Your A-Z Guide to Print Jargon

Has speaking to a printer left your head reeling? Are you working on a project with a designer and just can't wrap your head around it? Heres a handy A-Z guide to print Jargon! *save for later*



A property that causes paper to accept liquids or vapours that come in contact with the paper.

Adobe Postscript

The industry standard page description language invented by Adobe and introduced in 1985 for printing documents that integrate text, graphics, images and colour.

Against the grain

Folding paper at right angles to the grain of the paper.


Changes made to copy after it has been set in type.


The symbol used for 'and' (&).


A term for software that helps people perform a certain type of work or activity.

Art paper

Paper, usually of high gloss, coated with china clay.


Drawings, lettering and general ornamentation prepared by the artist in final form for reproduction.


That part of the letter that rises above the main type body, as in 'd'.


A plain text file format. A file in ASCII format lacks frills such as fancy fonts or complex formatting.

Author's corrections

Corrections made by the author to modify a proof from the original copy.

Author's proof

Proof showing corrections made by the author or editor.


Backing up

Printing the reverse side of a sheet already printed on one side.

Back Lining

Paper or fabric adhering to the backbone or spine in a hard case book.


A visible stair-stepping of shades in a gradient.

Banker envelope

Envelope with the opening on its longer dimension.

Bank paper

Thin, tough writing paper, usually less than 61 gsm in weight.

Bezier Curve

A curve used in various software programs that provide control handles for manipulation the shape of the arc; named after cathedral shapes in Bezier, France.


Generally a file that describes a sequential collection of bits that together will display an image on the screen. Some of the most popular bitmap formats are BMP, GIF, JPEG, PCX, and tiff.

Black and white

Originals or reproductions printed in black (as distinct from multicolour).


In offset lithography, a flexible fabric clamped around the cylinder, which transfers the image from plate to paper.


Papermaking process to whiten cellulose fibres.


Where the image extends past the edge of a printed sheet, without leaving a border.


Occurs when printed on one side of a sheet of paper shows through to the other side.

Blind emboss

A design that is stamped or pressed (without metallic leaf or ink) into a piece of paper.



Body Type

Type used for the text of a book. As distinguished from the headlines.

Bond Paper

Writing paper or printed paper where strength, durability and permanence are required. Used for letterheads, business forms, stationery, etc.


Phamplet bound in the form of a booklet.


An error in a software program or hardware device.


Thickness of paper.

Burst binding

A form of binding similar to perfect binding.



A very fast and expensive type of memory (SRAM, or static RAM) most often used to hold data frequently used by the CPU.


Thickness of paper, expressed in microns.


Term applied to the explanatory text accompanying an illustration.


Books bound in stiff boards covered by fabric or other material.

Cast coated

Coating paper dried under pressure against a polished cylinder to produce a highly glossed, mirror-like finish.

Catching up

Indicates that the non image areas of a lithographic press plate are inking up.

Clean proof

Printers proof which requires no corrections.

Clip art

Graphics that can be placed electronically into documents you're creating on your computer.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the ink colours used for process colour reproduction.

Coated paper

Paper with a surface coating to produce a smooth finish either matt or glossy.


To bring sections of a work together in correct sequence.

Colour bars

A band of colour printed next to the gripper or tail edge of a sheet to check colour density across the sheet.

Colour correction

Improving the quality of the colour rendition.

Colour separation

Separation of the colours making up a full colour original, usually into the three primaries (cmy) plus black, each of which will be reproduced by a separate printing plate.

Additional colours are often needed for fine art reproduction. Modern colour separation systems use laser scanners controlled by computers.


Setting type.

Continuous tone

Photographic image which has not been screened and contains gradient tones.


Tonal graduation between highlight and shadows in an original or reproduction.


Typewritten manuscript, picture, artwork, etc., to be used in the production of printing.


In composition, checking type size, arrangement, or content of copy to fit a given area.


Trimming or masking off unwanted portions of illustrations or pictures.


Registration marks for accurate positioning of images in multicolour printing.

Concertina fold

Term used for two or more parallel paper folds, which open in concertina fashion.



In lithography, cloth-covered, parchment paper or rubber (bare back) rollers that distribute the dampening solution to the press plate.


A plate sunk image.


Photoelectric instrument which measures the density of photographic images, or of colours. Used in colour printing and quality control to determine accurately whether colours are consistent throughout the run. The Densitometer reads the solid colour bars to be seen on the untrimmed printing sheet.


In Macintosh and Windows applications, the computer's on screen working environment including the menu bars, icons etc. Arranged on the surface of your display.

Desktop Publishing

Creating corporate documents, periodicals, brochures, books, etc., using equipment like personal computers, page layout software and printers.


The process of using sharp steel rules to cut special shapes in the paper being used in the production of a project.


Related to digits or represented in digits. Digital information is expressed in bits (zeros and ones), the form understood by computers. Digital devices are hardware products like printers or scanners that receive and/or send out information in a digital format.

Digital colour printing

A printing process that allows colour printing directly from electronic images without the need for film or colour separations.

Digital colour proof

An electronic colour proof reproduced from the electronic data.

Direct to plate printing

Imaging directly to the plate material used in offset printing. The traditional offset printing process included printing film (typically from an imagesetter today), 'burning plates' by exposing the aluminum or poly plates with the film, and mounting the resulting plates on offset presses. Direct-to-plate printing eliminates the film imaging step by imaging directly on the plate material.

Distributing Roller

Rubber covered roller which conveys ink from the fountain to the ink drum of a printing press.


A file created by a program. Don't think of it only as text. Just like a paper document might also contain photos or art, a computer document can be anything you've created on the screen with an application and saved as a file.


The basic constituent of a halftone.

Dot gain

A tendency in the printing process for dots to print larger than they appear on the film and printing plate.


The process of moving a copy of a file from one computer to another.


An acronym for Dots Per Inch. The number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one-inch measure. Generally, the more dots per inch, the more detail is captured and the sharper the image will print.


Halftone with no screen dots in the highlight.

Drop Shadow

A tone of colour, or line, which falls on one side of horizontal and vertical parts of type or picture, as would a shadow on a three dimensional object.

Dull Finish

A paper finish with little or no gloss.


Samples of the proposed work prepared before printing to assist in assessing design and estimating production requirements. A binder's dummy is made to establish the exact dimensions of the bound book.


Halftone printed using black and colour halftones, or in any two colours.


When paper is printed on both sides of the sheet.


Fountain Solution

In lithography, a solution of water, gum arabic and other chemicals used to dampen the plate. Moistened non-printing areas do not accept ink.

Four Colour Process

A method that uses dots of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to simulate the continuous tones and variety of colours in a colour image.



Flap from the fore-edge, with a fold running parallel to the spine of the book. The finished page is marginally smaller than the normal trimmed page. A double fold, usually of card or heavy board, from the two outside edges of a folder. The two folded pages meet in the centre of the page, edge to edge, rather like a double gate.


A file format for bitmap images (short for Graphical Interchange Format) Gif is popular format for www because it allows images to be compressed so that they can be transmitted faster, and also lets deigners add animated effects to images. This format is not recommended for the printing process as it only works in 256 colour space.


Gradual transition from one tone to another, ie. Dark to light or one colour to another.


In papermaking, the direction in which most fibres lie corresponding to the direction that the paper travels during the papermaking process.


Weight of a standard area of paper expressed in grams per square metre, abbreviated as GSM.


The drawings or design components of material prepared for printing. These can be hand drawn, derived photographically or computer generated.

Gripper edge

Leading edge of paper blank to receive grippers as it passes through a printing press. The front edge of a lithographic or wraparound plate secured to the front clamp of plate cylinder.

Gripper margin

Unprinted blank edge of paper on which grippers bear, usually 10mm - 15mm.


Metal finders that clamp on paper to hold it as it passes through a printing press.



Reproduction of continuous tone artwork, such as a photograph, with the image translated into dots of various sizes.


Spot or imperfection in printing due to dirt on the press, hardened specks of ink, etc.


Whitest parts of a photograph represented by the smallest dots or the absence of dots.


The main attribute colour which distinguishes it from other colour.


Water loving, can be wet by water, rejects oil.


Water rejecting, water repellent.



A device that outputs computer generated images on film negatives, film positives or poly material.

Imposed signature proof

Proof of a section of a book, usually the first, which carries the title page and other preliminary matter.


Laying out of pages so that they will be in correct order after the printed sheet is folded.


In printing, the impression of image, plate or blanket as it comes in contact with the paper.

Ink Holdout

A paper's ability to hold printing or writing inks on its surface instead of absorbing the inks.

Inkjet printing

Creates a desired image on paper by squirting droplets of liquid inks under pressure from a printhead containing one or more nozzles. The printer's resolution (often expressed as dots per inch, or DPI) is dependent upon a number of factors, such as the number of nozzles; the frequency of ink droplets; the placement of the droplets; and the quality of the paper used for printing.


Leaves inserted between pages of a book.

International Colour Consortium (ICC)

A group of companies charted to develop, use, and promote cross-platform standards so that applications and devices can exchange color data without ambiguity. Founding members include Adobe, Agfa, Apple, FOGRA, Kodak, Microsoft, Silicon Graphics, Sun and Taligent.


Jobbing Printing

Printing other than book, periodical and newspaper work.


A file format for bitmap images (short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the organisation that created the format). The JPEG format allows images to be compressed, so that even large pictures do not take up much space on disk when transmitted over the Internet. For this reason, JPEG is a popular format for designers of websites.


To space words and letters to a given measure. Vertical alignment at the right and left of the column.



Abbreviation for a quantity of 1000


Abbreviation for 1,000 bits per second


Kerning involves closing up type where the letter shape resulting in uneven letterspacing

Keyline Drawing

Simplified overlay with instruction as a guide to illustrated material


A unit of storage equal to 1,000 bytes



Bonding clear plastic film by heat and pressure to a sheet of paper to protect the print and improve its appearance.


Page or illustration wider than it is high.

Laser Printer

Uses a laser beam that is focused on a rotating mirror, which deflects the light through a focusing lens. The printer uses a high-powered single concentrated light source that is directed onto a photosensitive material located on a drum. Dots are created and placed in succession as the light beam scans the rotating drum on a horizontal path


Sketch or plan specifying size, position of type and illustrations, treatment of headings, etc. Widely used in the preparation of advertisements


Two pages of a book, the front and back of a single piece of paper


Printing directly from upraised type or blocks


Printing by planographic process (Q.V)



Final machine preparation for printing to ensure an even impression over the entire printing area. Can be a significant percentage of the costs of printing, particularly for short runs of colour work.


Space surrounding the print area of a page.

Matt finish

Paper finish without gloss.


A unit storage equal to one million bytes.


Model of the finished book or magazine with essential detail sketched in.


Screen pattern in printing caused by overlaying conflicting screen angles. Resembles the moire pattern in silk.


Combination of related pieces of copy appearing as one to tell a complete story.


Spotty or uneven appearance of printing.


A digital movie format created by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG). MPEG files allow for none realistic notion with a smaller file size than earlier formats, making it a popular format for digital full-length movies. Files in the MPEG format have a .mpg extension.


The use of more than one media, such as any combination of sound, graphics, animation and video.



Photographic image on film in which black values in the original subject are transparent, and white values are opaque; light greys are dark and dark greys are light.


A group of computers and related devices, such as printers, that are connected by cable or some other means so they can communicate with each other.

Nonimpact Printing

Describes a segment of printers, such as inkjet, laser, thermal or electrostatic, that creates images without needing to strike the page.



Optical character recognition of type by a scanner, which senses the light reflecting from the printed image and provides impulses to recognition circuits to identify each character. This can also be achieved by software from a scanned image.


Printing in which the image is transferred from plate to paper by means of a rubber-covered cylinder. A general term for offset lithography.


Property which measures 'show through' of printing from the reverse side of a sheet of paper.

Overhang Cover

Cover larger in size than the pages it encloses.


Double printing; printing over an area already printed.


Copies of print matter in excess of the quantity required.



Paging of a book and the numbering of the pages.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

The most widely used system for specifying and blending match colours.


The word derives from Papyrus, a reed-like plant growing in Egypt along the banks of rivers.

Paper grade

Papers manufactured to fit within a group or type of papers. Each grade of paper uses basically the same fiber, colour, additive and chemical compound.

Perfect Binding

Form of binding in which the pages are attached to the cover by means of a heat set plastic.


Lifting of the paper surface, occurs when ink tack exceeds the surface strength of paper.


The colour particles that give colour, body or opacity to printing inks.


The build up or caking of ink on rollers, plate or blanket or the paper build up on the blanket of an offset printing press.


The smallest dot on a computer display or in a digital image. Pixels are the building blocks for making the letters and images you see on your computer screen. An image on a screen can be made up of hundreds of pixels, each a different colour.


Printing surface such as a litho plate.

Press Proof

A proof to indicate the appearance of a colour subject printed on a production or proof press. The last proof taken before a print run.

Primary colours

Yellow, magenta, cyan in printing; red, green and blue in photography.

Process printing

Printing from two or more plates to produce intermediate colours and shades. In four-colour process: yellow, magenta, cyan and black.


Reproduction of type or illustrations, prior to final, for the purpose of assessment or correction.



500 sheets of paper.


Accurate superimposition of colours in multicolour printing; exact alignment of pages so that they back one another precisely.

Register mark

Crosses or other marks on originals to act as a guide for platemaking, printing and colour registration; sometimes known as keys.


Line reproduction of a photograph, which has already been screened (printed), to give the give the impression of a halftone.


In monitors, resolution is commonly measured by the number of pixels that can be displayed in a specified area. In printing, resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi). In either case, more pixels or dots mean a finer graphics image.


Artists sketch or visual, preliminary to preparation of art, photography and type.


Number of copies to be printed.


A type area set in measures that are adjusted to fit around a picture.


Saddle stitching

Securing pages by wire staples through the centre fold. In saddle-stitched work the printed sections are inserted one inside the other.

Sans Serif

Typeface without serifs.


Determining the proper size for an image to be reduced or enlarged.


A device for converting text or graphics into a digital image you can display on your computer screen and use with certain applications.


Furrowing a sheet, particularly if it is heavy stock, so that it will fold without cracking.


Screen used to convert a continuous tone image to a dot formation. The greater the number of lines to a centimetre the finer the screen.

Screen angles

In colour reproduction, angles at which a halftone screen or the original itself are placed for each of the colour separation negatives, in order to prevent formation of interference patterns (moire) in the completed colour reproduction. Angles of 30 degrees between colours produce minimum patterns.

Screen ruling

Number of lines per centimetre on a contact screen or ruled glass halftone screen.


In offset lithography, a greasy film which tends to sensitise non-image areas in a plate to accept ink.

Self cover

Cover printed on the same stock as a book.


Short cross-lines at the ends of the main strokes of letters in some typefaces.


In presswork, when the ink of a printed sheet rubs off or marks the next sheet as it is being delivered.


Darkest parts in a photograph, represented in a halftone by the largest dots.


To print one side of a sheet of paper, with one forme or plate, then turn the sheet over and print the other side with another forme using same gripper and side guide.

Short-grain paper

Paper in which the machine direction is parallel to its shorter dimension.

Short Ink

Ink that is buttery and does not flow freely.


When print on one side of a sheet of paper can be easily seen from the other side.


Securing sections of a book by inserting stitches through from the first sheet to the last.


The name given to a printed sheet after it has been folded. Also the sections of a book which are gathered for binding.

Signature mark

Used in bookwork as a guide to gathering. The signature mark is usually a small capital letter, but may also be a figure or bar printed at the bottom of the first page of each section of the book. The sequence of signatures is progressive throughout the book.

Silk screen (screen-printing)

Method of printing from stencils through a fine mesh of silk, metal or other material. The stencils may be photographic or cut by hand.


Part of a books cover or jacket, visible when the book is on a shelf.

Spiral binding

Book bound with wires in spiral form inserted through holes punched along the binding side.

Step-up (step and repeat)

A system of repeating an image on a plate by stepping it into position according to a predetermined layout. Used for multiple printing of packs on a sheet.


Means let it stand. It is written on the margin of a proof or manuscript to cancel an alteration, the word or words to be restored being underlined with dots.


Paper or other material to be printed on.


The penetration of ink through paper during printing.


In offset lithography, the positioning of negatives (or positives) prior to platemaking.



Viscosity. Property of cohesion between particles of an ink against another surface. Tacky ink does not break apart readily.


Body matter of a page or book, as distinguished from headings.


Folded map or plain printed and bound in a book to fold out to a size larger than the page size.


Even tone area of a solid colour.


Monochrome or full-colour photographic positive or picture on a transparent support, intended for viewing and reproduction by transmitted light.

Transparent ink

Inks which permit underprinting to show through; two colours blending to produce a third.

Trapping of Inks

Proper trapping is the condition when the same amount of ink is transfers to previously printed ink as to blank paper.


To take a small cut off the outer edge.

Trim marks

Marks placed on copy to indicate the edge of the page for trimming.



Rule printed under a word or words. Also for marking copy and proof.

UCR (undercolour removal)

In process printing, colour separation films are reduced in colour in neutral areas where all three colours overprinted and the black film is increased in equivalent amount in these areas. This improves trapping and can reduce make-ready and ink costs.


In printing, two-up, three-up, etc. refers to imposition of material to be printed on a larger size sheet than would be necessary for only that material, to take advantage of full press capacity.


Ultraviolet rays used as an ink vehicle drying method.


Vacuum frame

An exposure frame in which the negative (or positive) is held directly to the plate by vacuum.


Thin, protective coating applied to a printed sheet for protection or appearance. In inkmaking, it can be all or part of the ink vehicle.


An embossed printing effect achieved by the use of special inks and powders.


Illustration in which the one fades gradually away until it blends into the unprinted paper.


A broad term encompassing the properties of tack and flow of printing inks.



Process of cleaning the rollers, forme or plate, and sometimes the fountain of a press.


A name or design impressed into paper by the raised pattern of the dandy roll during paper manufacture.

Web press

A press which prints from rolls of paper.

With the grain

A term applied to folding paper parallel to the grain of paper.

Work and tumble

To print one side of a sheet of paper, then turn the sheet over from gripper to back using the same side guide and print the second side.

Work and turn

To print one side of a sheet of paper, then turn the sheet over from left to right and print the second side. The same gripper is used for printing both sides.

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