Printing Terms


Abrasion Resistance- The resistance to scratching or scuffing of a surface of paper.

Accordion Fold
- A type of paper folding in which each fold of a brochure runs in the opposite direction to the previous fold of the brochure creating an accordion affect.

Acetate- A clear or translucent plastic sheet material of a variety of colors used as an overlay usually

Additive Colors- In photographic reproduction the primary colors of red, green, and blue which are mixed to form all other colors. Also known as RGB.

Aerate- This refers to a process whereby air is blown onto paper sheets to separate the sheets.

Agate- Type size of 5 ½ points

Airbrush- A compressed air tool that dispenses a fine mist of ink; used in illustration and photo retouching software to create effects.

Amberlith- Was used in laying film and stripping. Red-orange acetate used for masking mechanicals when photographing for plates. The Amberlith area appears black to the camera, and prints clear on the resulting film. Not used much anymore.

Anodized Plate- In lithography, a plate manufactured with a barrier of aluminum oxide, which prevents chemical reactions that break down the plate; it provides optimum press performance and can carry very small dot %’s.

Antique Finish- Paper with a rough surface. Toothy feel.

Antiskinning Agent- An antioxidant agent used to prevent inks from skinning over in the can or on press.

Aqueous Coating
- Water soluble coating that protects ink and enables quick handling of piece. Comes in gloss, satin, and dull. Usually done in-line.

Aqueous Plate- Water soluble plate coatings, which are less toxic and less polluting. Enables quick handling of paper and high level of gloss.

Art Work
- Any materials or images that are prepared for graphic reproduction. Can be produced manually or by software.

Art-Lined Envelope- An envelope that is lined with fine paper; can be colored patterned or foiled.

Artwork- All illustrated material, photo and charts etc., that is prepare for reproduction. Can be produced manually or by software.

Author or Customer Alterations (AA, CA’s)- Changes made after the proof stage where a customer is responsible for additional charges.

Back Lining- The fixing of material, either paper or cloth, to the inside of a book before it is bound. Can be colored, textured or finishes.

Back to Back- Printing applied to both side of a sheet of paper.

Backbone- The spine of the binding which connects the front of the book with the back of the book; also called back or spine.


Background- Image that appears faintest. Type is usually printed over the background. Used as effect.

Backslant- Type that tilts to the left of backward direction; opposite of italic type, which is to the right.

Banner- The top primary headline usually spanning the entire width of a page. Used to draw eye or grab attention.

Base- The support onto which printing plates are fixed. Usually metal.

Base Film- The foundation material onto which the film positives are stripped for making printing plates. Becoming obsolete. Was used primarily in the stripping process.

Base Line- Term used to describe the imaginary horizontal line upon which stand capitals, lower case letters, punctuation points, etc.

Base Size- Standard size of paper stock; even though it is required size may be smaller or larger. It is different for types of paper, book and cover weight.

Basis Weight- Basis weight refers to the weight, in pounds, of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to standard size for that particular paper grade. Varies based on coated, uncoated, book and cover.

Bed- The steel flat table of a cylinder printing press upon which the type or die sits during the printing process. Used more in die cutting these days.

Boldface- Type characteristic using bold or thicker lines.

Bible Paper- A thin but strong paper (opaque), used for Bibles an books.

Binder’s Board- A heavy paperboard with a cloth covering that is used for hardback or caseback binding of books.

Binding- Various methods of securing folded sections together and or fastening them to a cover, to form single copies of a book. Used on a spine.

Black- Ink that is one of the process colors. Also known as K in CMYK.

Blanket- On offset presses a fabric-reinforced sheet of rubber to transfer the impression from the plate onto the impression cylinder.

Blanket to Blanket Press- A printing method in which there are two blanket cylinders thought which a sheet of paper is passed and printed on both sides. Used on smaller presses or duplicators.

Bleed- Extra ink area that crosses the trim line.

Blind Emboss- Raising of the image on paper using a die and counter die with no ink involved.

Blind Embossing- Raising of images that are not inked or gold leafed.

Blind Folio- Page number not printed on page.

Blind Image- A problem that arises in the lithography process when an image loses it ink receptivity and fails to print.

Block- Illustrations or line are etched into zinc or cooper plates mounted to wood and used in letterpress printing.

Blow-up- Enlargement of photos, copies or line art.

Blue-Line- Photographic proof made from flats for checking accuracy, layout and imposition before plates are made. Becoming obsolete.

Boldface- Type that has a heavier stroke that makes it more bold.

Bond- A grade of durable writing, printing and typing paper that has a standard size of 17 x 22 inches. Used in business correspondence.

Book- A general classification to describe papers used to print books bookweight; its standard size is 25 x38 inches. A printed work that contains mare than 64 pages. Can be bound in a number of ways.

Bristol Board- A board paper of various thickness; having a smooth finish and used for printing and drawing.

Brocade- A heavily embossed paper.

Brochure- A pamphlet to convey or promote message.

Bronzing- A printing method whereby special ink is applies to sheets and then a powder is applied producing a metallic effect. Particles will come off on hand or in printers.

Buckle Folder- A piece of binding machinery with rollers that fold the paper.

Bulk- A term given to paper to describe its thickness relative to its weight.

Bullet- A boldface square or dot used before a sentence to emphasize its importance.

Burn- A term used in plate making to describe applying light to “burn” the image onto plate.

Burnish- A term used for the process of “rubbing down” lines and dots on a printing plate.

CS- Graphics software

Caliper- The measurement of thickness of paper expressed in thousandths of an inch or mils.

Camera Ready- A term given to any copy, artwork etc., that is prepared for photographic reproduction. Can be manually created or created on computer.

Caps & Lowercase- Instructions in the typesetting process, that indicate the use of a capital letter and the rest of the letters in lower case.

Caps & Small Caps- Two sizes of capital letters made in one size of type.

Case- The thick cover of a hardbound book.

Case Binding- Books bound using hard board (case) covers.

Casing In- the process of placing in and adhering a book to its case covers.

Cast Coated- A paper that is coated with clay and then pressure dried using a polished roller which gives an enamel like hard extra high gloss finish.

Chalking- Print on paper where the absorption is so great that it breaks up ink image creating loose pigment dust.

Chancery Italic- The roots of italic design.

Chase- Frame of steel, or cast or wrought iron, in which images are locked up for printing. Used in letterpress or cylinder presses.

Combination Stamp- Process where embossing and foil stamping are done at the same time.

Cutting- Process of cutting paper with guillotine cutter.

Cyan (C)- One of the ink colors (blue) that is used as a process color. (CMYK)

Die Cut- Cutting shapes or non-square or rectangular shapes out of paper using die.

Digital Printing- Printing done from digital file.

Distribution Rollers- The rubber coated rollers responsible for the distribution of ink from the fountain to the ink train in presses.

Docutech- Xerox machine that is high end production copier. Only does black/black using toner.

Dog Ear- Occurs when you fold into a fold (such as a letter fold). At the side of one of the folds you get an indentation. It may look like a mall inverted triangle. Usually happens when folds are too tight.

Dot- The smallest individual element of a halftone. Can be expressed in %.

Dot Gain- Due to ink absorption in paper causing halftone dots to enlarge or spread. Terms to describe the occurrence whereby dots are printing larger than they should. Some small % is normal.

Draw-down- Test of ink color before going to press. Solid stripes on paper to show what ink will look like.

Drier- Describes additives to ink which hasten the drying process.

Drill- The actual drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding. Uses bit that turns with sharp edges.

Drop Shadow- A shadow image placed strategically behind an image to create the affect of a shadow from light.

Ductor Roller- The roller between the inking and the dampening rollers.

Dull Finish- Any matte finished paper. Very little reflection.

Dummy- A representation of copy and art elements to be reproduced to duplicate the finished product; also called a comp. No ink present.

Duotone- A two-color halftone reproduction generated from a one-color photo with use of accent color.

Duplex Paper- Paper which has a different color on each side.

Dutch Cut- Odd number of cuts or pieces laid in different directions.

Dutch Cutting- A process of cutting many sheets from the same parent sheet in which the smaller sheets have a different grain direction.

Eggshell Finish- Finish of paper surface that resembles an eggshell achieved by omitting the calendar process. Toothy feel or rough.

Electronic Composition- Composition of text, graphics and pictures.

Electronic Proof- Proof generated from the computer file directly. Inkjet, dye sublimation, digital halftone.

Elliptical Dot- Dots are actually elongated to produce improved middle tones.

Em- A unit of measurement equaling 12 points.

Embossed- Paper finishing where a pattern is pressed into the paper when it is dry. Also applies to using die and counter die to impress image into substrate.

Emulsion- A light sensitive substance used as a coating for film; made from a silver halide compound.

Enamel- A term that describes coating on paper.

Engraving- A printing process whereby images are etched onto a plate. When ink is applied, the etched areas act as small well to hold the ink; paper is forced against this die and the ink is injected into the paper creating raised images.

Etch- Producing an image on a plate by the use of acid.

Exposure- That stage of the photographic process where the image is produced on the light sensitive material.

Fan Fold- Paper folding that emulates an accordion or fan.

Felt Finish- The smoother side of paper usually a soft weave pattern used for book papers.

Felt Side- It is the top side of the sheet in the paper making process that does not lie on the Fourdrinier wire.

Finish- The surface quality of paper.

Fit- The registration of the print on the substrate.

Flush Cover- Book or booklet etc. having the cover trimmed to the same size as the text.

Foil Stamping- Process where foil is transferred via pressure and heat.

Fold Marks- Markings that show where folds should occur. Located outside of trimmed area.

Folder- Machine used to fold signatures or brochures.

Folio or Page Number- Number of pages at top or bottom.

Font- Characters that make up a typeface and size.

Form Rollers- The rollers that come into direct contact with the plate of a printing press.

Four Color Printing- Usually means process printing (CMYK)

Fourdrinier- A machine with a copper wire screen that receives the pulp slurry in the paper making process which become the final paper sheet.

Free Sheet- Paper that is free from wood pulp.

Full Color- Term that represents printing in CMYK.

Gang or Ganging- Grouping multiple jobs or forms on same press sheet.

Gather- To assemble sections into single copies of complete sets for binding.

Ghosting- Noticeable difference in density of ink in certain areas next to larger solid areas due to ink rollers running out of capacity to carry enough ink.

Gas Ghosting- Image from one side of sheet showing through to other side due to ink gasses being trapped.

Gilding- Treating Gold leaf edges of books with a liquid agent and made permanent with burnishing tools.

Graduated Screen- An area of image where halftone dots range continuously from one % to another gradually.

Grain- Direction of fibers in a sheet of paper.

Gripper- Metal fingers that hold each sheet of paper as it passes through each unit of the printing press.

Gripper Edge- The side of the paper that the grippers hold to run through the press.

Gate Fold- Fold where both outside edges fold into the middle thus creating a gate.

Guillotine Cutter- Machine that trims paper excess.

Gutter- Space between pages in the printing sheet.

Hairline Register- Very tight register. It is the thinnest of the standard printers’ rules.

Halftone- Tone graduated image composed of varying sized dots or lines to make a image or picture.

Halftone Screen- Ruled right-angled lines, used to translate the full tone of a photo to the halftone dot image required for printing.

Head Margin- The margin between the top of the printed copy and the trimmed edge.

Hickies- Imperfections in presswork due to dirt on press, in ink or in paper.

High Bulk Paper- Stock that is thicker than normal in relation to its basis weight.

Highlights- The lightest tones of a photo, printed halftone or illustration.

Hot Melt- An adhesive used in the binding process.

House Sheet- This is a term that refers to a paper that a printer keeps on hand in his shop.

IBC- Inside back cover.

IFC- Inside front cover.

Illustrator- Graphic Software

Image Area- Area of the printing plate that carries the ink and prints on paper.

Image Setter- High resolution output device for producing film from electronically generated page layouts.

Imposition- Arrangement of pages so that they print correctly once folded they are in paginated order.

Impression- Product resulting from one cycle of printing machine where image is transferred to paper.

Indicia- Printed information to replace stamp.

Ink Fountain-The well which holds ink and distributes in to the inking rollers.

Ink Holdout- Ability of paper to not allow absorption on ink into paper.

Inkjet- Type of proofing process or low quality production machine.

Italic- Type that is slanted body forward.

Jacket- The paper cover that goes over a hardbound book.

Jog- To vibrate a stack of finished pages so that they are even.

Jogger- Vibrating platform that evens up the edges of stacks of paper.

Kerning- The measure of space between letters.

Kiss Cut- A light die cut that cuts through first layer but leaves base substrate uncut.

Laid Finish- A parallel lined paper that has a handmade look.

Layout- A dummy that shows the placement of all the elements.

Leading- Space between the lines of type.

Letterpress- Printing that utilizes ink raised surfaces to create the image. The imprint is made by pressure.

Line Copy- Any copy that can be reproduced with out the use of halftone screens.

Linen- A paper that copies the look and texture of linen cloth.

Lithography- The process of printing the utilizes flat inked surfaces to create the printed images.

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

Magenta (M)- Also one of the primary colors. (CMYK)

Make Ready- Process of adjusting final plate on the press to put work in register.

Match Print-Photographic proof made from color flats to form a composite proof showing color quality this is now done digitally.

Matte Finish- A coated paper finish that has very little reflection of light or dull finish.

Mechanical- A term used to describe finished artwork that is camera ready for reproduction, including all type, photos, illustrations.

Moire- An undesirable halftone pattern produced by the incorrect angles of halftone screens.

Mottle- A term used to describe spotty or uneven ink absorption.

Natural- Papers that have a color similar to cream, off white or ivory.

Negative- Film that contains the same images s the original print, except that all colors and shades are reversed. Becoming obsolete.

OBC- Outside back cover.

OFC- Outside front cover.

Offset- The most commonly used printing method. The image is transferred from plate to blanket to impression cylinder to paper. Thereby the image is being offset.

Offset Paper- A term used for uncoated paper stock.

Off-shore Paper- Any papers made outside the US and Canada.

On Demand Printing- Printing done to meet immediate demand needs.

Onionskin- A light bond paper used for typing. It is very uncommon these days.

Opacity- Ability to prevent two sided printing from showing side to side.

Opaque- A quality of paper that allows little light to pass through.

Opaque Ink- Ink that completely covers. No light can shine through. Very few inks are like this.

Over Run- Surplus of quantity ordered.

Overhang Cover- A cover of a book that extends over the trimmed signatures it contains.

Overprinting- Any printing that is done on an area that has already been printed.

Pagemaker- Graphics Software

Page- One side of a sheet of paper. Whether printed or not.

Page Makeup- The assemblage of all the necessary elements required to complete a page.

Parallel Fold- All fold are parallel to each other.

Parchment- A hard finished paper that emulates old paper.

Parent Sheet- A sheet that is larger than the cut stock.

Perf Marks- Markings usually dotted lines showing where the perforations should occur.

Perfect- A term used to describe the binding process where the book makes a squared spine.

Perfect Binding- Binding process where backs of sections are cut off, ground together.

Perfecting Press- A printing press that prints on both sides of the page in a single pass.

Perforating- Punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper to facilitate tearing along a desired line.

Pica- Standard of measurement, 1/6 inch. 1 pica = 12 points 72 points = 1 inch

Picking- When the tack of ink is stronger than the surface strength of the paper, some lifting of the paper surface occurs; this is referred to as picking.

Plate- Reproduction of type or cuts in metal, plastic, rubber, or other material, to form a plate bearing an image that can be transferred.

Plate Cylinder- The cylinder on the printing press on which the plate is mounted.

Plate Making- Making a printing plate.

Plate Setter- Machine that images plates directly from digital file.

Point- A measurement unit equal to 1/72 of an inch. 12 points to a pica, 72 points to an inch.

PPI- Pixel per inch.

Premium- Any paper that is considered better than #1 by its manufacturer.

Primary Colors- In printing the four primary colors are cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black.

Process Inks- CMYK, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black that create images in full color.

Process Printing- CMYK printing.

Proof- A representation of the job given to the customer that should represent final product. This is the last stage before plating.

Quark- Graphics Software

Rag Paper- Paper with a complete or partial content of cotton fibers.

Ragged Lift- The term given to right-justified type that is uneven on the left.

Ragged Right- The term given to left-justified type that is uneven on the right.

Ream- 500 sheets of paper.

Reducer- Any substrate that reduces the tack of ink.

Register- The arrangement of two or more images in exact alignment with each other.

Register Marks- Any crossmarks or other symbols used on layout to assure proper registration.

Right Angle Fold- A term that denotes fold that are 90 degrees to each other.

Rub Resistance- Measure of inks ability to resist rubbing or scuffing.

Rubine- A pigment redder than true magenta. It is used primarily in mixing other ink colors.

Saddle Stitching- Stitching where the wire staples pass through the spine from the outside and are clinched in the center. Only used with folded sections in four page increments.

Safety Paper- A paper that can not be altered or tampered with easily.

Satin Finish- An uncoated paper very similar to matte paper.

Score- Light indentation to help folding or tearing. Reduces or prevents cracking of folds.

Screen Angles- The placement of halftone screen in printing to avoid unwanted moiré patterns. Frequently used angles are black 45deg, magenta 75deg, yellow 90deg, and cyan 105deg.

Scumming- Ink film on paper due to lack of water balance.

Self Cover- A cover made out of the same paper stock as the internal (guts) sheets.

Sheetwise-The printing of two different images on two different sides of a sheet of paper by turning the paper by turning the page over after the first side is printed and using the same gripper and side guides on press. Also known as a work and back.

Short Run Printing- Denotes runs with small quantities.

Show Through- When the printing on one side of a sheet is seen from the other side. Can be helped by using a more opaque sheet.

Side Guide- The guides on the sides of the press that position the sheet sideways as the paper is led towards the front guides. This controls the sheet position sideways for registration.

Side Stitching- Stitching where the staples pass through the paper gathered upon each other and are closed on the underside.

Signature- Printed sheet that consists of a number of pages of a book, paginated so they will fold and bind together as a section of a book. The printed sheet after folding.

Slitting- A term to describe the process of cutting of printed sheets by the cutting wheels of a folding machine.

Spine- Back edge of a book.

Spiral Bind- A binding whereby a wire or plastic is spiraled through holes punched along the binding side. Thus allows the book to lay flat.

Spot Color- Area printed in a second color, other than black.

Spread- The amount of increase in size of image to create ink trap.

Static Neutralizer- Device on a printing press that minimizes the amount of static build up on paper as it passes through the press to enable it run faster.

Step and Repeat- A process of generating multiple exposures by taking an image and stepping it in a set measurement.

Stet- A proofreader’s symbol that indicates that the copy, which was marked for correction is actually ok.

Stock- A term for paper or other material to be printed.

Super Calendaring- A machine that produces a high finished paper surface that is extremely smooth and exceptional for printing. Usually on coated paper.

Synthetic Papers- Substrate not made from wood or cotton pulp. Usually petroleum based plastic materials.

Tack- Adhesive quality of inks.

Tag- A dense, strong uncoated paper stock.

Text- High quality uncoated paper.

Thermography- Raised printing. Used to simulate engraving. Actually printed offset with resin powder and heat that melts the resin on the ink.

Tint- A solid screen that contains all the same % size dots.

Toner- Type of solid ink particles that can be black or color. Used on some types of short run digital machines.

Tooth- The rough surfaced finish of papers such as vellum or antique. Not smooth.

Trapping- Spreading or overlapping of colors or images into each other to not show white.

Trim Marks- Marks placed on the sheet to indicate where to cut the page.

Uncalendared– Papers that are not smoothed by going through the calendaring press.

Varnish- A clear shiny material used to add gloss to printed pieces. Also available in satin or dull. Protects in also.

Vellum- A finish of paper that is rough, and has a degree of tooth.

Vignette- Fade to white of illustration. A photo or illustration etc., in which the tones fade gradually away.

W&B- An abbreviation for work and back. Reference sheetwise. Does not change gripper.

W&F- An abbreviation for work and flop. Changes gripper.

W&T- An abbreviation for work and turn. Does not change gripper.

Washup- Cleaning a particular in from all of the printing elements (rollers, plate, ink fountain etc.) of a press.

Watermark- A translucent mark that is embossed during the papermaking process.

Web- The roll of paper that is used in web printing.

Web Press- Cylinder printing machine in which the paper is fed from a continuous reel, as opposed to sheet fed.

Widow- A single word or two left at the right end or a paragraph.

Wire Stitching or Stapling- To fasten together sheets, signatures, or sections with wire staples.

Writing Paper- Another name for bond paper.

Xerographic Paper- Papers made to reproduce well in copy machines and laser printers.

Yellow (Y)- Also one of process colors (CMYK)

Z Fold- Brochure that is folded in the pattern of a “Z”.