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Printing A-Z: Understanding Common Terminology in the Printing Industry

For those unacquainted with printing terminology, you may find them strange or confusing.

As experts in the printing industry, they are like a second language.

So, while we are always more than happy to clarify any terms you may not be familiar with, we've also compiled a helpful glossary encompassing a wide range of printing terms and phrases for your convenience.



A, B & C Series: These refer to the different industry standard of paper and envelope sizes. (e.g. A1, A2, A3, A4)

Acetate: A thin and flexible sheet of transparent plastic that’s often used to make overlays. 

Adhesives: In print, adhesives are substances which are used to make things stick firmly together.

Aqueous Coating: An eco-friendly water-based clear coating used to protect printed pieces to create a high-gloss surface that improves appearance and durability. 


Barcodes: A method of representing data in a visual and a machine-readable form of information on a scannable, visual surface.

Binding: Binding is used to bind or fasten a book together. Some printers may offer you a service to bind your printed works.

Bleed: An extra area applied to go beyond artwork edges to allow for trimming margin.

Bulk: A term sometimes used when describing the thickness and feel of a piece of paper.


Calliper: The measurement of the thickness of paper, measured in thousandths of an inch or mils.

CMYK: CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black), which are the four primary ink colours used in colour printing.

Coating: Coatings are applied to sheets to protect inks from scuffing or marking during folding, trimming, finishing and in transit after completion.  

Colour Bars: A test strip that’s printed on the waste portion of a press sheet. It helps to monitor and control the quality of the printed material relative to ink density, registration and dot gain.

Colour Separation: The process of separating colours into their basic elements.

Colour Sequence: The order in which inks are printed in the press. Also known as colour rotation.

Creep: Refers to the moving or shift that happens to the margins in a document when pages are folded during the finishing process of a booklet. The amount of creep can vary depending on the thickness of paper and the number of pages.

Crop Marks: Lines put onto the pages to show where the document or print will be trimmed.

Crossover: An image or rule on one printed page that carries over to an adjacent page of folded work. Also referred to as a 'Match-up'.


Debossing: Stamping a design into paper so that there’s an indent. (Pushing the paper down, as opposed to an Emboss which pushes the design up for a raised effect.)

Die-cut: Die cutting in printing refers to the process of using a sharp, specially shaped cutting tool called a "die" to cut paper or other materials into specific shapes.

Digital Printing: Digital printing does not require plates or cylinders. Instead, it uses electronic files, often in formats like PDF or JPEG, to directly transfer the image or text onto the printing surface. It also allows for variable data and fast turnaround times.

Dot Gain: Dot gain in printing refers to the unintended increase in the size of printed dots compared to the original digital or film image. It occurs during the printing process due to factors like ink spread, paper absorption, and press variables. Printers often need to compensate for dot gain in prepress to achieve accurate and intended image reproduction.

DPI: Dots per inch.

Dummy: Before printing a large quantity, it’s the norm to print a ‘dummy’ to show the customer an example of the finished product. (Also referred to as a Mock-up)

Dust Jacket: A detachable protective paper cover that wraps around and encases the exterior of a hardcover book.


Embossing: A paper emboss involves creating a raised impression of a design or pattern on paper, creating a tactile and visually appealing texture.

Endpapers: Endpapers are sheets of paper that are glued to the inside covers of a book, connecting the cover to the first and last pages of the book's content. They serve both functional and decorative purposes. Functionally, endpapers provide strength and stability to the binding, helping to secure the book's pages to the cover. Decoratively, endpapers can feature patterns, illustrations, or designs, contributing to the overall visual appeal of the book.


Feeder: Part of the printing press used to ‘feed’ or supply the paper into the printer in the correct position for printing.

Finishing: The finishing touches of a print job - ie. trimming, folding, stitching or celloglazing.

Font: The font refers to the style of letters used in the print.


Ghosting: A printing defect where faint or secondary images appear on a printed page in unintended areas. These ghost images are usually lighter and less defined than the primary image, and they typically occur at regular intervals.

Gray Scale: Strip of grey values ranging from white to black, it contains shades of grey and is used for reproducing images.

Guillotine: A machine with a sharp blade used to cut and trim printed paper accurately.


Hickey: An imperfection mark or spot that appears on a finished printing product.


Imposition: The arrangement of pages in a sequence which reads consecutively when the printed sheet is folded.

Ink Set-Off: Ink that is unintentionally transferred from a printed sheet to the back of the sheet above it when the materials have been printed and are stacked in a pile.

Interleaves: Blank pages inserted between books to protect them from scuffing in transit, or coloured sheets placed between loosely collated document sets to show where each set starts and ends. 


Jog: To shuffle a stack of sheets to align them for processing.

Kerning: In typography, this is the process of adjusting the visual spacing between characters.


Laminate: A thin, transparent layer of plastic film applied onto the surface of printed materials. This protective film, often made of polyester or polypropylene, is applied using heat and pressure to create a bonded, durable finish.

Lithographic: Lithographic (or Offset) printing is popularly used for high-quality image printing. The image is placed on the lithography plate, inked and then transferred via a rubber blanket onto the paper.

Lock Bound: A method of binding printed materials, such as books or magazines, where the pages are specially folded and then secured together by a special adhesive applied to the spine. The adhesive creates a durable and secure bond, preventing the pages from loosening or falling out. Lock binding is commonly used for paperback books and provides a cost-effective and efficient way to produce quality bound materials with a clean and professional appearance.


Metallic Ink: Made with powdered metal or pigments that reflect to make text look metallic. The most common colours used are silver and gold.

Monochrome: An image in black and white or varying tones of only one colour.


Opacity: In relation to paper, opacity is the ability of a sheet of paper to prevent show-through or the visibility of printing on the reverse side. Higher opacity is desirable for double-sided printing to ensure that the content on one side does not interfere with the readability of the other side.

Overprinting: Any additional printing over an area that’s already been printed. (Often used for personalisation or variable print)


Pantone Colour / PMS: Pantone or Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a universal colour language that designers, printing companies and brand owners use. Using PMS colours allows us to print the exact right colour every time.

Plastikoil Binding: Also known simply as plastic coil binding, is a specific type of spiral binding method used for securing the pages of a document. Similar to coil binding, plastikoil binding utilizes a continuous plastic coil to bind the pages together.

PPI: Pixels per inch.

Process Colours: The process colours are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The printer combines these base colours to create different colours.

Printer's Proof: A printer's proof is a test print produced before a full print run to evaluate and verify the accuracy of the printing job. It serves as a sample or prototype that allows the printer, designer, or client to review the colours, layout, and overall quality of the printed piece before commencing production.

PUR Binding: PUR binding, or Polyurethane Reactive binding, is a modern and highly durable bookbinding method used to create strong and long-lasting paperback or hardcover books. In this binding process, a polyurethane reactive adhesive is applied to the spine of the book, creating a robust bond between the pages and the cover.


Ream: In printing, a ream of paper refers to a standardised quantity of paper sheets. The most common type of ream contains 500 sheets, although in some contexts, a ream can consist of a different number of sheets. The term is commonly used in the printing and paper industry to facilitate the measurement and sale of paper in manageable quantities.

Registration Marks: Critical elements in the printing industry used to ensure accurate alignment and proper color registration during the printing process. These marks consist of crosshairs or target-like symbols strategically placed on a printed page or image.

RGB: The colour space of Red, Green and Blue which computers use to display images on your screen. An RGB computer file must be translated into CMYK in order to be printed accurately.


Screen Printing: A fine mesh is used to transfer an image onto another material. Commonly used for printing onto clothes or fabric.

Silk Paper: Silk paper is a stock which has a low surface sheen and provides excellent ink-to-paper contrast. Colours appear a lot brighter and more defined when printed on, making it a better choice for readability.

Spot Colour: This is achieved by mixing ink into the desired colour you want in your print project, as opposed to using the CMYK process to achieve it.

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

Spot UV: Spot UV (Ultraviolet) varnish is used in the printing industry to enhance specific areas of a printed piece, typically with a gloss finish. Most effective when used in conjunction with a Matt Cello to provide increased contrast.

Stock: The paper you select for your print job.


Thread-sewn: A very strong binding which ideal for high-quality, long-lasting publications and those that need to be opened flat, without splitting along the spine.

Transparency: This refers to images or text that aren’t completely opaque.

Trim: This is the line cut to produce the finished size. The trim cuts through the bleed area to ensure a continuous and sharp edge around a design. 

Typo: A spelling mistake in the printed text material. 


Ultraviolet Light: UV light is a form of radiation which isn't visible to the human eye, it's in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Varnish: A coating added to a finished printed product to protect against damage or scuffing. Available in Gloss or Matt.

Vector Image: A vector image is a type of digital graphic that is defined by mathematical equations, utilizing geometric primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes to create and represent visual elements. Unlike raster images, which are composed of pixels and can lose quality when scaled, vector images maintain their sharpness and clarity at any size.

Vignette: An illustration where the background gradually fades away until it blends into the unprinted paper.


Watermark: A printed watermark is a subtle and often translucent design or pattern embedded into paper during the manufacturing process. It is visible when the paper is held up to light, creating a recognizable and distinct image within the paper itself. Printed watermarks are commonly used for security, branding, or decorative purposes in various printed materials, such as stationery, certificates, and currency.

Wiro / Wire Bound: Double Loop Wire Binding, also known as Wiro binding, is a method of collating documents using a double-loop wire that threads through punched holes along the edge of the pages. Commonly used for notebooks, calendars, manuals, and other documents where the ability to lay the pages flat or fold them back is desirable.

Work and Turn: A printing technique designed to maximize paper usage and streamline the production process. A single printing plate is used to print two different pages or images on the same sheet of paper. After printing one side of the sheet, the paper is turned, and the second side is printed with the same plate.


With over four decades of expertise in delivering print and mail solutions, rest assured that we are well-equipped to assist you with whatever you may require.

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