Glossary Of Printing And Graphic Design Terms

In case you have never worked with a print shop before, it may seem like a foreign language. First, the print design world contains many words and phrases that are unfamiliar to the average person. Second, if you don’t understand the basic terminology, you could end with a printed piece that doesn’t look the way you desired. Last, it could lead to the dreaded (and costly) reprint process. An outcome that nobody wants.

Printing Industry Terms

To be sure that all printing projects come out correct, Tampa Printing Solutions has amassed a glossary of printing and graphic design terms.

Actual Weight: The true weight of any volume of paper. The actual weight of paper is used to determine both purchase price and shipping costs. (see also basic size, basis weight, weight)

No Coating is a water-based coating applied after printing, either while the paper is still on press (“in line"), or after it's off the press. A No Coating usually gives a gloss, dull, or matte finish, and helps prevent the underlying ink from rubbing off.  (see also coated stock, finishing, UV coating, varnish)

Binding fastening papers together for easy reading, transport, and protection. Papers may be bound together with a variety of materials, like wire, thread, glue, and plastic combs. For definitions on types of binding see also finishing, folding, imposition, scoring.

Bleed is any copy, art illustration, photo, color, etc. that extends past the edge of the printed page. Bleeds are created by trimming the page after printing.

C1S paper that is coated on one side only (coated one side).

C2S paper that is coated on both sides (coated two sides).

Calendaring is a process using a series of metal rolls at the end of a paper machine; when the paper is passed between these rolls it increases its smoothness and glossy surface.

Caliper is the measurement of the thickness of paper expressed in thousandths of an inch or mils. as measured with a sensitive tool called a micrometer. Excessive variation in caliper can lead to print variation, undesirable visual effects, and uneven stretch or press-feeding problems.

Case Binding is a book bound using the hardboard, or case, covers.

CMYK is an abbreviation for the four process color inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.

Coated Stock is any paper that has a mineral coating applied after the paper is made, giving the paper a smoother finish. (see also cast-coating, clay, dot gain, dull coated, four-color process gloss, halftone, ink holdout, matte coated, off-machine coating)

Color Key A printer's proof usually used for viewing the individual layers of CMYK, four sheets of colored acetate, for examining the quality of process color separations.

Color Separation is the processes of separating the primary color components for printing.

Contrast is the degree of tonal separation or gradation in the range from black to white. Extreme lights and darks give an image high contrast. An image with a wide tonal range has lower contrast.

Conversion The process of creating a three dimensional (3D) item from a flat sheet of paper. i.e. envelope conversion / box conversion

Copy refers to any typewritten material, art, photos etc., to be used for the printing process.

Cover Paper heavier, generally stiffer paper commonly used for book covers, folders, greeting cards, business cards, and brochures. Uncoated cover papers generally match the color and finish of corresponding text papers.

Crop is to eliminate a portion of the art or copy as indicated by crop marks.

Cut-Size writing or business papers that are cut to a finished size of 8.5" x 11", 8.5" x 14", or 11" x 17". Cut-size papers, like Champion Inkjet, are usually packed in reams of 500 sheets before leaving the mill.

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 total cost of the job will increase.)

Digital Imaging The process of creating a digital output of an illustration, photographic image, computer file or other computer-generated materials. Output media can be film, paper, transparencies, vinyl, and other materials.

Digital Printing A type of printing which uses digital imaging process that transfers the image directly onto plain paper immediately, without traditional offset rollers and plates.

Dot Gain term to describe the occurrence whereby dots are printing larger than they should. (see also, four-color process, halftone)

DPI (dot per inch) the number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one inch measure. In general, the more dots per inch, the more detail is captured, and the sharper the resulting image. (see also halftone, lines per inch, screen)

Drop Shadow is a shadow image placed strategically behind an image to create the affect of the image lifting off the page.

Dull Coated a coated paper finish between glossy and matte.

Duotone a two-color halftone reproduction generated from a one-color photo.

Embossing is the molding and reshaping of paper by the use of special metal dies and heat, counter dies and pressure, to produce a raised image on the paper surface.

EPS Encapsulated Postscript File. A vector based, computer graphics file format developed by Adobe. The artwork description is “plotted" by the computer.

Fifth Color This phrase means that you have already filled the four basic drums of a printer with process colors, C, M, Y and K (CMYK) and are planning an additional, fifth spot color, like a foil or metallic ink. The “fifth color" is an expensive leap with extra drums, so plan accordingly.

Finish is the surface quality of paper.

Finishing is preparing the printed pages for use. Most printed jobs require one or more finishing steps, such as trimming, folding, or binding. (see also binding, folding, trimming)

Flush Cover is a book or booklet bound having the cover trimmed to the same size as the text.

Foil is paper that has a surface resembling metal.

Folding is doubling up a sheet of paper so that one part lies on top of another. Folding stresses the paper fibers. To create a smooth, straight fold on heavy papers, (like cover stocks and bristols), it needs to be scored before folded. Multiple fold strength is important in printed pieces. (see also binding, finishing, gatefold, imposition, scoring)

Four-Color Process is a method that uses dots of magenta, cyan, yellow and black to simulate the continuous tones and variety of colors in a color image.

Ganging is the bundling of two or more different printing projects on the same sheet of paper.

Gatefold is two or more parallel folds on a sheet of paper with the end flaps folding inward. (see also folding)

Gloss the property that's responsible for coated paper's shiny or lustrous appearance; also the measure of a sheet's surface reflectivity. Gloss is often associated with quality: higher quality coated papers exhibit high gloss. (see also coated paper)

Grade a type or class of paper identified as having the same composition and characteristics. Grade is a generic paper category, such as writing, offset, cover, tag, and index paper. It can also refer to the quality level of the paper; or to a mill's specific rank of paper.

Grain Long grain running along the length, or long side, of a sheet of paper. Fibers line up parallel to the long side of the paper.

Grain Short grain running along the width, or short side, of a sheet of paper. Fibers line up parallel to the short side of the paper.

Gripper is a series of metal fingers that hold each sheet of paper as it passes through the various stages of the printing process.

Gripper Edge the grippers of the printing press move the paper through the press by holding onto the leading edge of the sheet; this edge is the gripper edge.

Halftone the use of screening devices to convert a continuous tone image (such as a photo), into a reproducible dot pattern, which can be more easily printed.

Image Setter is a high resolution device that prints directly to plate ready film. Many image setters output film at 2400 DPI.

Imposition the correct sequential arrangement of pages that are to be printed, along with all the margins in proper alignment, before producing the plates for printing.

M Weight the actual weight of 1000 sheets of any given size of paper.

Match Color a custom-blended ink that matches a specified color exactly. Match colors are used to print line copy and halftones in one, two, three, or occasionally more colors. The specified colors are chosen from color systems. The most widely used systems are the Pantone Matching System, Colorcurve, and Toyo.

Matte Coated a non-glossy coating on paper, a coated paper finish that goes through minimal calendaring.

Offset Printing (Offset lithography) The most commonly used printing method. The printed material does not receive the ink directly from the printing plate but from an intermediary cylinder called a blanket. The blanket receives the ink from the plate and transfers it to the paper.

Pantone Matching System the most widely used system for specifying and blending match colors. The Pantone Matching System identifies more than 700 colors.

PDF Portable Document File. A proprietary format developed by Adobe for the transfer of designs across multiple computer platforms.

Perfect a term used to describe the binding process where the signatures of a book are held together by a flexible adhesive.

Photo Illustration An image, primarily consisting of a photograph or composite image containing a photograph.

Pixel Depth The amount of data used to describe each colored dot on the computer screen. i.e. Monochrome is 1 bit deep. Grayscale is 8 bits deep. RGB is 24 bits deep. Images to be printed as CMYK separation should be 32 bits deep.

Plate is short for printing plate, generally a thin sheet of metal that carries the printing image. The plate surface is treated or configured so that only the printing image is ink receptive.

Point a measurement unit equal to 1/72 of an inch. 14 points to a pica, 72 points to an inch.

PrePress The various printing related services, performed before ink is actually put on the printing press. (i.e. stripping, scanning, color separating, etc.)

Press Proof a test printing of a subject prior to the final production run. Press proofs are generally printed on the paper stock that will be used for the finished project.

Printability the quality of papers to show reproduced printed images. Absorbency, smoothness, ink holdout, and opacity all affect printability.

Print Quality the overall excellence of a printed piece. Paper, ink, press, and the skill of the press operators all affect print quality. (see also printability)

Process Colors the four process colors: magenta (process red), cyan (process blue), yellow, and black used to print four-color images. see also color separating, four-color process, subtractive colors.

Registration the arrangement of two or more images in exact alignment with each other.

RGB Red Green Blue, the colors used by a computer monitor to create color images on the screen. When all three colors are combined over each other the color of light is white.

Saddle Stitch the binding of booklets or other printed materials by stapling the pages on the folded spine; also called saddle wire. Many magazines are saddle stitched or stapled.

Sans Serif a typeface that has no tails or curled points (serifs) at the ends.

Scoring to impress paper with a rule for the purpose of making folding easier.

Screen the lined glass, now called contact film, through which images are photographed to create halftones. Shooting through the mesh of a screen breaks an image into tiny dots.

Screen Printing a printing process also called silk screening, where ink is transferred through a porous screen, such as nylon, onto the surface to be decorated. An emulsion or stencil is used to block out the negative, or non-printing areas of the screen.

Script A typeface that mimics the appearance of handwritten text.

Scum is unwanted ink marks in the non-image area.

Self Cover a cover made out of the same paper stock as the internal sheets.

Serif the curls and points that appear as outward lateral extensions of the bottoms and tops of letterforms on some typefaces.

Spiral Bind is a binding whereby a wire or plastic is spiraled through holes punched along the binding side.

Spot Color Single colors applied to print when process color is not necessary (i.e. one, two and three color printing), or when process colors need to be augmented (i.e. a fluorescent pink headline or a metallic tint).

Stock Paper or other material that will be printed. To a paper mill, a “stock item" is a manufactured item that is inventoried, as opposed to a “manufacturing order," which is custom made.

Swatchbook a booklet containing paper samples and paper specifications for a line of paper.

TIFF Tagged Image File Format, a bitmapped file format used for the reproduction of digitally scanned images such as photographs, illustrations & logos.

Trapping the process of printing wet ink over printed ink, which may be wet or dry.

Trim Size the final size of a printed piece once it's been cut to specification.

Trimming cutting paper after printing to make all sheets the same or a specified size. After binding printed papers, the head, foot, and edge of a book are often trimmed in a guillotine to make all the papers even.

Up a term used to describe how many similar sheets can be produced on a larger sheet; two up, four up, etc.

UV Coating a very slick, glossy coating applied to the printed paper surface and dried on press with ultraviolet (UV) light.

Varnish a coating printed on top of a printed sheet to protect it, add a finish, and/or add a tinge of color.

Web Press a printing press that prints on rolls of paper passed through the press in one continuous piece, as opposed to sheets of paper. Web presses are used for high volume printing such as newspapers and magazines.

Weight the tonnage or poundage of a quantity of paper. The weight of paper may be expressed as basis weight, M weight, ream weight, or grammage.

Will my print work look like it does on my computer?

There are some small differences. Scanners and digital cameras create images using combinations of just three colors: Red, Green and Blue (called “RGB"). These are the colors that computers use to display images on your screen. But printing presses print full color pictures using a different set of colors: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black (called “CMYK"). So at some stage your RGB file must be translated to CMYK in order to print it on a printing press. This is easily done using an image editing program like Adobe PhotoShop, PhotoDeluxe, or Corel PhotoPaint.

Caution: It's Best If You do the RGB-to-CMYK Conversion of Your Images!

You will have more control over the appearance of your printed piece if you convert all of the images from RGB to CMYK before sending them to us. When we receive RGB images, we do a standard-value conversion to CMYK, which may not be perfectly to your liking. We want you to be happy, so please, take the time to prepare your file properly. We cannot be responsible for sub-par results if you furnish low-res images or RGB images.

Be aware that it is possible to make colors in RGB that you can't make with CMYK. They are said to be “out of the CMYK color gamut". What happens is that the translator just gets as close as possible to the appearance of the original and that's as good as it can be. It's best to select any colors you use for fonts or other design elements in your layout using CMYK definitions instead of RGB.

Can I use colored text?

It is best not to colorize small text. What happens is that all printing presses have a little bit of variance in the consistency of the position of the different color plates. This is called mis-registration. The yellow, cyan, cyan, magenta, and black portions of the text characters don't line up exactly. The result is little colored halos around the characters. It is ok to use colored text on large, headline type, or smaller sizes down to about 14 point size, but much smaller than that will be too noticeable and you won't like it. The same thing holds true for white text on a dark or colored background. Do not use point sizes smaller than about 14 point. Otherwise the words may be hard to read and it will look unprofessional.

Can I put text over an image?

Be weary about using a photograph for a background. If you put text on top of a photograph, it can be very hard to read. The secret is to lighten the photograph a lot. Use a photo editing program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PhotoDeluxe.

Need More Information?

If you need help with print-related questions, visit the templatesfrequently asked questionsprint specifications, or glossary of print terms pages. To contact Tampa Printing Solutions, click here.

Glossary of Printing Terms
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Tampa Printers

Tampa Printing Solutions is a full-service print shop in Tampa, Florida. Our Tampa printers provide a wide range of copy, graphic design, direct mail, marketing materials, branding, trade show displays, and full-color printing services.

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