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Print and Design Glossary

Print and Design Glossary

For your convenience, below is a glossary of printing and design terms to use when creating your next direct mail or any other print marketing campaign. 

Accordion Fold: Bindery term, two or more parallel folds which open like an accordion.
Acrobat: Acrobat is part of a set of applications developed by Adobe to create and view PDF files. Acrobat is used to create the PDF files, and the freeware Acrobat Reader is used to read the PDF files.

Artifact: A visible defect.

Back Up: Printing the second side of a sheet already printed on one side.
Backbone: That portion of the binding, which connects the front of the book with the back of the book; also called “back”.
Baking: A term given to the procedure of drying coatings onto papers.
Bind: To fasten sheets or signatures with wire, thread, glue, or by other means.
Bindery: The finishing department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.
Bleed: Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet after trimming.
Bleed or Bleeding Edge: When a page or a cover design extends to and off the edge of the paper it is called a “bleed”. In print design, the artwork or block of color must extend off the edge of the page. The artwork or block of color is then printed on larger-size paper. Then the printed page is trimmed to the desired size.
Brochure: A pamphlet that is bound in booklet form.

Camera Ready: A term given to any copy, artwork etc., that is prepared for photographic reproduction.
Carbonless: Pressure sensitive writing paper that does not use carbon.
CMYK: Stands for the colors Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. In print design, colors are defined as a percentage of each of these 4 colors. For example, the CMYK abbreviation for the color black would be 0-0-0-100. In contrast, display devices (i.e. computer monitors) typically define colors using RGB.
Coated Stock: Any paper that has a mineral coating applied after the paper is made, giving the paper a smoother finish.
Collate: A finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order.
Color Separations: The process of preparing artwork, photographs, transparencies, or computer generated art for printing by separating into the four primary printing colors.
Compression: A method of packing data in order to save disk storage space or download time. JPEGs are generally compressed graphics files. Compression is a technique to make a file or a data stream smaller for faster transmission or to take up less storage space.
Copy: All furnished material or disc used in the production of a printed product.
Cover Paper: A heavy printing paper used to cover books, make presentation folders, etc.
Crop Marks: Markings at edges of original or on guide sheet to indicate the area desired in reproduction with negative or plate trimmed (cropped) at the markings.
Crop: To eliminate a portion of the art or copy as indicated by crop marks.
Cutter: Machine for accurately cutting stacks of paper to desired dimensions...can also be used to crease. Also trims out final bound books’ top size (soft cover).
Cyan: One of four standard process colors. The blue color.

Die: Design, letters or shapes, cut into metal (mostly brass) for stamping book covers or embossing. An engraved stamp used for impressing an image or design.
Die Cutting: A method of using sharp steel ruled stamps or rollers to cut various shapes i.e. labels, boxes, image shapes, either post press or in line. The process of cutting paper in a shape or design by the use of a wooden die or block in which are positioned steel rules in the shape of the desired pattern.
Digital Proof: Color separation data is digitally stored and then exposed to color photographic paper creating a picture of the final product before it is actually printed.
DPI: Stands for dots per inch. DPI specifies the resolution of an output device, such as a printer or printing press machine. Print resolution usually runs from 300-1200 dots per inch on a Laser Printer and 125-225 dots per inch for photographic images on a print brochure. (For information on input device measurements see ppi.)
Drill: The actual drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding.
Drop Shadow: A drop shadow gives an image depth by creating a shading offset behind a selected image.
Dull Finish: Any matte finished paper.

Emboss: Embossing a graphic image adds dimension to it by making the image appear as if it were carved as a projection from a flat background.
Embossing: To raise in relief a design or letters already printed on card stock or heavy paper by an uninked block or die. In rubber and plastic plate making the process is usually done by heat.
Estimate: The form used by the printer to calculate the project for the print buyer. This form contains the basic parameters of the project including size, quantity, colors, bleeds, photos etc.
Export: To save a file in a different format (that of another program). For example, many Adobe Photoshop files are exported to become GIF or JPEG files.

4-Color-Process: The process of combining four basic colors to create a printed color picture or colors composed from the basic four colors. Finish: The surface quality of paper.
Foils: Papers that have a surface resembling metal.
Foil Emboss: Foil stamping & embossing an image on paper with a die.
Foil Stamping: Using a die to place a metallic or pigmented image on paper.
Folder: Machine used to fold signatures down into sections.
Font: A font is a complete set of characters in a particular size and style of type. This includes the letter set, the number set, and all of the special character and diacritical marks you get by pressing the shift, option, or command/control keys. For example, Times NewRoman Bold Italic is one font, and Times NewRoman Bold is another font. Times NewRoman is a single typeface.
FTP: Stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP allows you to copy or send files (HTML-documents, graphic images, spreadsheets) from one computer to another via the Internet.

Gang: Getting the most out of a printing press by using the maximum sheet size to print multiple images or jobs on the same sheet. A way to save money.
Gate Fold: A sheet that folds where both sides fold toward the gutter in overlapping layers.
GIF: Stands for Graphics Interchange Format. GIF images are the most widely used graphic format on the web. GIF images display up to 256 colors.
Gloss: A shiny look reflecting light.
Gradient: A gradient is a gradual transition of colors. Many metallic images are gradients. Web images that use gradient fills as a special effect should be saved in a JPEG rather than a GIF format.
Grayscale: An application of black ink (for print) or the color black (for the screen) that simulates a range of tones. Grayscale images have no hue (color). In print design, a grayscale graphic image appears to be black, white, and shades of gray, but it only uses a single color ink.

Halftone: Converting a continuous tone to dots for printing.
Hue: The actual color of an object. Hue is measured as a location on a color wheel, expressed in degrees. Hue is also understood as the names of specific colors, like blue, red, yellow, etc.

IBC: Inside back cover.
IFC: Inside front cover.
Image Area: Portion of paper on which ink can appear.
Imposition: Arrangement of pages so that they print correctly on a press sheet and the pages are in proper order when the sheets are folded.
Impression: Product resulting from one cycle of printing machine. The pressure of the image carrier, whether it be the type, plate or blanket, when it contacts the paper.
Imprint: Adding copy to a previously printed page.
Indicia: Markings pre-printed on mailing envelopes to replace the stamp.
Inserts: Extra printed pages inserted loosely into printed pieces.

Job Number: A number assigned to a printing project used for record keeping and job tracking. Also used to retrieve old jobs for reprints or reworking by customer.
JPEG: Abbreviation for Joint Photographic Experts Group. File format for full-color and black-and-white graphic images. JPEG images allow for more colors than GIF images and are usually smaller in size.


Laminate: To cover with film, to bond or glue one surface to another.
Layout: A rendition that shows the placement of all the elements, roughs, thumbnails etc., of the final printed piece before it goes to print.
Lines per inch: The number of rows of dots per inch in a halftone.
Linen: A paper that emulates the look and texture of linen cloth.
Logotype: A personalized type or design symbol for a company or product.

Magenta: Process red, one of the basic colors in process color.
Makeready: All the activities required to prepare a press for printing.
Match Print: Photographic proof made from all color flats and form composite proof showing color quality as well as accuracy, layout, and imposition before plates are made.
Matte finish: Dull paper or ink finish, no coating.

Natural: A term to describe papers that have a color similar to that of wood; also called cream, off-white or ivory.

OBC: Outside back cover.
OFC: Outside front cover.
Offsetting: Using an intermediate surface used to transfer ink. Also, an unpleasant happening when the images of freshly printed sheets transfer images to each other.
Opacity: The amount of show-through on a printed sheet. The more opacity or the thicker the paper the less show-through. (The thicker/heavier the paper the higher the cost.)
Opaque: A quality of paper that allows relatively little light to pass through.
Outline: In graphic design, tracing of the outer edge of text or a graphic image. If the outline is feathered, then the effect is generally referred to as a glow.
Overrun or Overs: Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + - 10 % to represent a completed order.)

Page Count: Total number of pages in a book including blanks.
Pattern Carbon: Special carbon paper used in business forms that only transfers in certain areas.
PDF: Stands for Portable Document Format. Created by Adobe Systems in its software program Adobe Acrobat as a universal browser. Files can be downloaded via the web and viewed page by page, provided the user is computer has installed the necessary plug-in which can be downloaded from Adobe’s own web site.
Perf Marks: Markings usually dotted lines at edges showing where perforations should occur.
Perfect Bind: Binding process where backs of sections are cut off, roughened and glued together, and rung in a cover.
Perfecting: Printing both sides of the paper (or other material) on the same pass through the printing machine.
Perforating: Punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper or cardboard to facilitate tearing along a desired line.
PMS: The abbreviated name of the Pantone Color Matching System.
Primary Colors: In printing the four primary colors are cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black.
Process blue: The blue or cyan color in process printing.
Process colors: Cyan (blue), magenta (process red), yellow (process yellow), black (process black).
Process Inks: Printing inks, usually in sets of four colors. The most frequent combination is yellow, magenta, cyan, and black, which are printed, one over another in that order, to obtain a colored print with the desired hues, whites, blacks, and grays.
Proof: Impression from composed type or blocks, taken for checking and correction, from a lithographic plate to check accuracy of layout, type matter, tone and color reproduction.


Register: To position print in the proper position in relation to the edge of the sheet and to other printing on the same sheet.
Resolution: The crispness of detail or fineness of grain in an image. Screen resolution is measured in dots by lines (for example, 640 x 350); printer resolution is measured in dpi (for example, 300 dpi).
Reverse: The opposite of what you see. Printing the background of an image. For example; type your name on a piece of paper. The reverse of this would be a black piece of paper with a white name.
RGB: Stands for the colors Red-Green-Blue. In web design and design for computer monitors, colors are defined in terms of a combination of these three colors. For example, the RGB abbreviation for the color blue shown below is 0-0-255. In contrast, print designers typically define colors using CMYK.
Right Angle Fold: A term that denotes folds that are 90 degrees to each other.
Roll Fold: A type of fold where the piece is folded inward at one end and then folded inward again one or more times. It is as if you are rolling the piece up.
Royalty-Free Photos or Images: Photos, graphic images, or other intellectual property that are sold for a single standard fee and may be used repeatedly by the purchaser. Typically with royalty-free clauses, the company that sells you the images still owns all of the rights to the images, and they are allowed for use only by the purchaser (i.e., the same images cannot be used by another company or individual without repurchase).

Saddle stitch: Stitching where the wire staples pass through the spine from the outside and are clinched in the center. Only used with folded sections, either single sections or two or more sections inset to form a single section.
Saturation: The color intensity of an image. An image high in saturation will appear to be very bright. An image low in saturation will appear to be duller and more neutral. An image without any saturation is also referred to as a grayscale image.
Score: A crease put on paper to help it fold better.
Self-cover: Using the same paper as the text for the cover.
Side stitch: Stitching where the wire staples pass through the pile of sections or leaves gathered upon each other and are clinched on the underside.
Signature: A sheet of printed pages which when folded become a part of a book or publication.
Slight Gloss: A term that is used to describe a slight coating on paper stock. This is the way the paper is milled.
Spine: The binding edge of a book or publication.
Spiral Bind: A binding whereby a wire or plastic is spiraled through holes punched along the binding side.
Spot Color: Refers to a method of specifying and printing colors in which each color is printed with its own ink. In contrast, process color printing uses four inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to produce all other colors. Spotcolor printing is effective when the printed matter contains only one to three different colors, but it becomes prohibitively expensive for more colors.
Spot Varnish: Varnish used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet.
Substrate: Any surface on which printing is done.

Text Paper: Grades of uncoated paper with textured surfaces.
Thumbnail: A small version of a graphic image.
TIFF: (Tagged Image File Format)for digital gray-scale halftones, a device-independent graphics file format. TIFF files can be used on IBM/compatible or Macintosh computers, and may be output to PostScript printers.
Trapping: The ability to print one ink over the other.

Under-run: Production of fewer copies than ordered. See over run.
Up: Printing two or three up means printing multiple copies of the same image on the same sheet.
UV coating: Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly.

Varnish: A clear liquid applied to printed surfaces for looks and protection. (UV coating looks better.)
Vector Graphic: A graphic image drawn in shapes and lines, called paths. Images created in Illustrator and Freehand (graphic design software) are vector graphics. They are usually exported to be bitmap images.

Waste: A term for planned spoilage.
Watermark: A distinctive design created in paper at the time of manufacture that can be easily seen by holding the paper up to a light.
Wire Stitching Or Stapling: To fasten together sheets, signatures, or sections with wire staples. 3 methods... saddle stitching, side stitching, and stabbing.


Yellow: One of the basic colors in process color.

Z Fold: A paper fold represented by back and forth folds into three panels.