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FAQs - Glossary of Printing Terms

Back Up:
Printing the second side of a sheet already printed on one side.

A method of packaging printed pieces of paper using rubber, plastic, or paper bands. This term can also be applied to a gradation that "breaks" or does not transition smoothly.

Basis Weight:
Weight in pounds of a ream of paper cut to the basic size for its grade.

To fasten sheets or signatures with wire, thread, glue, or by other means.

A department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.

The thick rubber mat on a printing press that transfers ink from the plate to paper.

Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet after trimming.

Bond Paper: 
Strong durable paper grade used for letterheads.

Break For Color: 
Also known as a color break. To separate mechanically or by software the parts to be printed in different colors.

The brilliance or reflectance of paper.

Thickness of paper stock in thousandths of an inch or number of pages per inch.

Bulk Pack: 
Boxing printed product without wrapping or banding.

Joining images without overlapping.

Paper thickness in thousandths of an inch.

Cast Coated: 
Coated paper with a high gloss reflective finishing.


Color value system.  CMYK stands for Cyan (Blue); Magenta (Red); Yellow (Yellow); and BlacK (Black). uses these color values in printing customer orders.  

Coated Paper: 
Clay coated printing paper with a smooth finish.

A finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order.

Color Bar: 
A quality control term regarding the spots of ink color on the lead edge of a sheet.

Color Correction: 
Methods of improving color separations.

Color Matching System: 
A system of formulated ink colors used for communicating color also know as pantone matching system.

Color Separations: 
The process of preparing artwork, photographs, transparencies, or computer generated art for printing by separating into the four primary printing colors.

Continuous-Tone Copy: 
Illustrations, photographs or computer files that contain gradient tones from black to white or light to dark.

The tonal change in color from light to dark.

All furnished material or disc used in the production of a printed product.

Cover Paper: 
A heavy printing paper used to cover books, make presentation folders, etc.

To cut off parts of a picture or image.

Crop Marks: 
Printed lines showing where to trim a printed sheet.

One of four standard process colors (Blue).

A quality control devise to measure the density of printing ink.  Also measures Dot Gain; Trap; Hue; and Grayness dot size.

The degree of an ink color or darkness of an image or photograph.

Metal rule or imaged block used to cut or place an image on paper in the finishing process.

Die Cutting: 
Cutting shapes in or out of paper.

An element of halftones. Using a loupe you will see that printed pictures are made up of many dots. 

Dot Gain or Spread:
A term used to explain the difference in size between the dot on plate to paper.


Dots per inch. requires images to be at least 300DPI to create a print ready file.

Draw Down: 
A sample of ink and paper used to evaluate ink colors.

A rough layout of a printed piece showing position and finished size.

A halftone picture made up of two printed colors.

Light sensitive coating found on printing plates. 

Facsimile Transmission: 
The process of converting graphic images into electronic signals.

To cover a printed page with ink, varnish, or plastic coating. 

The reverse side of an image.

The process of combining the four primary colors to create a printed color picture or colors composed from the basic four colors.

French Fold: 
Two folds at right angles to each other.

Getting the most out of a printing press by using the maximum sheet size to print multiple images or jobs on the same sheet.

Stages of reproduction from original copy. A first generation reproduction yields the best quality.

A faint printed image that appears on a printed sheet where it was not intended. Chemical ghosting occurs when the gasses emitted from the drying ink migrate through the substrate and show as a light image in the opposite side printing. Mechanical ghosting occurs when there is a white shape on the press sheet followed by an heavy solid. This transfers ink to the trailing image creating a ghost effect of the lead image.

A shiny look reflecting light.

The direction in which the paper fibers lie.

The metal fingers on a printing press that holds the paper as it passes through the press.

A very thin line or gap about the width of a hair or 1/100-inch.

Converting a continuous tone to dots for printing. 

Hard Copy Proof: 
A photographic proof used to check position of all image elements.

Reoccurring unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, dried ink.

High-Bulk Paper: 
A paper made thicker than its standard basis weight.

The lightest areas in a picture or halftone. 

Image Area: 
Portion of paper on which ink can appear.

Exposing a printing plate to high intensity light or placing an image on a printing plate by light.

The positioning of jobs on a flat prior to plate making.

Positioning printed pages so they will fold in the proper order.

Putting an image on paper.

Postal stamp information place on a printed product for mailing purposes.

Ink Fountain: 
The reservoir on a printing press that holds the ink.

Kiss Die Cut: 
To cut the top layer of a pressure sensitive sheet and not the backing.

Knock Out: 
To mask out an image.

Laid Finish: 
Simulating the surface of handmade paper.

To cover with film, to bond or glue one surface to another.

Line Copy: 
High contrast copy not requiring a halftone.

Lines Per Inch: 
The number of rows of dots per inch in a halftone.

A magnifying glass used to review a printed image and plate.

One of the four basic primary colors (Red).

All the activities required to prepare a press for printing.

Matte Finish: 
Dull paper or ink finish.

Instrument used to measure the thickness of different papers.

Middle Tones: 
The tones in a photograph that are approximately half as dark as the shadow area.

Occurs when screen angles are wrong causing odd patterns in photographs.

The image on film that makes the white areas of originals black and black areas white.

An intermediate surface used to transfer ink. Also, an unpleasant happening when the images of freshly printed sheets transfer images to each other.

Offset Paper: 
Term for uncoated book paper.

OK Sheet: 
Final approved color-inking sheet before production begins. 

The amount of show-through on a printed sheet. The more opacity or the thicker the paper the less show-through. The thicker/heavier the paper the higher the cost.

Outline Halftone: 
Removing the background of a picture or silhouetting an image in a picture.

Overrun or Overs: 
Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. Printing trade terms allow for + - 10 % to represent a completed order.

Page Count: 
Total number of pages in a book including blanks.

Perfect Bind: 
A type of binding that glues the edge of sheets to a cover like a telephone book, software manual, or magazine.

Perfecting Press: 
A sheet fed printing press that prints both sides of a sheet in one pass. 

Occurs as the surface of a sheet lifts off during printing. 

Plate Gap: 
Gripper space. The area where the grippers hold the sheet as it passes through the press.

The abbreviated name of the Pantone Color Matching System.

For paper, a unit of thickness equaling 1/1000 inch. For typesetting, a unit of height equaling 1/72 inch.

The computer language most recognized by printing devices.

Pressure-Sensitive Paper: 
Paper material with self sticking adhesive covered by a backing sheet.

Process Blue: 
The blue or cyan color in process printing.

Process Colors: 
Cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow (yellow), and black (black).

Ragged Left: 
Type that is justified to the right margin and the line lengths vary on the left.


Flattens the layers of an image in a print file.

Five hundred sheets of paper.

Reflective Copy: 
Copy that is not transparent.

To position print in the proper position in relation to the edge of the sheet and to other printing on the same sheet.

Register Marks: 
Cross-hair lines or marks on plates and paper that guide strippers, platemakers, pressmen, and bindery personnel in processing a print order from start to finish.


A color value system.  RGB stands for Red; Green; and Blue. converts all submitted RGB files into CMYK. 

Rip Film: 
A method of making printing negatives from PostScript files created by desktop publishing. RIP equals Raster Image Processing of files to print.

Saddle Stitch: 
Binding a booklet or magazine with stitches in the seam where it folds.

Device used to make color separations, halftones, duo tones and tri tones. Also a device used to scan art, pictures or drawings in desktop publishing.

A crease put on paper to help it fold better.

Screen Angles: 
The angles at which halftone, duo tones, tri tones, and color separation printing films are placed to make them look right.

Using the same paper as the text for the cover.

The darkest areas of a photograph.

Printing on one side of a sheet that can be seen on the other side of the sheet.

Side Guide: 
The mechanical register unit on a printing press that positions a sheet from the side.

Side Stitch: 
Binding by stitching along one side of a sheet.

A sheet of printed pages which when folded become a part of a book or publication.

Silhouette Halftone: 
A term used for an outline halftone.

A pallet used for a pile of cut sheets.

A precise description of a print order.

The binding edge of a book or publication.

Planned paper waste for all printing operations.

Spot Varnish: 
Varnish used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet.

Step Sheets:

Paper sheets that are all different sizes and when placed together they diminish in size by an inch per sheet to make the appearance of “stepped sheets.”

The material to be printed.

Any surface on which printing is done.

Text Paper: 
Grades of uncoated paper with textured surfaces.

A shade of a single color or combined colors.

A positive photographic slide allowing light to pass through.

Transparent Copy: 
A film that light must pass through for it to be seen or reproduced.

Transparent Ink: 
A printing ink that does not conceal the color under it.

The ability to print one ink over the other.

Trim Marks: 
Similar to crop or register marks. These marks show where to trim the printed sheet.

Trim Size: 
The final size of one printed image after the last trim is made.

Production of fewer copies than ordered. 

U.V. Coating: 
Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.

A clear liquid applied to printed surfaces for looks and protection. 


Two-dimensional artwork such as Illustrator; Free Hand; & Corel Draw. More editable, it can resize shapes.

Vignette Halftone: 
A halftone whose background gradually fades to white or black.

Removing printing ink from a press, washing the rollers and blanket. Certain ink colors require multiple wash-ups to avoid ink and chemical contamination.

A term for planned spoilage.

A distinctive design created in paper at the time of manufacture that can be easily seen by holding the paper up to a light.

With The Grain:
Folding or feeding paper into the press or folder parallel to the grain of the paper.

Work and Tumble:
Printing one side of a sheet and turning it over from the gripper to the tail to print the second side using the same side guide and plate for the second side.

Work and Turn:
Printing one side of a sheet and turning it over from left to right using the same side guides and plate for the second side.

Wove Paper:
A paper having a uniform unlined surface with a smooth finish.