See below for a glossary of helpful printing terms.
Accordion Fold: Also called a fan fold. Similar to a Z-fold but with an additional panel. The piece is folded twice in a zig-zag manner to form a “W” shape.
Additive Color: Color produced by light falling onto a surface. Compare to Subtractive Color. Additive primary colors are Red, Green, Blue.
Adobe Acrobat: Software package created by Adobe for converting any document to an Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Anyone can open your document across a broad range of hardware and software using the downloadable, free software Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it will look exactly as you intended.
Against the Grain: When printing is at a right angle to the paper grain, it can cause problems in folding. A workaround for this is scoring.
Aqueous Coating: Water-based coating applied like ink to protect and enhance printing beneath. Environmentally friendly.
Banding: When screens do not transition smoothly. The steps between areas of lighter and darker screens look stepped or striped.
Bindery: Where the finishing of printed material takes place. Some things that happen in bindery are trimming, folding, binding, drilling, and boxing.
Blanket: Pad mounted on a cylinder of an offset press. Receives the inked image from the plate and transfers it to the surface to be printed.
Bleed: Printing beyond the trim marks on a sheet so that when the piece is trimmed to its final size, color reaches the edge of the paper. Typically 1/8″ (.125″) of bleed is sufficient.
Blind Image: A shape that is pressed into paper without applying ink or foil. Can be embossed, debossed, or stamped.
Blueline: A print made on light-sensitive paper used as a proof for checking the film prior to making plates. Thompson Print & Mailing Solutions doesn’t use this kind of proof, we supply a low-resolution digital proof (PDF) to our customers electronically, a low-resolution paper folded comp, or a high-resolution paper proof.
C1S: Abbreviation for Coated One Side.
C2S: Abbreviation for Coated Two Sides.
CMYK: Abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black), the four process colors.
Camera-Ready: A term commonly used to mean that a document is ready to go to press. Historically, this meant that the art was ready to be included in the final “mechanical” layout and photographed. Plates were then made from the film’s negative. Now, in a digital-to-plate system, it simply means that a document is ready to be made into a printing plate.
Closed Gate Fold: The same as an Open Gate Fold with an additional fold in the center to create 4 panels.
Coated Paper: Paper with a coating of clay to improve reflectivity and ink holdout. Some coating types offered by Thompson Print & Mailing Solutions include Gloss and Matte.
Collate: A term used in finishing for gathering sets or pages in a specified order.
Color Balance: In CMYK prepress, percentages of each ink required to crete a certain color. On the press, this term refers to the amounts of each ink added to match the desired color.
Color Bar: A strip of colors in the trim area of a piece of printed material, used to ensure that all colors are printing correctly.
Color Correction: Improving color separations by altering the electronic file, the amount of color burned onto a plate, or the amount of ink applied to a press sheet.
Color Matching System: The process of ensuring that color remains the same when going from one medium to another. A popular Color Matching System (CMS) in the printing industry is the Pantone Matching System.
Color Separations: The process of preparing color images by separating them into individual color components. In offset printing, this is traditionally Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). When these colors are printed on paper in small dots, the human eye combines them to see the final image.
Contrast: The degree of tones in an image, ranging from highlights to shadows.
Cover Stock: Thick paper used for items such as menus, posters, folders, and business cards.
Coverage: Amount of ink covering the surface of the paper. Usually expressed as light, medium, or heavy.
Crop: Removing outer parts of a picture or image to improve framing, accentuate subject matter or change aspect ratio.
Crop Marks: Also called trim marks. Printed marks that show where to trim a printed sheet.
Cure: Drying inks or varnishes to ensure good adhesion and prevent offsetting.
Cyan: An icy blue color that is one of the four component colors in the CMYK model, with Magenta, Yellow and Black.
Debossing: A shape that is pressed into paper. The resulting area is lowered.
Densitometer: A device used in quality control to measure the degree of darkness of printed ink.
Density: The degree of darkness in an image or photograph.
Die: A shape or blade used in embossing or for cutting a sheet into a specific shape.
Die Cutting: Cutting a sheet into a specific shape using a steel cutting die.
Digital Printing: Printing directly from a digital file onto a variety of media. Usually used for small or short-run jobs at a higher cost per page. Higher cost is offset somewhat by avoiding the technical steps required to make plates and set up a press. Digital Printing allows for variable data printing, printing on-demand, and shorter turnaround times than traditional offset printing.
Digital Proof: A proof delivered electronically rather than in paper form. The most usual file format is PDF.
Dot Gain: Also called spread. A term that expresses how much the size of a dot on film will increase when ink hits paper.
Dots Per Inch: Measurement of the resolution of an image. Abbreviated DPI.
Double Parallel Fold: A fold where the piece is folded in half, then half again, creating 4 panels on each side. Folds are parallel to each other.
DPI: Abbreviation for Dots Per Inch. Measurement of the resolution of an image.
Duotone: A halftone picture made up of two colors.
Embossing: A shape that is pressed into paper. The resulting area is raised.
Finish: (1) Surface of a coated paper, i.e. gloss or matte. (2) Term for trimming, folding, bindery and other post-press processes.
Finished Size: Size of finished printed piece after production is completed, as compared to Flat Size.
Flat Size: Size of printed piece after printing and trimming, but before folding and other finishing, as compared to Finished Size.
Flood: Also called Flood Coat. Covering a printed sheet completely with ink, varnish or some other coating.
Foil: Metallic or colored material on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping, foil embossing, and foil debossing.
Folder: Bindery machine for folding printed material.
For Position Only: Placing photos or copy in a mechanical to indicate size and placement, but not intended for production. Abbreviated FPO.
Four-Color Process: Four basic colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) are combined to create a complete range of color.
Four-Panel Roll Fold: 4-panel fold where the piece is folded inward at one end and then inward again, as if you are rolling it up.
FPO: Abbreviation of For Position Only. Placing photos or copy in a mechanical to indicate size and placement, but not intended for production.
French Fold: Also called a Quarter-Fold. Paper is folded once vertically, then horizontally, for a 4-panel fold.
Gate Fold: A fold where both sides fold toward the gutter.
Ghosting: A faint image that appears on a printed sheet where it was not intended.
Gloss: A shiny finish that reflects light.
Gradient: A color transition accomplished with screens.
Grain: The alignment of fibers in a paper sheet. Grain is important because paper will crack if folded against the grain.
Gripper: System of metal finger-like devices that pull the leading edge of a sheet of paper through the press.
Gripper Edge: The area of the sheet where the ripper grabs the paper.
Gripper Space: Unprintable space along the gripper edge.
Gutter: The inside margins of a folded or bound piece.
Hairline: A term meaning a very thin line or small space.
Half-fold: Sheet is folded in half, creating 2 panels on each side.
Halftone: The process of converting a continuous tone image into dots for printing, or the result of this process.
Hard Copy: The output of a computer printer, or typed text sent for typesetting.
Hickey: Reoccurring, unplanned donut-shaped spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint or dried ink that get stuck to the blanket cylinder of an offset press.
Highlight: Lightest portions of a photograph or halftone. Compare to Midtones and Shadows.
Hue: A specific color, such as red or green.
Jogger: A machine with a sloping platform that vibrates to even up stacks of printed material.
K: Abbreviation for black in 4-color process printing, CMYK.
Kiss Die Cut: To cut the top layer but not the backing of self-adhesive paper. Used when cutting stickers.
Knockout: Type, graphic or other image produced by printing around its outline, allowing the paper to show through. Also called Reverse.
Leading: Amount of space between lines of type.
Letter Fold: Two folds that create three panels on each side. Both side sheets fold inward, and the inner panel is slightly shorter so that the piece will lie flat when folded. Also called Tri-fold, C-fold, or 3-panel Roll Fold.
Letterhead: In the United States, typically an 8.5 x 11 sheet of stationery that contains the name, address and logo of a business entity.
Linen: An embossed finish on paper that simulates the pattern of linen cloth.
Live Area: Area on a mechanical on which images will print. Also called Safe Area.
Logo: A combination of letters and art that create a symbol that denotes a unique entity.
Loupe: A lens built into a small stand, used to inspect copy, film, proofs, plates, and printing.
Magenta: In 4-color process printing, the pink color. Abbreviated with an M.
Makeready: All the activities required to prepare a press for printing or other machine to function for a specific job, as compared to activities during the production run. Also called Setup
Margin: Space around the edge of the printed material.
Mask: Blocking light from reaching parts of a printing plate. Also called Knockout.
Matte: A flat (not glossy) finish on photographs or coated printing paper.
Mechanical: Camera-ready artwork sent with instructions to the printer.
Midtones: In a photograph or illustration, tones created by dots between 30% and 70% coverage, as opposed to highlights and shadows.
Moiré Pattern: An effect created when making a screen of an image that already has a screen. This usually happens when using a printed piece as an original (i.e. scanning in a picture from a magazine) and should be avoided.
Offset: A type of printing that uses an intermediary surface (blanket) to transfer the image from the inked plate to the paper.
Offsetting: Undesirable outcome when freshly printed sheets transfer images to each other.
Opacity: The amount of show-through on a printed sheet.
Open Gate Fold: 3-panel fold where the sides of an oversized sheet fold and meet in the middle, creating a larger middle panel.
Overprint: To print one image over a previously printed image.
Overrun: Additional copies printed beyond the ordered amount.
PDF: Portable Document Format.
PMS: The abbreviated name of the Pantone Matching System.
Pagination: The numbering of pages.
Panel: One section of a brochure, separated by folds. For example, a tri-folded brochure would have six panels, three on each side.
Pantone Matching System: An industry-standard color matching system used to ensure correct color reproduction.
Perfect Bind: To bind sheets that have been ground at the spine and are held to the cover with glue.
Perforating: Creating a line of small, dotted holes for the purpose of tearing off a portion of the finished printed piece.
Pica: A unit of measure. Approximately 1/6 inch or .166 inch.
Pixel: Short for Picture Element. A dot made by a computer, scanner, or other digital device.
Plate: A piece of metal, paper, plastic or rubber that carries an image to be reproduced using a printing press.
Point: (1) In typesetting, a unit of measure equaling 1/72 inch or .014 inch. There are 12 points in one pica. (2) For paper, a unit of thickness equaling 1/1000 inch.
Prepress: Work done prior to printing. May include camera work, color separations, color correction, and platemaking.
Press Proof: A proof made on press using the plates, ink and paper specified by the customer and approved before the job goes into production.
Press Run: Production run intended to complete a printing order, as opposed to Makeready.
Print Run: The number of copies in one printing.
Process Color: The process of using cyan, magenta, yellow and black to build/create any and all colors.
Promotional Printing: A kind of specialty printing that involves printing logos and other information on products. Typical promotional items are mugs, pens, flash drives, and lots more.
Proof: A print out or mock-up of a job usually presented to the customer for approval.
Quarter-Fold: Also called a French Fold. Folded once vertically then horizontally for a 4-panel fold.
RGB: Abbreviation for Red, Green, Blue, the additive color primaries. Not suitable for offset printing.
Raster Image: Images composed of tiny dots called pixels. Pixels placed close together fool the eye into seeing continuous tones. Enlarged raster images suffer from lower resolution and may appear fuzzy or pixelated.
Ream: Typically 500 sheets of text/writing stock, and 250 sheets of cover stock.
Register: The correct alignment of colors during printing.
Register Marks: Cross-hair lines or marks on film, plates and paper to assist printers in aligning color.
Resolution: Sharpness of an image on film, paper, screen or other medium.
Reverse: Type, graphic or other image produced by printing around its outline, allowing the paper to show through. Also called Knockout.
Rule: Line used as a graphic element to separate or organize sections of copy.
SWOP: Abbreviation for Specifications for Web Offset Publications, recommended for offset printing.
Saddle Stitch: Binding by stapling sheets together at the seam where they fold. Also called Pamphlet Stitch.
Safe Area: An area within the cut/trim marks where you can be sure important text and graphics will not be trimmed. Thompson Print & Mailing Solutions generally specifies 1/8 inch or .125 inch inside the trim line as the safe area. Your account representative will advise if your specific artwork has a different safe area.
Scanner: Electronic device used to scan an image.
Score: A crease put on paper to help it fold in a straight line and prevent cracking.
Screen Percentage: The amount of ink coverage applied. See also tints.
Screen Printing: A process that uses a large amount of ink and a stencil. The thick, plastic ink is forced through the stencil onto the substrate with a squeegee.
Screen Tint: Lighter color created by dots instead of solid ink coverage.
Self Cover: Using the same paper as the text for the cover.
Self Mailer: A printed item that does not require an envelope for mailing.
Setup: All the activities required to prepare a press for printing or other machine to function for a specific job, as compared to activities during the production run. Also called Makeready.
Shade: Hue made darker by adding black, as compared to tint.
Shadows: Darkest areas of a photograph, compared with midtones and highlights.
Sheet-Fed Press: A printing press into which individual sheets of paper are fed.
Side Stitch: Binding by stapling sheets along one side.
Solid: Area of the printed piece receiving 100% ink coverage, as compared to a screen tint.
Specifications: All details about a print job, also called specs.
Spot Color: Ink which has been mixed before printing to create a solid color and more precise matching.
Spread: (1) Two pages that face each other and are designed as one visual unit. (2) Another word for dot gain. (3) Technique of slightly enlarging an image to accomplish a hairline trap.
Step and Repeat: Technique of exposing an image in a precise pattern to create multiple copies on a single plate.
Stock: The material to be printed.
Substrate: Any surface on which printing is done. Can include paper, plastic, fabric, etc.
Subtractive Color: Color produced by light reflected from a surface, as compared to additive color. Primary colors are yellow, cyan and magenta.
Swatch: In prepress programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, a set ink value that can be named and used repeatedly to ensure exact match.
Tabloid: 11 x 17 sheet of paper.
Template: A standard layout that sets a printing project’s specifications.
Tint: Lighter color created by adding white to a solid color.
Trap: An area where two colors overlap slightly. Trap is used to make sure any shift in printing does not allow the paper to show through.
Tri-fold: Two folds that create three panels on each side. Both side sheets fold inward, and the inner panel is slightly shorter so that the piece will lie flat when folded. Also called 3-panel Roll Fold, C-fold or Letter Fold.
Trim Marks: Also called crop marks. Printed marks that show where to trim a printed sheet.
Trim Size: The final size of the printed piece after the last trim is made. See also Flat Size.
UV Coating: Liquid that is applied to a printed sheet then cured with ultraviolet light.
Uncoated Paper: Paper that has not been coated with clay.
Up: Term that indicates multiple copies of an image are to be printed on one sheet of paper. Two up or Four up means printing the same thing two or four times on each sheet.
Varnish: Clear liquid that adds a sheen to the press sheet. Varnishes can be gloss or matte.
Vector Images: Vector graphics define areas with mathematical equations. It is best to use vector graphics when possible as opposed to raster or bitmap images in your designs. They are able to retain high image quality at any size.
Washup: Cleaning ink and fountain solutions from rollers, fountains, screens and other press parts. Certain ink colors may require multiple washups to avoid ink and chemical contamination.
Watermark: Translucent logo in paper created when the paper is milled.
Window: A die-cut hole revealing the image on the sheet behind it.
With the Grain: Folding or feeding paper into the press or folder parallel to the grain of the paper. Compare to Against the Grain. See also Grain.
Wove: Paper manufactured without visible wire marks, usually a fine-textured paper.
Z-fold: 3-panel fold that folds back and forth to make a Z shape.