Webmart’s Glossary of Printing Terms

Webmart’s Glossary of Printing Terms

Thanks to our friends & colleagues in the UK Printing Industry, we have compiled a list of technical printing terms which you can refer back to if anyone tries to bamboozle and confuse you! It was originally compiled circa 1998, and though we’ve updated some elements from time to time, if you find anything that’s not in the glossary or could do with updating, please let us know and we’ll make the changes.

Hopefully it’ll be a useful guide to people not familiar with print. Don’t forget, printers have been printing since the 15th Century so it’s not surprising you might find much of the terminology a little baffling!

main series of finished printing trimmed sizes in the ISO international paper size range.
A0 – 841 x 1189mm
A1 – 594 x 841mm
A2 – 420 x 594mm
A3 – 297 x 420mm
A4 – 210 x 297mm
A5 – 148 x 210mm
A6 – 105 x 148mm

clear overlay with black and/or colour type.  Used for presenting covers and concepts to client.

Additive Primaries:
in reproduction, red, green and blue; at an equal share of value they produce the sensation of white light.

Adhesive binding: (see also Perfect Binding)
type of threadless binding in which the leaves of a book are held together at the binding edge by glue or synthetic adhesive (see also P.U.R. binding).

Against the Grain:
folding paper at right angles to the grain direction of the paper.

text, graphic and illustrations arranged individually or in any combination for subsequent printing. Artwork is a bit of a misnomer as they are obviously computer-originated these days and supplied as digitised data usually protected through sftp. It then goes to the Repro stage or reprographic colour separation stage to use its full title. This enables the separation to be printed in the four basic printing process colours CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black).

in typesetting, the part of a lower case letter which rises above the main body, as in the letter “d”.

American Standard Code for Information Interchange. This is a standard coding system within the computer industry to convert keyboard input into digital information. It covers all of the printable characters in normal use and control characters such as carriage return and line feed. The full table contains 127 elements.

Author’s Corrections:
corrections made by the author on proofs, that alter the original copy. The cost of making such alterations is charged for, in contrast to printer’s errors or house corrections.

B sizes:
ISO international sizes intended primarily for posters, wall charts and similar items where difference in size of the larger sheets in the A series represents too large a gap.
B0 – 1000 x 1414mm
B1 – 707 x 1000mm
B2 – 500 x 707mm
B3 – 353 x 500mm
B4 – 250 x 353mm
B5 – 176 x 250mm

Backing Up:
printing the reverse side of a sheet already printed on one side.

Binding Editions:
detailed documents, supplied by client, which include binding directions, cover information, ink-jet keys, postage or address information, inserts and wrap information, quantity and mailing dates.

Plate in lithography, a plate used for long runs.  The printing image base is usually copper and the non-printing area is aluminium or stainless steel.

Bind-in Order Forms:
(a.k.a. mail order blanks or MOB’S) binds into the centre of the book or is part of the wrap cover.

in computing, the basic unit of digital information.  It is a contraction of.  BInary digiT (BIT).

Bit Map:
in computer imaging, the electronic representation of a page, indicating the position of every possible spot from 0 to 100 and rest from other document.

Black and White:
originals or reproductions in single colour.

Blade coated mechanical:
Uncoated stock is covered in a wet coating and the excess is removed by a thin flexible metal blade leaving a uniform thin gloss coating on both sides of the paper.

in offset printing, a rubber surfaced fabric that is clamped around a plate cylinder.

when the printed image extends beyond the trim of a page.

Blind Embossing:
a design, which gives a bas-relief effect, without ink.

In binding, to impress or stamp a design upon the cover. The design can be blocked in coloured inks, or metal foil.

a photographic enlargement.

in web-offset lithography, a photoprint made from stripped-up negatives or positives used to proof check the position of an image on the page and imposition generally

Technical term when realising an error has occurred.

Bond Paper:
A grade in writing or printing paper; usually used for letterheads or business forms.

A method of packing finished printed products in which they are not wrapped in parcels but stacked onto pallets, usually turned in equal quantities. Finished pallets are then wrapped in plastic film.

Any sheet in its basic size (not folded or cut); also denotes a newspaper size.

Relative thickness of a sheet or sheets, for example, a bulky paper and a thin paper both of the same weight display different “bulk”.

technical term, usually used before Bollocks when an error first comes to light.

in bookbinding, the covers of a hardbound book.

usually a fall back position when you’re not getting anywhere on press. By either under exposing a new plate (making more dot and therefore colour be there) or over exposing the plate (lessening the dot and therefore colour a press) trying to get an acceptable result. Not ideal but has saved many on occasion.

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (key) subtractive primary colours – used as the fundamental colours in the printing industry.

Coated Stock:
paper having a surface coating which produces a smooth finish.

Cold colour:
in printing, a colour with, a bluish cast.

Colour Correction:
any method, such as masking, dot-etching or scanning, used to improve colour rendition.

Colour Proofing:
this term describes a wide range of techniques which have been developed to reproduce full colour images from film or digital data available, prior to the actual print run; thus allowing the client, colour separation house and printer to view the “proofed” result, prior to the actual print run.

Colour Separation:
in photography, the process of separating colour originals into the primary printing colour components, in negative or positive form.

Concertina fold:
a method of alternate folding, so that when opened out the finished product is folded in a zigzag fashion. Rather like a, er, concertina.

Contact Print:
a photographic print made from a negative or positive in contact with sensitised paper, film or printing plate.

Continuous Tone:
an image which contains gradient tones from black to white.

Contract Proof:
a coloured, hard copy representation of the printed image which will be used to make the final printing plates. The word “contract” comes from the fact that, when signed by the client, a contract is formed, which states that the final printed job should be a close match to the contract proof.

the tonal gradation between the highlights, middle tone and shadows in an original or reproduction.

to eliminate portions of copy or art indicated on an original by cropmarks.

when a photograph crosses gutter from one page to another.

in paper, the distortion of a sheet due to differences in structure or coatings from one side to the other or absorption of moisture on an offset press.

in web offset printing, the cut or print length.

Daylight Studio:
studio shot which uses outdoor light or natural light.

Deckle Edge:
the untrimmed feathery edges of paper formed where the pulp flows against the edge.

Demographic binding:
a way of using client data to ink-jet variable data onto a brochure/catalogue/magazine on the binding line.

a device for measuring the colour density at a specific location on a printed product, either by reflected or transmitted light.

the degree of darkness of an image.

that part of a lower case letter which extends below the main body as in the letter q.

Desktop publishing:
A generic title given to computer typesetting, page composition and image handling.  Apple computers running either Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress are the preferred hardware/software in the industry.

hard sell callouts (i.e. coloured boxes, price points and “extra savings”) designed to call attention to merchandise savings.

the process of using sharp steel rules to cut special shapes.

An intaglio process of printing in which the resultant impression stands out in relief above the surface of the stamped material, either coloured (using inks) or blind (that is, without colour): relief stamping.

Digital Colour Proofs:
an off-press colour proof produced from digital data.

a technique of filling the gap between two pixels with another pixel having an average value of the two to minimise the difference or add detail to smooth the result.

the individual element in both halftones and four colour process printing.

Dot Etching:
in separations, chemically reducing halftone dots to vary the amount of colour to be printed; dot etching on negatives increases colour, dot etching on positives reduces colour.

Dot Gain:
in printing, a defect in which dots print larger than they should, causing darker tones and stronger colours.

The appearance on a printed product of the non-coincidental images obtained at one impression.

Dots Per Inch (dpi):
a measure of resolution on the printed page.

Drawn-on Cover:
a paper book cover which is attached to the sewn book by gluing the spine.

a two-colour halftone reproduction from a one-colour image.

a sample of a proposed job made up with the actual materials and cut to the correct size to show bulk, style of binding etc. Also a complete layout of a job showing position of type matter and illustrations, margins etc. Pain in the arse to every printer known to mankind, and therefore getting them has a similar timescale to that of the Humpback Whale’s gestation period. Unless you find the right printing service provider that is!

Duplex Paper:
a paper with a different colour or finish on each side.

Electrostatic Proofs:
Off press colour proofs produced using coloured toner.

Elliptical Dot:
in halftone photography, elongated dots which give improved gradation of tones particularly in middle tones and vignettes.

impressing an image in relief to attain a raised surface.

Emulsion Side:
the side of film coated with silver halide emulsion.

First Proof.
refers to type proofs which are submitted to the client for approval.

A colloquial way of referring to the accurate position of one colour on top of another on a printed sheet.

Flash Exposure:
in photography, the supplementary exposure given to strengthen the dots in the shadow areas of negatives.

A relief process in which printing is done from rubber or plastic on a web-fed press using liquid inks.

Flying Imprinter:
a press furnished with a special unit which allows for one plate to be changed on a press without stopping the machine. It saves time/waste and therefore cost.

the page number.

in offset lithography, the assembly of pages and other images for printing.

Four-colour Process:
Colour printing by means of three subtractive primary colours (yellows, magenta, cyan) and black superimposed; the colours of the original having been separated by software image processing.

an acronym (Freight On Board) used to detail the location where an item is to ship.

an acronym (For Position Only) used in mechanical presentation to identify the crop specifications on a specific piece of composition.

Galley Proof.
a proof of text before it’s made into pages.

duplicating the same image on a sheet to optimise paper utilisation. Also the way a client feels when the printer blames the repro company or supplied paper if there is a problem.

in binding, the assembling of folded signatures in proper sequence.

lightening of film area; taking down of colour value by a percentage so that type can be surprinted.

GMI Closed loop colour:
GMI are the largest producer of systems that ensure colour consistency at every step of the printing process.

in papermaking, the direction in which most fibre’s lie.

process in which recesses on a printing cylinder are filled with ink and the surplus removed by a blade. The paper contacts the cylinder and ‘lifts’ the ink from the recesses before depositing it on the paper. Generally used for long-run printing, e.g. magazines and catalogues, because of the high cost of the cylinders.

Grey Balance:
the dot values of CMYK that produce a neutral grey.

abbreviation of grams per square metre. A method of indicating the substance of paper or board (whatever the size of the paper/board or number of sheets in the package) on the basis of weight. If unsure about the weight, use a set of paper (or Demi to use the paper name) scales to accurately get it.

essential management tool for indepth analysis of a particular situation to come up with a rational solution, usually confirmed in its efficiency by the passage of time. In particular demand when it comes to press buying decisions.

the blank space or inner margin from printing area to binding.

the reproduction of continuous-tone artwork.

in offset lithography, spots or imperfection in the printing due to such things as dirt on the press, dried ink skin, paper particles, etc.

in printing, the pressure of a type plate or blanket as it comes in contact with paper.

Arrangement of pages in a sequence which will read consecutively when printed sheet is folded.

internally handles the functions of an agency or service.

to align sheets of paper into a compact pile.

in typesetting, the space between two characters.

in artwork, an outline drawing of finished art to indicate the exact shape, position and size for such elements as halftones, line sketches, etc.

Kiss Impression:
in printing, a very light impression, just enough to produce an image on paper.

a plastic film bonded by heat and pressure to a printed sheet for protection.

oblong loose or folded printed sheet, or book, having its long sides at head and foot.

light amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation – a fine beam of light, sometimes with considerable energy, used in imagesetting, colour scanning, copy scanning, platemaking, engraving and cutting and creasing form-making.

a page design or rendering displaying the art and type; completed by a designer or art director upon the instructions of the client.

in composition, rows of dashes or dots to guide the eye across the page; used in tabular work, programs, tables of contents, etc.

in composition, the distance between lines of type, measured in points.

Limp Cover:
a flexible book cover, as distinct from a stiff board cover.

Line Copy:
copy suitable for reproduction without using a halftone screen.

Lithographic printing:
A process in which the printing and non-printing surfaces are on the same plane and the substrate makes contact with the whole surface. The printing part of the surface is treated to receive and transmit ink to the paper, usually via a blanket, the non-printing surface is treating to attract water and thus rejects ink from the ink roller, which touches the surface.

Long grain press:
a press where the longest side of the finished product runs parallel to the grain of the paper.

Loose Insert:
A piece of paper or card laid between the leaves of a brochure/magazine and not secured in anyway.

abbreviation for a quantity of 1,000 sheets of paper.

in printing, all work done to set up a press for printing.

a record of all outgoing merchandise.

in colour separation photography, an intermediate negative or positive used in colour correction.

Matt Finish:
dull paper finish, without gloss or luster.

Media code:
letter designated to identify each book and each version; client supplies them and lists them in the binding edition.

Machine finished (MF):
any finish obtained on a papermaking machine. It can refer to either the finish on the sheet as it leaves the last drying cylinder of the machine, or the finish given to a sheet by calendering, but on machine.

Middle Tones:
the tonal range between highlights and shadows of an image or reproduction.

in colour process printing, the undesirable screen pattern caused by incorrect screen angles overprinting halftones.

white panel or box where 4 colours have been removed from film to hold type.

the spotty or uneven appearance of printing, mostly in solid areas.

in offset preparation, a polyester film specially suited for stripping positives.

in printing, the process of using an intermediate blanket cylinder to transfer an image from the image carrier to the substrate.

the term applied to copy which is to be reproduced.

double printing, printing over an area the already has been printed.

The quantity of unit production, for example, books and sheets, delivered to the customer above the net amount ordered, usually uncharged at a run-on rate; also allowance to cover wastage.

the process of performing page makeup automatically on a computer.

Pantone, Pantone Matching System and PMS + are Pantone Inc’s check-standard trademarks for colour standards, colour data, colour reproduction and colour reproduction materials, and other colour related products and services, meeting its specifications, control and quality requirements. Essentially, refer to a pantone colour name/code and everyone knows precisely which colour you mean.

Part Mechanical:
A paper containing up to 50% mechanical pulp, the remainder being chemical pulp.

Perfect Bound:
A way of adhesive binding multi-section jobs. Individual sections are collected together and the spine is ground off (typically 3mm). Glue is then applied to the spine and a cover pulled on before the product is trimmed to size.

Perfecting Press:
a printing press that prints both sides of the paper in one pass through the press.

printer’s unit of measurement used in typesetting; one pica equals approximately 1/6 of an inch.

Pick-up Page:
an exact pickup page is a page that is picked up intact from a previous book, with no additional devices, no change in photos, crop marks, etc.

in printing, the building up or caking of ink on rollers, plate or blanket; not also, the accumulation of paper dust or coating on the blanket of offset press.

Pin Register:
the use of accurately positioned holes and special pins on copy, film, plates and presses to insure proper register or fit of colours.

in electronic imaging, a basic unit of digital imaging. A single dot of colour on the screen.

Plate Cylinder:
the cylinder of a press on which the plate is mounted.

an upright, oblong artwork or photograph where vertical dimension is greater than the horizontal.

a page description language (PDL) developed by Adobe, which describes the contents and layout of a page. PostScript also serves as a programming language whereby the PostScript code is executed by a PostScript RIP in the output device in order to produce a printout or film containing the page.

all procedures (and costs) associated with bringing a job to press, without actually producing a copy.

Press Proofs:
in colour reproduction, a proof of a colour subject made on a printing press, in advance of the production run.

Primary Colours:
see Additive Primaries.

Process Printing:
the printing from a series of two or more halftone plates to produce intermediate colours and shades.

Progressive Proofs (Progs):
proofs made from the separate plates in colour process work, showing the sequence of printing and the result after each additional colour has been applied.

a printed version of a document or colour illustration produced specifically for the purpose of review prior to printing.

PUR Binding:
same process as perfect binding, but use a synthetic adhesive (Polyurethane React) rather than conventional glue.

the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy a given need or requirement; also describes as “fitness for purpose” or value for money as perceived by the customer.

Ragged Left:
in typesetting, type that is justified on the right margin and ragged on the left.

Ragged Right:
in typesetting, type that is justified on the left margin and ragged on the right.

Ram Bundled:
a way of presenting finished printed products suitable for machine enclosing, comprising copies strapped together very tightly with end-boards to make them suitable for machine inserting.

five hundred sheets of paper.

term used for continuous roll of printing paper

Reel Width:
side to side dimension for a reel of paper

in printing, fitting of two or more printing images in exact alignment.

Register Marks:
crosses or other targets applied to original copy prior to photography; used for positioning films in register, or to register two or more colours in process printing.

red, green, blue additive primary colours, usually used only on computer screens.

Rotary Trimmed:
a way of trimming on-press without the copy being stationary of the time.

Right-Angle Fold/Quarter fold:
in binding, two or more folds at 90 degrees to each other.

Rub off code:
see media code

in composition, type set to fit around a picture or other design element. Also what a customers feels they’ve been given when they can’t get hold of their contact at a printer.

Saddle stitch:
in binding, to fasten a booklet by wiring it through the middle fold of the sheets.

determining the proper size of an image to fit an area.

an electronic device used in the making of colour and tone-corrected separations of images.

to impress or indent a mark with a string or rule in the paper, to make folding easier.

Screened Print:
a print with a halftone screen made from a halftone negative or by diffusion transfer.

Sealer Varnish:
see UV varnish

see Signature

Selective Binding:
by demographically binding a printed product this data triggers the appropriate sections from a range of available sections automatically to produce a product unique to that data input (and therefore more relevant to the end recipient).

the short cross-lines at the ends of the main strokes of letters in some type faces. Opposite version is sans-serif.

Short grain press:
a press where the shortest side of the finished product runs parallel to the grain of the paper.

Shrink wrap:
method of packing printed products by surrounding them with plastic, then shrinking by heat.

in printing and binding, the name given to a printed sheet after it has been folded.

Image distortion caused by dragging on the printing machine. Alternatively an alcohol induced client after the press pass has gone back over eight hours.

Soft Dot:
in separations, a dot is called “soft” when the halation or fringe around the dot is excessive; conversely, when the fringe is so slight as to be barely noticeable and the dot is very sharp, it is called hard.

Spine glued:
A method of putting a thin line of glue into the spine of a section, allowing it to be finished on press.

Spiral Binding:
a book bound with wires in spiral form inserted through holes punched along the binding.

Spot varnish:
A way of highlighting an area of a page by selectively applying a varnish to it.

SRA0 – 900 x 1280mm
SRA1 – 640 x 900mm
SRA2 – 450 x 640mm
SRA3 – 320 x 450mm
SRA4 – 225 x 320mm

in photomechanical, the procedure of multiple exposure of an image by stepping it in position according to a predetermined layout or program.

paper or other material to be printed.

Stochastic screening:
also known as FM (Frequency Modulated) screening. With conventional halftone screening, the variable dot size formed, creates the optical illusion of various tonal values; however, the dot centre pitch distance is constant. In the case of FM screening systems, the dots are randomly distributed to create this tonal change illusion. The greater the number of dots located within a specific area, the darker the resultant tone. The dots produced in this way are usually smaller than conventional halftone dots, resulting in improved definition, although greater care and attention to detail is required in platemaking stage.

in offset lithography, the positioning of negatives (or positives) on a flat to compose a page or layout for platemaking.

the piece of material printed.

Subtractive Primaries:
yellow, magenta and cyan, the colours used for process colour printing inks.  See CMYK.

in photomechanics, exposure from a second negative or flat superimposed on an exposed image of a previous negative or flat.

a swatch is a small piece of material provided by the client (or taken from the actual merchandise), used to match to the actual colour of the merchandise.

in printing inks, the property of cohesion between particles; the separation force of ink needed for proper transfer and trapping on a multicolour press.

the copy of a page or book, as distinguished from the headings.

mechanical shading in line areas, normally available in 5% steps from 5% to 95%.

the specification of acceptable variations in register, density, dot size, plate or paper thickness, concentration of chemicals and other printing parameters.

a photographic film that has been developed. 40 somethings will remember them best as the things your mum and dad hold their entire childhood on and never to be seen again as the AGF slide projector bulb went in 1981 and they don’t make them any more. I’m rambling now.

in printing, the ability to print a wet ink film over previously printed ink.  Dry trapping is printing wet ink over dry ink.  Wet trapping is printing wet ink over previously printed wet ink.

Trim Marks:
in printing, marks placed on the copy to indicate the edge of the paper.

in printing presses, the difference between the radius of the cylinder bearers and the cylinder body, to allow for plate (or blanket) and packing thickness.

in printing, two-up, three-up, etc., refer to material to be printed on a larger size sheet to take advantage of full press capacity.

UV Varnish:
a thin coating applied to a printed sheet for protection and appearance dried immediately by UV light.

To apply oil, synthetic, spirit, cellulose or water varnish to printed matter by hand or machine to enhance its appearance or increase its durability.

Vellum Finish:
in papermaking, a toothy finish which is relatively absorbent for fast ink penetration.

an illustration in which the background fades gradually away until it blends into the unprinted paper.

in printing inks, a broad term encompassing the properties of tack and flow.

Warm Colour:
in printing, a colour with a yellowish or reddish cast.

a roll of paper used in web or rotary printing.

Web Offset:
Same description as offset but ‘using a continuous web of paper’

Web Press:
a press which prints on roll or web-fed paper. The fun side of printing. And quite noisy.

Web proofs:
See press proof

in composition, a single word in a line by itself, ending a paragraph or starting a page.

Wire-0 Binding:
a continuous double series of wire loops run through punched slots along the binding side of a booklet.

With the Grain:
folding or feeding paper into a press parallel to the grain of paper.

Wood free:
paper free of mechanical wood pulp.

Work and Tumble:
to print one side of a sheet of paper, then turn it over from gripper to back using the same side guide and plate to print the second side.

Work and Turn:
to print one side of a sheet of paper, then turn it over from left to right and print the second side using the same gripper and plate but opposite side guide. Term only used in sheetfed litho, as web always Perfects. And is more fun.

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