Get definitions for common printing terms.
Print Marketing 101: How to plan, design, write marketing materials, marketing tips
Print Marketing 101: How to plan, design, write marketing materials, marketing tips
Printing online: how to order four color, commerical printing


Commercial Printing:  How to Speak the Language


If you're not a commercial printing insider, don't be intimidated by the jargon used by professionals in the printing services business.  The "language of printing" is actually pretty simple --  if you understand a few, key definitions.



The ability of paper to absorb liquids like ink and aqueous coating.

Change in copy or specifications after production has begun.


A water based coating laid down after the ink is applied. This provides more pop to the images while protecting them from scratches and smearing when being handled.

Author's Corrections:
Also know as "AC's". Changes and additions in copy after it has been typeset.

Back Up:
Printing the second side of a sheet already printed on one side.

To fasten sheets or signatures with wire, thread, glue, or by other means.

The finishing department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.

Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet after trimming. To print a piece that bleeds, the art must be prepared to extend an 1/8 of an inch past the page's final trim line. Art and images can bleed off one side or off all four sides of a page.

Break for Color:
Also known as a color break. To separate mechanically or by software the parts of a design to be printed in different colors.

The brilliance or reflectance of paper.


Paper with coating on one side only.


Paper with coating on both sides.


Acronym representing the four colors used in four color process or full color printing. Cyan (Blue) Magenta (Red) Yellow and Black.

Coated Paper:

Paper with a surface coating ranging from extremely shiny to sedate and dull. Coated papers have higher opacity (less see through) and better ink holdout resulting in brighter color and greater detail than uncoated paper. All non- custom jobs at Price Right Print are estimated on coated paper.

A finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order.

Color Matching System:
A system of formulated ink colors used for communicating color also know as Pantone Matching System.

Color Separations:
The process of separating art and images into four layers of CMYK which are then burned into plates and printed on top of each other on press.

Commerical Printing:

This is a widely used technique in which the inked image on a printing plate is imprinted on a rubber cylinder and then transferred (offset) to paper or other material.

Continuous-Tone Copy:
Illustrations, photographs or computer files that contain gradient tones from black to white or light to dark.

The range between an image’s darkest and lightest areas. The light tones are highlights and the dark tones are shadows.


All furnished text used in the production of a printed product.

The cutting out or elimination of an unwanted portion of an image. This can be done to accommodate the size of your piece or too remove unwanted objects within your image.

Crop Marks:
A small mark outside the printed or “live” area to show how the product will be trimmed.


Artwork that continues across and connects two facing pages.

One of four standard process colors. The blue color.

The degree of color or darkness of an image or photograph.

Die Cutting:
Curing images in or out of paper.

Direct to Plate:

The printing process which allows color printing directly from an electronic file without the need for film. This is the method used by all Priced Right Print.

An element of halftones. Using a loupe you will see that printed pictures are made of many dots.

Dot Gain or Spread:

A term used to explain the difference in size between the dot on film to paper.

Dots Per Inch (DPI):

Measuring how many dots can fit into one inch of an image. The higher the number of dots, the sharper the image will be.

A rough layout of a printed piece showing position and finished size.

A halftone picture made up of two printed colors.

EPS (Encapsulated Post Script File):

The most versatile file format available. An EPS file can contain a combination of text, graphics and images.

To cover a printed page with ink, varnish, or plastic coating.

Four Color Process/Four Color Printing/Full Color Printing:
The process of combining the four primary colors to create a printed color picture or colors composed from the basic four colors.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol):

A method used to transfer or copy files between computers over the internet.

Gang (Gang Run):
Using the maximum sheet size to print multiple jobs on the same sheet.

Gatefold: Two or more parallel folds on a sheet of paper with the end panels folding inward.

Stages of reproduction from original copy. A first generation reproduction yields the best quality.

GIF: (Graphic Interchange Format):

An imaging method which uses pixels to electronically recreate an image.

A shiny look reflecting light.

A series of small ink dots used to reproduce a photographic image.

Hard Copy:
The output of a computer printer, or typed text sent for typesetting.

Reoccurring unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, dried ink.

High Resolution:

The resolution of an image indicates the number of dots per inch. High resolution is 300 dpi (dots per inch) and above.

Heavy and Light Coverage:

Refers to the amount of ink laid down on the press sheet. If most of the sheet will have ink on it, and there are large areas of “solid” color, it is considered to have heavy coverage. Light coverage generally does not include extensive areas of solid color.

Image Area:
Portion of paper on which ink can appear.

Putting an image on paper.

Adding copy to a previously printed page.

Postal information place on a printed product.


A standardized image compression mechanism. Because it compresses the image and makes it smaller for easier storing and transmitting files, it can also lessen the quality.

A magnifying glass used to review a printed image, plate or film.

Low Resolution:

The resolution of an image indicates the number of dots per inch. Low resolution defines anything from 72 dpi to 250 dpi. Images created at these resolutions will not reproduce well and will lower the quality of your finished piece by making it look grainy or broken up. An example of 72 dpi are images taken from a website.

Process red, one of the basic colors in four-color process printing.

All the activities required to prepare a press for printing.

Matte Finish:
Dull paper or ink finish.


This is also called a “Go By”.  It is the handmade replica that sometimes accompanies the file to the printer.

Offset Printing:

A printing technique in which ink is spread on a metal plate with etched images, then transferred to an intermediary surface such as a rubber blanket, and finally applied to paper by pressing the paper against the intermediary surface.

An intermediate surface used to transfer ink. Also, an undesirable result, in which the images of freshly printed sheets transfer images to each other.

The amount of show-through on a printed sheet. The more opacity or the thicker the paper the less show-through.

Over-run or Overs:
Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + - 10 % to represent a completed order.)

PDF (Portable Document File):

A standard file format used by the printing industry.

Page Count:
Total number of pages in a book including blanks.

Perfect Bind:
A type of binding that glues the edge of sheets to a cover like a telephone book.

The abbreviated name of the Pantone Color Matching System.

The computer language most recognized by printing devices.

Process Blue:
The blue or cyan color in four-color process printing.

Process Colors:
Cyan (blue), magenta (process red), yellow (process yellow), and black (process black).

Ragged Left:
Type that is justified to the right margin; the line lengths vary on the left.

Five hundred sheets of paper.

To make sure all four process colors are in specific alignment with each other when they print on the press sheet. Also shows the position of page content and folding area.

Register Marks:
Cross-hair lines or marks on film, plates, and paper that guide strippers, platemakers, pressmen, and bindery personnel in processing a print order from start to finish.


Red, Green and Blue. These are the primary colors of light as seen on a computer monitor. They must be converted to CMYK when printing images on paper.

Saddle Stitch:
Binding a booklet or magazine with staples in the seam where it folds.

A crease put on paper to help it fold better.

Using the same paper for the interior of a piece as is used for its cover.

Printing on one side of a sheet that can be seen on the other side of the sheet.

Side Stitch:
Binding by stapling along one side of a sheet.

A sheet of printed pages which when folded becomes a part of a book or publication.


A precise description of a print order.

The binding edge of a book or publication.

Planned paper waste that is part of all printing operations.

The material to be printed.

Text Paper:
Grades of uncoated paper with textured surfaces.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format):

Very commonly used to transport colors or gray-scale images into page layout applications. Tiff files are very large and of very high quality. The images are bitmapped which can cause resolution problems if images need to be increased in size.  

A shade of a single color or combined colors.


The overlapping of two colors printing side by side. This prevents a white gap between the two colors.

Trim Marks:
Similar to crop or register marks. These marks show where to trim the printed sheet.

Trim Size:
The final size of one printed image after the last trim is made.

Production of fewer copies than ordered. See over-run.


The system in which files from one computer are transferred to a designated server site.

Warm color:

A color with a reddish or yellowish cast.


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