Our Guide to Printing Terms & Terminology

A sizes
Most common paper size used for general printing, stationery and publications.
See also: B sizes & C sizes

A transparent plastic sheet placed over printed originals that are commonly used to protect books.

Against the Grain
Folding at right angles to the grain direction of the paper being used, as opposed to with the grain. This can cause cracking on heavier papers unless the paper is scored or creased.

Finished layout or typesetting, drawings or photographs, made up in a form which is ready for the printer to print from.

B sizes
Size that sit between the A-sizes.
See also: A sizes & C sizes

The physical binding together of leaves of paper or board. There are various types of binding available – for example, saddle stitch, perfect, PUR, wiro, comb.

Printing that extends to the edge of a sheet or page after trimming.

Blind Embossing
The process of stamping an image into the paper to produce a depressed effect on the paper surface, without the use of inks.

Used to impress or stamp a design. The design can be blocked in coloured inks, or metal foil, including special effects such as holographic.

Heavier paper (normally over 200gsm) which is usually used for products such as book covers and business cards. Generally, what most people might refer to as ‘card’.

The thickness of a paper, normally measured in microns. ‘Bulky’ paper can beus eful, for example, for making publications appear larger without making them heavier.

C sizes
A paper size used for envelopes, designed to take ‘A’ sized paper.
See also: A sizes & B sizes

Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black),the four process colours commonly used when printing.

Two creases close together to create a pocket or spine allowing the folder to take extra items such as leaflets or brochure. Normally between 3.5mm and 5mm.

Coated/Uncoated Paper
Paper with a coating improves reflectivity and colour holdout of a print. Gloss and satin are examples of coated paper. Uncoated paper is commonly used for the printing of letterhead and is also referred to a bond or offset paper.

Arrangement of printed sheets into the desired sequence.

Colour Separation
In photographic reproduction, the process of separating colour originals into the primary printing colour components.

Comb Binding
A plastic comb which is used to bind and grip the spine edge of a book.

Concertina fold
Folding each panel of a leaflet in alternate directions, so that when opened out the finished product is folded in a zigzag fashion.

An indented line pressed into the substrate to reduce resistance and allow folding without cracking or splitting.

In a saddle stitched booklet the bulk of the paper causes the inner pages to extend or creep further out than the outer pages when folded. When trimmed the inner pages are narrower than the outer pages, counteracting the creep.

Crop Marks
Lines near the edges of an image indicating portions to be reproduced. Also called cutting marks and tick marks.

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

Process of creating a 3D sunken image in paper.
See also embossing.

Desktop Publishing
The creation of artwork for print from your computer.

Die Cut
To cut irregular shapes into a paper or board using a die.

Digital Printing
Printing straight from electronic artwork (no plates used as in Litho print). Typically printed out of four colour process (CMYK). It’s ideal for short runs and faster turnarounds.

DL Envelope
A standard envelope size measuring 110mm x 220mm. They take A4 sheets folded into three.

Dots per inch that indicates the resolution an image. The more dots per inch, the higher the resolution and the better quality the image.

Drilling of holes in literature which will allow insertion or a treasury tag or into a ring binder.

Mock up of an intended product to give you an idea and feel for the finished item. A dummy will be made with the correct paper and materials.

A term referred to when you print on both sides of a sheet of paper.

Process of creating a 3D raised image in paper.

Where a printed matter is sealed in a plastic coating providing a rigid, watertight covering.

Where the printed materials get put into their final format. Examples of finishing include guillotining, folding, binding, drilling, and numbering.

Printers’ terminology for the accurate positioning of one colour with another on a printed sheet. Also known as register or registration.

Technical printers’ term for the page number.

A set of letters, numbers or symbols that share a unified design. The design is called a typeface.

Four-colour process printing
Process of combining four basic colours to produce a full-colour final product. A plate is created for each of the four colours in a full-colour job (cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key). The colours are then printed one at a time using lithography and combine to produce the full variety of colours that we see on the finished product.

FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993 as a mechanism for ensuring that the world’s forests are managed in an environmentally responsible, socially acceptable and economically viable manner.

Gloss paper
A reflective, shiny coat on coated paper, for example, glossy magazines.

Grain Direction
The direction that the fibres in paper become aligned during manufacturing.

The unit of measurement for paper weight (grams per square metre).

Spots or imperfections in the printing due to such things as dirt on the press, dried ink skin or paper particles etc.

Refers to the planning/positioning of artwork so that it is reproduced in an effective and orderly method.

One impression equals one press sheet passing once through a printing unit.

Within a publication, an additional item positioned into the publication loose (not bound in).

Light cut into the peel-able surface of a self-adhesive sheet, leaving the backing sheet intact.

A thin transparent plastic sheet (coating) applied to usually a thick stock (covers, post cards, etc.) Providing protection against liquid and heavy use.

A design where the width is greater than the height – (opposite of portrait).

Litho / Lithography
A printing process by which the inked image to be printed is transferred (offset) first to a rubber blanket layer before coming into contact with the paper which takes up the inked areas. This process is normally used for longer runs/larger quantities of a printed matter.
All activities required to prepare a press or other machine to function for a specific printing or bindery job. Also called setup.

Matt paper
Dull coat on paper, the opposite of glossy.

Measurement in thickness rather than weight of papers & boards.

Offset printing
Litho print, but where the printing plates do not actually come into contact with
the paper. Instead, the ink is transferred from the plate onto a blanket and then
onto the paper.

The number of surplus copies printed. Almost inevitable using litho.

Printing onto a sheet which has been previously printed.

Pages (pp – printed pages)
Normally one side of a leaf in a publication – for example an A4 sheet folded in half to create an A5 leaflet would have four ‘pages’.

Standard range of colours denoted by a number. Using pantone inks (as opposed to four-colour process) provides a greater variety and more accurate colour when matching spot colours across products. If your brand requires a very specific colour, then you may wish to use a pantone colour (spot colour) in addition to CMYK.

There is a huge variety of paper available, including different weights, bulk, finishes and environmental rating. It is important that you choose the paper that is right for your product. Headline are happy to help with this and to provide samples and dummies where appropriate.

Portable Document Format. The industry standard for saving files in an acceptable format. Quick, cheap and stable.

(Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) Sustainable Forest Management is based on environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests for present and future generations. The PEFC Council, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, promotes the independent certification of forests managed in this way.

Perfect Binding
Can also be referred to as adhesive or soft binding. A type of binding in which the pages of a book are held together at the binding edge by glue or a synthetic adhesive

Taking place on a press or a binder machine, creating a line of small dotted wholes for the purpose of tearing-off a part of a printed matter.

Where data elements are unique to an individual printed piece. Concept facilitated by digital printing.

Piece of paper, metal, plastic or rubber carrying an image to be reproduced using a printing press.

A design where the height is greater than the width – (opposite of landscape).

Page description language developed by Adobe, which is generated by graphics packages and output by printing devices.

Checks that your artwork must go through to make sure it is suitable to print.

Pre-flight report
Adobe report generated about your artwork once we have RIPped it.

All procedures associated with bringing a job to press such as managing colour settings and carrying out final artwork checks. This can also be referred to as pre-flighting.

A printed sample of work to be checked for errors in text, positioning or quality or colour reproduction.

500 sheets of paper.

Recycled Paper
New paper made entirely or in part from old paper.

Register Marks
Cross-hair lines on mechanicals, films and plates used for positioning pages ori mages to enable accurate register on press.

The three colours, red, green and blue, which make up colours which you see on a computer screen. Printing usually uses four colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

Refers to the sharpness and quality of a supplied image. The higher the resolution, the better quality the final printed product will be.

Raster image processor. A processor which converts files into a format ready for printing.

Saddle Stitch
To bind by stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine.

Screen printing
Method of printing where ink is forced through a fine mesh and a stencil. Screen printing is particularly suitable for large display posters or for printing onto unusual surfaces such as T-shirts.

Neutral ink often applied inline when printing CMYK to prevent rubbing and marking of the job. Generally used when printing on silk papers.

The paper used inside a booklet is the same as that used for the cover.

Sheet-fed press
Printing press, which prints on to sheets of paper, as opposed to a web press, which prints onto rolls of paper.

Show through
The degree to which a printed image is visible through the paper due to the lack of opacity of the paper.

Silk paper
Somewhere between matt and gloss paper – smoother finish than matt, and more reflective.

Printing on one side of a sheet of paper.

Soft proof
PDF proof sent via email, FTP or remote proofing software online.

The binding edge of a publication.

Spiral Bind
To bind using a spiral of continuous plastic looped through holes which are pre-punched into the pages of a booklet. Is also referred to as comb and coil binding.

Spot colour
Single ink of a specific colour used for printing, often a pantone colour.

Spot varnish
Varnish applied to a specific section of the printed area.

Stab stitching
Hand stitching method similar to the office staple in finish used on pads & voucher books.

Paper or card to be printed on.

Trim marks
In printing, marks placed on the copy to indicate where the paper should be trimmed.

Trim size
The final size of the paper after it has been ‘trimmed’ e.g. A4. Printers usually print on oversized paper, and then trim the paper down to the finished size after printing. This allows for greater flexibility of sizes, and makes it possible to print right up to the edge of the finished page.

Short for ‘typographical error’ – a mistake in the copy.

Uncoated paper
Paper which has not been coated with clay, commonly used for books,
newspapers, etc. Absorbs the ink more than coated paper, which means that colours will display differently (beware of this).
Available in a wide range of weights and finishes.

UV varnish
Alternative to lamination. The printed area is covered with a liquid, then dried using UV light. Produces a glossy, laminated effect, and can be applied to specific areas to produce special effects. Can be more economical than laminating.

Varnish (machine)
Inline machine varnish available in gloss & matt finishes.

A preliminary layout, indicating the general design and the positioning of the various elements.

Translucent logo in paper created during manufacturing by slight embossing from a dandy roll while paper is still approximately 90 percent water.

Wire-O Binding
A continuous series of wire loops run through punched slots along the binding side of a booklet.


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