a paper with a translucent pattern of lines running both parallel to, and across the grain.
Leading – the space, measured in points, between consecutive lines of type.
Letterpress – a relief printing method, resulting in images that are slightly raised.
Linen Finish – a paper finish that is similar to the texture of linen fabric.
Lines Per Inch (lpi) – the number of lines in an inch, as found on the screens in negatives. The more lines per inch, the more detailed the printed image.
Lupe – from the German word for magnifying glass, a lens used by photographers, printers, and designers to examine details in printed materials.

 – all the activities involved in preparing a printing press for a print run.
Matte Coated – a non-glossy coating on paper, generally used to refer to papers having little or no gloss.
Moire – an undesirable, blurry pattern in a half tone.


Offset Printing – currently the most common commercial printing method, in which ink is offset from the printing plate to a second roller then to paper.
Offset – an indirect printing process. The term can also refer to the smudges created when ink from one printed sheet transfers to another.
Opacity – a measure of how opaque a paper is.

 – the number and arrangement of pages in a book. Also, the actual page numbering.
Pallet – a platform with a slatted bottom, used to hold and ship cartons of paper stacked on top of each other.
Pantone Matching System (pms) – the most widely used system for specifying colors.
Parchment – a writing substance made from the skin of animals.
PDF – (Portable Document File) a proprietary format developed by Adobe Systems for the transfer of designs across multiple computer platforms.
Perfect Binding – a book binding process where pages are glued together and directly to the cover of the book. The appearance is of a flat spine on the end of the book such as a paperback book.
Pica – 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.
Plate – a thin sheet of metal that carries the printing image on a press.
PMS color – see Pantone Matching System.
Point – in measurements of the thickness of paper, one point is 1/1000 or .001 inches; measurements of the size of type, one point is 1/72 inch.
PPI – paper per inch, or the number of sheets in a one-inch stack of paper; used to describe the bulk of a paper.
Preflight – check a file for any problems before sending to print.
Prepress – the various printing-related services performed before printing.
Press Proof – a test printing of a subject prior to the final production run. Press proofs are generally printed on the paper stock that will be used for the finished project. A few sheets are run as a final check before printing the entire job.
Process Colors – the four colors used to print full-color images on paper: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.


Ream – a package containing 500 sheets of printing paper.
Registration – the alignment of inks in a printing job.
RGB – Red Green Blue, the colors used by a computer monitor to create color images on the screen.

Saddle Stitch
 – a book binding process where pages are stapled together through the spine of the book. Traditionally performed on V shaped saddle.
Sans Serif – a type face that has no tails or curled points (serifs) at the ends.
Scoring – pressing a channel into a sheet of paper to allow it to fold more easily.
Script – a type face that mimics the appearance of hand written text.
Self Cover – a booklet having a cover made of the same paper as the inside or text pages.
Serif – tails or curled points at the ends of letters in a typeface.
Sheet-fed Press – a press that prints single sheets of paper, rather than a continuous roll or web of paper.
Sheetwise – a means of printing both sides of a sheet of paper on a press, in which one side is printed, then the printed sheets are turned over and the other side is printed, with the sheets retaining the same gripper edge.
Signature – the collated pages of one folded and trimmed form, making up one section of a bound book.
Skid – a platform built with a solid wood bottom, for holding stacks of paper not packed in cartons. Paper may be ordered in skids or cartons.
Spot Color – single color applied to printing when process color is not necessary (i.e. one, two and three color printing).
Spot Varnish – see varnish.
Spread (1) – a design that encompasses two or more facing pages (i.e. the center spread in the morning newspaper)
Spread (2) – spreading the ink beyond the edge of an object so that there is no gap between it and the next colored object. “Choke and Spread” are common methods of trapping elements of a printing job.
Swatch Book – a booklet containing ink samples.

Tag Paper
 – a heavy utility grade of paper, usually used to print tags.
Tensile Strength – a measure of how likely a paper is to break when pulled at opposite ends, in opposite directions.
Text Paper – premium uncoated printing paper of fine quality, manufactured in weights suitable for the text of books or brochures.
Thermography – a finishing applied after printing that creates the raised effect of engraved printing.
Thickness – the thickness of a single piece of paper, as measured in thousandths of an inch, called “caliper.”
TIFF – (Tagged Image File Format) a computer graphics format.
Tint – to vary a color by adding white. Also, a very light or delicate variation of a color.
Tooth – paper’s surface roughness, a characteristic that allows it to take up ink.
Trapping – the very slight overlapping of adjacent colors to avoid gaps where colors should touch, gaps created by the slight movement of the paper on the press.
Trim Size – the final size of a printed piece once it’s been cut to specification.
Trimming – cutting paper after printing to make all sheets a specified size.

UV Coating
 – a very slick, glossy coating applied to the printed paper surface and dried on press with ultraviolet (UV) light.

 – a coating printed on top of a printed sheet to protect it, add a finish, and/or add a tinge of color. An entire sheet may be varnished, or certain areas may be spot varnished to add emphasis.
Vellum – an uncoated paper finish that is fairly even, but not quite as even as a smooth finish.

 – a translucent mark in fine papers, imparted during manufacture, that identifies the paper.
Web – a roll of paper.
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.
Weight – the tonnage or poundage of a quantity of paper. Usually paper weight is expressed as “gsm” or grams per square meter.
Work and Tumble – a method of printing, where an image is printed on one side of the paper and then the paper is flipped over and the same image is printed on the other side of the paper, changing the gripper edge to the opposite side.
Work and Turn – a method of printing, where an image is printed on one side of the paper and then the paper is flipped over and the same image is printed on the other side of the paper, keeping the same gripper edge.
Wove Finish – uncoated paper that has an even finish with slight toothiness.



Z Fold – a method of folding paper so it resembles the letter “Z”. Maps are usually folded this way.

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