Glossary of Printing Terms
Attaching pages and covers using glue, staples, threads, or
BINDING - PERFECT BOUND
A method of binding magazines and other publications in
which the pages are trimmed on all four sides, then glued
together, and to the cover, along the backbone edge.
BINDING - SADDLE STITCH
Method of binding publications that involves folding two-page
spreads and binding them together in the gutter using
staples, thread, or other means.
An image that runs to the edge of a trimmed page or a diecut.
A bleed is printed with excess color beyond the edges of the
final image area to allow for variations in trimming or cutting.
Mechanicals, art, or copy ready to be photographed as part
of the prepress process. The process of photographing copy
has largely been replaced by electronic page composition.
CMYK - The acronym for the four basic
ink colors used in four-color process printing: Cyan,
Magenta, Yellow and Black.
RGB - Abbreviation for the color system
that uses the additive primary colors red, green, and
blue to display images. Monitors and televisions display
colors as RGB combinations. Images saved in RGB format
must be converted to CMYK for most proofing and printing
COLOR SEPARATED LASERS
The process of printing a black and white laser for each color
found in a document. E.g. a four-color process document will
result in four lasers when color separated: cyan, magenta,
Color separation is the breaking down of a full-color image
into the four basic colors used in process-color printing.
Color originals are exposed to laser light scanning that,
through the use of four color filters can “read”
and record the amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow and black
that is present. The recorded data is converted into digital
form and saved to a computer for further processing and placement
into page layout programs.
COMPUTER-TO-PLATE or DIRECT-TO-PLATE
A means of creating printing plates in which a digital page
file is read directly by the platemaking device which then
produces the plate.
Written material to be printed. Copy also includes art in
The process of cutting specific shapes from paper or board
using a specially made metal cutting tool.
A simulation of a printed piece. For example, individual proofs
of each page of a publication might be trimmed and bound to
simulate one copy of the final printed product. Creating a
dummy allows a customer to see the final product before incurring
the expense of full-scale production.
When a single photograph is printed using two ink colors it
becomes a duotone. The most common two-color combinations
for duotones are black plus a color. Duotones can also be
created using two PMS ink colors.
Film is photo-sensitized acetate sheet that is exposed to
light to capture an image. Film is solid black before exposure.
After exposure and processing, film image areas become transparent
or clear. Film is used to make “film-based” proofs
and printing plates.
The dimensions of a book or folded piece after it has been
bound or folded into its finished state.
The dimensions of a book or brochure before it is folded into
its final bound size.
FOLD – BARREL FOLD
Barrel folding is folding a sheet more than one time in the
FOLD - GATEFOLD
An extra-wide page of a publication that is folded to fit
within the trim of the publication.
A specific combination of typeface and type size. For example,
Times Roman 10 point bold is a font, different from Times
Roman 12 point bold.
FONT - SANS SERIF: A term that describes
type that has no feet or decoration at the ends of parts
of letters. ie. Arial
FONT - SERIF: A term used to describe
type that has feet or decorations at the ends of letter
parts. ie. Times Roman
The tonal range from very light gray (1% dot) to solid black
(100% dot) in increments of 1% ink coverage.
The reproduction of continuous-tone artwork, such as photography
or pencil sketches, through a digital screening process that
converts shaded images into solid ink dots of various sizes
and concentrations. A few, tiny dots produces highlight areas.
A heavy concentration of large dots produces mid-tone and
EPS - Encapsulated PostScript. A file that
is in a particular form of the PostScript language, which
describes the appearance of a printed page.The letters
“.eps” are often seen as a file name suffix.
GIF – Graphics Interchange Format. One
of the two most common file formats for images displayed
on the Internet, GIF images are compressed using a proprietary
formula and carry the file suffix “.gif”.
JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group. A
file format for images to be transmitted or displayed
on the Internet. JPEG format is one of the two most common
ways to display images on the Internet. Files usually
carry the suffix “.jpg”. JPEG (pronounced
jay-peg) files are compressed by selecting one of several
compression formulas, depending on the size and quality
desired in the final format.
PDF - Portable Document Format. A format (Adobe
Acrobat) for digital files which allows them to be transported
among different devices, platforms, and software applications.
BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO EDIT, PDF files are
used to transport final versions of files. They carry
the suffix “.pdf”.
PICT - An early format for saving image files.
PICT (short for picture) files no longer work well on
TIFF - Tagged Image File Format. A common file
format for exchange of graphic files. They carry the suffix
RASTER IMAGES - A method of representing characters
or graphics by defining the image as a grid of pixels.
These images are often photographs manipulated in Adobe
VECTOR IMAGES - A method of representing characters
or graphics by defining the edges of shapes in the image.
These images are often line art and logos manipulated
in Adobe Illustrator.
Device that produces output as film or plates from digital
The process of placing pages in the correct position on the
film and printing plate so that the printing, folding, and
binding operations result in a publication with the right
margins and with correctly ordered pages.
U.S. Postal Service information that is printed on a piece
to be mailed.
A type of printing in which ink is sprayed onto the substrate
through tiny computer-controlled nozzles.
A piece, printed separately from a publication, that is placed
in the publication during the binding operation.
A type of printing, declining in use, in which ink is applied
to a plate containing a raised cut of the subject to be printed.
Ink is then transferred from the plate to the substrate. Also
used for embossing and foil stamping.
The printing process based on the theory that water and oil
will not mix. The lithographic printing process uses a planographic
plate to control where the printed image will appear. This
plate is sensitized to be ink-receptive in the image areas
and water-receptive in the non-image areas. After the plate
is placed on the printing press, ink is applied to the surface
of the plate and stays in the image-designated areas. A miniscule
amount of a water solution is applied to, and stays in, the
non-image areas of the plate. This process of keeping the
ink area separated from the water area has an accuracy of
1/1000 of an inch.
Printing plates that are created with printer’s film
negatives are negative-processed printing plates. Negative-processing
is also used to make film-based proofs for clients to review
before printing begins.
NUMBER OF PAGES
This is different from how many sheets of paper. A single
piece of paper has two sides and therefore is two pages.
The tendency of a material to prevent light from being transmitted
through it. This term is a characteristic of paper: high opacity
prevents showthrough. Thick papers are more opaque than thin
papers; rough papers more opaque than smooth; groundwood more
opaque than free sheet.
Output is the end result of converting digital art files into
prepress materials used for printing production. Imagesetters
output film negatives or film positives (used to make printing
plates). Platesetters directly output printing plates without
the film intermediary.
OUTPUT READY DISK
A complete disk not requiring further production other then
to "rip" to film or plate if on a digital press.
It should also contain folders for all of your images and
Plates are the carriers of the images to be printed. One printing
plate is required for each ink color printed. Metal plates
are used to produce high quality, close-register printed images.
Lesser quality plates can also be made out of plastic and
PMS INK COLORS
PMS is the acronym for Pantone Matching System and was developed
by the Pantone Company for color identification. The system
assists clients, designers and printers to communicate about
color. Each PMS color has a unique number and formula for
ink mixing. PMS colors are also referred to as “spot”
The four basic ink colors used in process-color printing are
cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). These colors are semi-transparent
inks that “process” with each other when overprinted
in predetermined amounts. E.g., When cyan overprints yellow,
it produces shades of green. When yellow overprints magenta,
it produces shades of orange. Controlled screen tint combinations
of the four basic ink colors allow the full spectrum of colors
to be produced on a printing press.
PROCESS COLOR SEPARATIONS
Color separation is the breaking down of a full-color image
into the four basic ink colors used in process-color printing.
The making of a color separation involves the use of a laser
light scanner which, through the use of four color filterings,
can “read” and record the amounts of cyan, magenta,
yellow and black that is present in any particular area of
a color original. The recording of this data is converted
into digital form and saved to a computer for further processing
and placement into page layout programs.
PRINTING - OFFSET
The term offset is often used interchangeably with lithography.
In fact, lithography is the whole printing process (based
on the theory that oil and water don’t mix). Offset
is a step used within the lithographic process. Offset is
a type of printing in which ink is first delivered to a plate,
then transferred to a blanket, before being applied to the
PRINTING - SHEET-FED
Sheet-fed printing sends pre-cut sheets of paper through the
printing press rather than paper fed from rolls.
PRINTING - WEB
Web printing feeds paper through the printing press from a
roll rather than using pre-cut sheets.
A representation of the content of an element to be printed
that predicts to some degree how the print will appear. Proofs
may represent color, content, dot structure, and other characteristics
of an element to be printed. Different types of proofs vary
widely in how accurately they predict the appearance of the
PROOF - ANALOG COLOR
Proofs created using film to carry and transfer the image
to the proofing sheet.
PROOF - BLUELINE
A film-based proof that shows type, graphic images, page
layout, folding, and color breaks-but not in color. Bluelines
are most often used for one- or two-color printing orders.
While the images on the proof appear only in shades of
blue, they still show extensive detail in image contrast,
shading, and halftone resolution.
PROOF - COLOR KEY
A film-based proof that uses colored acetate overlay sheets
to show four-color process printing and 21 other custom
ink colors. Each colored overlay sheet is exposed to light
using a film negative to control where the printed image
will fall. Each overlay is registered with the other colors
to be printed and laminated to white proofing paper. Color
Keys are not as accurate as other color proofing systems
because the color is being viewed through plastic carrier
sheets rather than as color directly applied to proofing
PROOF - DIGITAL
Proofs created directly from digital art files-not film.
Examples of digital proofs are toner-based black and white
or color lasers or ink-jet prints.
PROOF - FILM
Film-based proofs are created using printer’s film
negatives output from an imagesetter. Film-based proofs
are highly accurate representations of what the final
printed product will look like and are shown to clients
for final review and approval. After approval. the film
negatives are used to make the printing plates. Examples
of film proofs are Blueline, WaterProof, Color Key, and
PROOF - LASER
Laser proofs are black and white or color digital proofs.
They can be printed as composite or color-separated sheets.
Composite laser proofs show all colors that will print
on one sheet. Color-separated laser proofs show each ink
color to be printed on its own separate sheet. E.g. a
four-color process document will result in four lasers
when color separated: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black.
PROOF - MATCHPRINT
Trade name for a 3M process for making high-quality color
proofs from film. A colored film is mounted on a board
and exposed to the film containing images to be printed.
This is repeated for each color to be printed to produce
a full-color proof.
PROOF - SOFT
Soft Proofing, Also known as digital proofing or PDF proofing;
electronic proofs (usually in the form of PDF) that are
transmitted via e-mail or other electronic method to authors
and proofreaders for on-screen proofreading and correction
using digital markup and comment tools. Pages or image
are viewed on a monitor. Because of the wide variety of
ways that different monitors and different platforms display
color, this isn’t the best representation of the
final colors coming off a press.
How many do you need? It is a good idea to list 3 quantities,
as the unit pricing is better when the press is running.
The quantification of output quality designated in dots per
inch (dpi) when applied to paper output, and in lines per
inch (lpi) when applied to film or plate output. Laser printers
commonly hold resolutions from 300 to 1200 dpi. Film output
units (imagesetters) use a resolution specified based on the
surface type of papers to be printed. Newsprint can hold a
resolution from 65 to 100 line screen. Uncoated papers typically
use 133 to 150 line screens. Coated papers can hold resolutions
of 175 to 200+ line screens. Higher resolution means a sharper,
more detailed image with a larger digital file size.
Another name for PMS ink colors. PMS is the acronym for Pantone
Matching System and was developed by the Pantone Company for
color identification. The system assists clients, designers
and printers to communicate about color. Each PMS color has
a unique number and formula for ink mixing.
SPOT COLOR SEPARATIONS
The process of printing a black and white laser for each spot
(PMS) color found in a document. E.g. A document designed
using PMS 185 red and PMS 286 blue will result in two lasers
when color separated.
STOCK - TEXT
A lighter weight stock. If there were not a separate cover,
then would be the only paper used (i.e. a "self cover")
or if there is a separate heavier cover printed then this
would refer to the inside paper.
STOCK - COVER
Heavier card type stock and also used for the outside 4 pages
of your printed item, should it be different from the text.
If it is not, then your printed item is a "self cover".
The process of placing characters and images required for
printing in the proper position for use on press. The term
derives from the largely obsolete technology that required
setting actual pieces of type in a bed to produce required
text. While the term is still in use, today it usually refers
to typing the proper text, which is then manipulated digitally
and with film to make it usable on press.