Printing Glossary

Have you ever wondered what some of those curious printing terms actually mean? No? Well we've decided to publish them anyway!

If you come across any others that you think ought to be included (real or invented), we'd be pleased to hear from you...


page count:
Total number of pages, including blanks and printed pages without numbers.

Process of printing both sides of one sheet during a single pass through the press.

perfect binding:
A bookbinding method in which pages are glued rather than sewn to the cover used primarily for paperback books.

A measurement for the size of type, distance between lines and thickness of rules. one point equals one seventy-second of an inch (0.3515mm).

Pantone® colours:
Premixed ink colours that are often specified for printing as a spot colour can be matched using CMYK but will not be exactly the same colour as its Pantone colour counterpart.

process colour:
Colour specified in percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, when superimposed during printing the four colour printing process, their separate plates can recreate millions of different colours.

process blue / process red / process yellow / process black:
Alternate names for the CMYK colours

A representation of the finished print produced for customer inspection for errors to be corrected prior to mass printing.

Colour proofs taken at each stage of printing showing each colour printed alone and then superimposed on the preceding colour.

Quark Xpress:
The industry standard typesetting and page layout program.

Right hand page of an open publication.

registration marks:
Crosses or other marks placed on artwork which ensure perfect alignment ('registration').

Type appearing white on a black or colour background, either a solid or a tint.

The number of dots per inch (dpi) in a computer-processed document. the level of detail retained by a printed document increases with higher resolution. ppi (pixels per inch) for an image.

RIP (raster image processor):
Computer used to create an electronic bitmap for actual output. this may be built into an imagesetter or may be separate.

registration marks:
Reference marks on the page used to align overlaying colours. Also known as trim marks or crop marks.

An acronym for red, green and blue. RGB is a colour model used for computer monitors and colour video output systems. colour separations for litho printing can not be made directly from RGB files and need to be converted to CMYK first.

The formation created by the dots that make up four-color images. The dots, in magenta (red), cyan (blue), yellow, and black, overlap each other in a cluster. because the dots are not perfectly round, and because they are turned at angles to each other, this cluster resembles the arrangement of petals in a rose.

saddle stitch:
A binding process in which a pamphlet or booklet is stapled through the middle fold of its sheets using metal wires.

The process of converting a hard copy into digital data ready for editing and design. the quality of the scan is dependent on the quality of the original, the scanning equipment and software as well as the experience of the operator!

A pressed mark in a sheet of paper or card to make folding cleaner and easier.

The paper used inside a booklet is the same as that used for the cover and is generally printed on the same press run.

A term used to describe the positioning of documents several times onto the same sheet of paper to avoid paper wastage. it's also known as imposition.

A term for the material any project is printed onto.

spot colour:
Spot colour is not made using the process colours. instead the colour is printed using an ink made exclusively. each spot colour therefore requires its own separate printing plate. spot colours do not apply to digital printing as the printing devices can only reproduce from the four process colours; cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

Two or more adjoining pages that would appear in view on sheet.

An area on the page which is completely covered by the ink.

Acronym for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF (.TIF) pictures can be black-and-white line art, greyscale or colour. this is a widely used format for image/photographic files but is unsuitable for text unless its is created at a very hi-resolution.

An area of tone made by a pattern of dots, which lightens the apparent colour of the ink with which it is printed.

A slight overlapping between two touching colours that prevents gaps from appearing along the edges of an object because of misalignment or movement on the printing press.

turnaround time:
Amount of time needed to complete a project.

UV varnish:
A liquid laminate that is bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.

The application of a varnish/sealant to a surface to offer protection against marking and improve it's overall appearance.

Left handed page of an open publication.

wash up:
To clean ink from rollers, fountains and other components of a press.

wire-o binding:
A method of wire binding books along the binding edge that will allow the book to lay flat.

work and tumble:
To print one side of a sheet of paper then turn the sheet over from gripper to back using the opposite gripper edge but the same side guide to 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 using the same gripper edge to print the second side.

x height:
The height of lower case letters without their ascenders or descenders, which is the height of the letter x.