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Glossary of printing terms

The world of printing terminologyThe world of printing terminology

Glossary of printing terms

Many of the terms and definitions listed here are drawn from the Pocket Pal: The Handy Book of Graphic Arts Production. If you are interested in learning more about the printing industry, this book is an excellent place to start.

AA
Abbreviation for Author’s Alterations. AA commonly leads to additional charges.
Accordion Fold
In binding, two or more parallel folds that open like and accordion.
Art
All illustrations such as drawings or charts used to prepare a job for printing.
Backing up
Printing the reverse side of a sheet already printed on one side.
Bad break
In composition, starting a page or ending a paragraph with a single word, or widow.
Bit map
An electronic image of a page representing the position of every possible spot.
Blanket
In offset and digital printing, a rubber-coated fabric clamped around a printing cylinder, to which the image is transferred from the plate and from which it is transferred to the paper.
Bleed
A printed image in which colors extend to the very edge of the sheet.
Bleed, full
A printed image in which colors extend to all four edges of the sheet.
Bond paper
A strong and durable grade of paper used for letterheads, forms, book pages, etc.
Cast coated paper
A coated paper with a high-gloss enamel finish.
Chemistry
In photography and platemaking, a term used to describe processing solutions.
CMYK
Cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the ink colors used in four-color or process printing.
Coated paper
Paper manufactured with a surface coating that produces a smooth finish from eggshell to glossy.
Collate
In binding, the gathering of sheets and signatures into final page order. Collating can be done online by modern copiers and digital presses.
Color separation
In photography and digital prepress, the separation of color images into primary color components (CMYK) in preparation for printing on a press.
Copy
Any furnished material such as text files, photographs or art to be used in a print job.
Cover paper
Heavier weight papers commonly used for the covers of booklets, books and manuals.
Crop
To eliminate portions of the copy, usually a photograph, as indicated on the original by cropmarks.
Diecutting
The process of using sharp steel forms to cut out special shapes in printed pieces. Diecutting involves the manufacture of special dies to achieve particular shapes.
Digital Asset Management
The systematic cataloging and management of digital media and sometimes physical media to allow for efficient storage, retrieval and reuse.
Dot
Smallest digital imaging or screen element. Dots per inch (DPI) is a measure of image quality.
Dot gain
In printing, a defect in which dots print larger than they should, causing darker tones or stronger colors.
Download
Sending information to another computer or printing device. Upload is often used synonymously.
Dummy
A set of blank pages made up in advance to show the size, shape and style of a printed piece, used in planning.
Enamel
A term applied to coated paper or to a special coating on paper.
Flush cover
A cover that has been trimmed to the same size as the inside text pages, as in a book or magazine.
Flush left (or right)
Type set justified such that the start (or finish) of all lines line up at the left (or right) margin. This page is set up flush left.
Folio
The page number.
Font
In composition, the complete assortment of all letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks of a given size and style.
FPO
For Position Only, a low resolution image positioned in a document, to be replaced later by a high resolution image.
f stops
In photography, fixed stops for setting lens apertures.
Galley proof
A proof of text copy before being made into pages.
Gathering
In binding, the assembling of folded signatures into correct page order.
Gigabyte (GB)
One billion bytes.
Gripper edge
The leading edge of a sheet of paper as it passes through a printing press.
Gripper margin
Unprintable edge of paper on which grippers bear, usually about 1/2″.
Grippers
Metal fingers that clamp on paper and guide it through a press.
GUI
In digital printing, a layout system based on pointing to icons with a mouse instead of typing in commands. Pronounced “gooey.”
Gutter
The blank space between page columns or between the printed area of left and right pages.
Halftone
The reproduction of a continuous tone image such as a photograph through a screening process that converts the image to dots.
Hard proof
A proof on paper.
Hickeys
In offset printing, imperfections in the printing due to dirt, dried ink or flecks of paper in the press.
HTML
The coding language used to create hypertext documents for the World Wide Web.
Hypertext
Words or phrases in a Web document that can be clicked to link to other documents.
Imposition
The position of pages in a signature so that after printing, collating and folding they appear in correct page order.
Ink-jet printing
In digital printing, a plateless printing system that produces images by spraying fine dots of ink directly on paper.
Italic
Slanted letters used for emphasis within text.
Jog
To align sheets of paper into an even, compact pile.
JPEG
Joint Photographic Experts Group, a file compression standard typically used in digital photography, which allows a trade-off between image size and image quality. JPEG images can usually be compressed up to 10:1 with little perceptible loss of quality.
Justify
In composition, to arrange lines of text to line up uniformly on the left or right margin.
Kerning
In typesetting, subtracting space between two characters, nestling them closer together.
Kilobyte
1024 bytes.
Kiss cut
A light die cut such that a cut-out form may be removed from it’s backing.
Laid paper
Paper with a pattern of parallel lines, giving it a ribbed effect.
Landscape
A page format that is oriented horizontally (see Portrait).
Leaders
In composition, a row of dots to lead the eye across the page, used in tables of contents, etc..
Leading
In composition, the distance between lines of type, measured in points (pronounced “ledding”).
lpi
Acronym for lines per inch, a measure of resolution or halftone screening.
Makeready
In printing, the work done to prepare a press to print a job.
Matte
A dull paper finish without luster or gloss.
Megabyte
One million bytes.
Montage
Several photographs combined to create a composite image.
Non-impact printer
An electronic device such as a copier, laser printer or ink-jet printer that creates images on paper without contacting it.
OCR
Optical Character Recognition, a scanner, or “reader,” capable of converting scanned images to characters that can be edited as a text file.
Offset
In printing, the process of using and intermediate blanket cylinder to transfer an image from the printing plate to the paper.
Opacity
The property of paper to minimize show through of printing on the reverse side or next sheet.
Opaque ink
An ink that conceals all color beneath it.
Overhang cover
A cover that is larger than the pages it encloses.
Overprinting
Printing over an area that has already been printed.
Overrun
Additional copies printed in excess of the specified amount.
PDF
Portable Document Format, a universal page description language designed to view images on any computer and print them on almost any printer, regardless of the fonts or software programs used to create the original.
PDL
Page Description Language, a computer language designed for describing how type and images should be produced by output devices.
Perfect bind
A type of binding that glues the edges of sheets to a wraparound cover, as in a paperback book.
Pica
In typesetting, a unit of measure equal to approximately 1/6″.
Pixel
The basic unit of scanning and printing which is the smallest resolvable point of a raster image.
PMS
Pantone Matching System, over 700 swatches of blended ink color used to define the mixing of “branded” colors.
Point
A unit of measurement for type sizes and leading. There are 12 points to a pica and about 72 points to an inch.
Portrait
A page format that is oriented vertically (see Landscape).
Postscript
A page description language that defines how a page images is to be printed.
Preflight
The evaluation of every element need to print a job for proper color, crop marks, fonts, art and so on.
Process printing
Printing from two or more plates to produce a range of colors and shades.
Quality control
QC, activities including preflighting, process control and sampling to eliminate undesirable product variability.
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. This page is set ragged right.
Raster Image Processer
RIP, a computer with special software that converts page description code into a bitmap that defines output spots for printing.
Ream
Five hundred sheets of paper.
Recto
The right hand page of a book (see Verso).
Register
The positioning of two or more images in exact alignment with one another.
Reprographics
Copying and duplicating.
Resolution
The ability of an output device to render fine detail of an image.
RGB
Red, Green, Blue, the primary colors used in display devices such as televisions and computer screens.
Right angle fold
Two or more folds that are at 90 degree angles to one another.
Running footer
A page number or other text repeated at the bottom of each page.
Running header
A page number or other text repeated at the top of each page.
Saddle stitch
In binding, to fasten a booklet by wiring it through the middle fold or spine of folded sheets.
Score
To impress an indentation on a printed sheet to make folding easier and minimize cracking of ink.
Self cover
A cover printed on the same paper as the inside pages.
Serif
The short cross lines at the ends of the main strokes of characters in certain typefaces, designed to enhance readability. Sans serif refers to typefaces without serifs, which are often used in headlines, signage and websites such as this one.
Show through
An undesirable quality in a printed piece in which printing on the reverse side of a sheet can be seen through the sheet under normal lighting.
Signature
A printed sheet that has been folded.
Side stitch
In binding, stapling along one side of a sheet.
Slitting
Cutting printed sheets into two or more sections by means of a cutting wheel.
Specifications
The detailed description of a print order.
Spine
The back of a bound book connecting the two covers, also called backbone.
Spiral binding
Binding with wire or plastic in the form of a spiral inserted into holes along the binding edge.
Spot
The smallest element in a raster image, a spot is the datum that controls where the output device will print a dot.
Spot varnish
Varnish intended to highlight a particular area on a printed piece.
Stock
Paper or other material to be printed.
Stock photography
Ready-made images that illustrate a particular lifestyle, scene, mood or process.
Substrate
Any material that can be printed on such as paper, plastic or fabric.
TIFF
Tagged Image File Format, a file format created specifically for storing images, now the standard for scanned images such as photographs.
Terabyte
TB, one trillion bytes.
Tooth
A slightly rough finish to paper that allows it to take ink readily.
-up
In printing, imposition of multiple images to be printed on a larger sheet size, to take advantage best advantage of the sheet (“two-up”, “four-up”, etc.).
Varnish
A thin coating applied to a printed sheet for protection or appearance.
Vellum paper
Paper with a toothy finish to enhance ink penetration.
Verso
The left hand page of a book (see Recto).
Wash up
The process of cleaning the rollers and ink fountain of a printing press.
Watermark
A logo or design created in paper at manufacture that can be seen when holding the paper up to light.
Widow
In composition, a single word or part of a word on a line by itself ending a paragraph or starting a page. Considered a defect. Also called an orphan.
Wire-o binding
A continuous double series of wire loops applied through punched slots along the binding margin of a book.
Wove paper
Paper having an unlined surface and soft, smooth finish.
WYSIWYG
What You See Is What You Get, what you see on the computer screen is generally what you will see on the printed page, except for color matching.
Xerography
Electrostatic printing process that uses a charged photoconductor belt and electrostatic forces to apply dry or liquid toner to paper to form an image.

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