Glossary of Printing & Graphic Terms


Accordion fold
A bindery term for two or more parallel folds that result in a sheet that opens like an accordion

Against the grain
Perpendicular to the direction of the paper grain

A defect which occurs when a graphic file does not have enough resolution to reproduce image detail and causes visible jagged lines along the edges

Technique of filling the edges of an object with pixels to eliminate jagged lines and make it appear smoother

Aqueous Coating
A fast-drying, water-based coating that is applied after printing that gives a glossy finish and protects the print’s surface

In printing, this is the original copy which includes all text, graphics, photos and illustrations


Back up
To print the reverse side of a sheet already printed on one side

To fasten sheets or sections into brochures or booklets with the use of wire, thread, glue, staples, etc

The process by which sheets are fastened together which include cutting, trimming, collating, perforating, and folding to form the finished product

The department in a printing company where finishing work is done such as collating, folding and trimming of printed products

An image file format that refers to the rows and columns (map) of dots or pixels that form an image

Bitmap Images
Computerized image made up of a collection of dots or pixels; these images appear blocky when you zoom in; also known as raster images

The thick rubber coated pad of a printing press that transfers ink from the plate to the sheet

Printing that goes beyond the edge of the final trim size

Blind embossing
A technique in which a design is pressed into a sheet without ink or foil, creating a raised image

Bond paper
Durable and lightweight paper commonly used for letterheads and business stationery

Margin or line between the image area and the edge of the paper

The brilliance or reflective quality of paper affecting contrast in printing

The thickness of paper relative to its weight


Short for coating on one side of paper

Short for coating on both sides of paper

Measurement of paper thickness expressed in thousandths of an inch

Camera-ready copy
Print ready layout of graphic and text

Cast coated
A type of coated paper with a high gloss enamel finish

Color transparency

Coated paper
Paper with a thin surface coating of clay that produces a smooth finish

A finishing term for arranging pages or sheets in correct order before binding

Color Balance
Refers to the proper ratio of cyan, magenta, and yellow ink during printing to keep color consistency and produce the desired color of an image

Color bar
Strips of color used as a tool to check color accuracy and density

Color correction
Methods of adjusting and improving color qualities such as color balance, contrast, etc

Color filter
Filters used in color separation

Color key
A printer’s proof made from 4 acetate or transparent films of various colors, one sheet per process color, which when combined simulates the finished product

Color matching system
Color chart in an electronic system used to compare, measure or mix colors

Color separations
Preparing a full-color image for printing by separating it into the four basic process colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black

Color Sequence
The order in which the four-color process inks are printed on the press

A light sensitive device used for measuring color with an exact response similar to the human eye

Comb bind
A method of binding by inserting a plastic comb through holes along the side or edge of a stack of pages

Composite film
Combination of two or more images on one or more films

Computer-to-Plate (CTP)
A technology that enables transfer of digital data directly to a metal plate for printing, eliminating the use of conventional films

Continuous-tone copy
Illustrations and photographs that have a range of shades

The range of difference between the darkest and lightest areas in an image

Any material (text or artwork) to be used in printing a piece

Cover paper
A heavyweight paper commonly used for covers of books, brochures, catalogs and folders

Creep is the shifting position of the page in a saddle-stitched bind. Creep moves the inside pages away from the spine.

To cut off sides or portions of an image

Crop marks
Lines at the edges of a sheet that show where the page will be trimmed

Printing across the gutter or from one page to the facing page of a publication

The process of drying inks or coatings through chemical processes to develop strong adhesion

Shade of blue; One of four basic ink colors used in 4 color printing process


To press an image below the surface of paper

An instrument used to measure the density of colored ink to determine consistency

The degree of darkness of an image

A light-sensitive coating used on plates in offset printing

Metal plate cut for impressing a design or image on paper

Die cutting
A process of cutting paper in a shape or design using metal dies

Direct Imaging
A technology that eliminates the use of film plates by directly transferring the image from digital files to the press plates using a laser

Direct Imaging Press (DI)
An offset press where the plate is imaged directly on the press with laser

The individual element of a halftones; also referred to as a “pixel”

Dot gain or spread
The spread of ink on paper; occurrence when dots print larger than they were on the film

Dots Per Inch (DPI)
A measurement of resolution of a screen image or printed image defined by the number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into one inch; The higher the DPI, the sharper the image

Double burn
Exposing a printing plate to multiple images

A method of applying a thin coating or ink on paper to roughly determine color

Parts of artwork that are not reproduced

A preliminary layout of a copy showing the position and general style made to resemble the finished product

A halftone image made up of two colors

The ability of a press to print on both sides of a sheet of paper


Encapsulated Postscript File (EPS)
An Adobe graphic file format for high resolution images; it translates graphic and text into code that tells a printer to print in the highest resolution possible and also has low resolution view files for quick screen viewing.

Technique of pressing an image into paper so that creating a raised image

Photosensitive sensitive coating on printing plates and film


Section of a printing press that separates the sheets and feeds them into position for printing

To cover a page completely with ink or varnish

The backside of an image

A thin metal applied to paper used in foil stamping and foil embossing

Foil emboss
To foil stamp or emboss an image on paper using a die

Foil stamping
Pressing a design or image on paper without ink using a foil and heated metal die

Four color process
The process of printing using the combination of four basic color inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to produce a range of colors and create a color image

Four over Four (4/4)
A print job with four color printing on both sides of the paper

Four over One (4/1)
A print job with four color printing on the front side and one color (usually black) on the back side

Four over Zero (4/0)
A print job with four color printing on the front side and no printing on the back side


Economical way of printing by printing multiple images on the same sheet using the maximum sheet size

A printing defect where a faint unwanted image appears on a page

Shiny coating applied to paper

The direction in which the fibers of a paper lie

Graphic Design
The use of visual elements to express a message

An image made up of a range of shades of black and white

The metal fingers on printing presses that hold the paper and controls it as it passes through the press


Pattern of dots within a fixed grid to reproduce a continuous-tone image

Hard copy
A document or data printed on paper

A spot or imperfection on a printed page caused by dust, lint or dried ink

The lightest part in an image

House Sheet
Paper kept in stock by a printer


Image area
Portion of a page or paper that can be printed on

Arranging printed pages correctly so they will fold in the proper sequence

The pressure of a printing press on paper; image caused by pressure of a press plate on paper

Postal information preprinted on a mailing envelope or a piece in place of a stamp

Ink fountain
The container on a printing press that hold the ink


An outline drawing to show the exact size and position of an artwork


Laid finish
A pattern of parallel lines running across the grain, creating a ribbed and handmade effect

Line copy
High contrast copy made up of solids or lines which do not require a halftone screen; also called line art or line work

Lines per inch (LPI)
The number of lines of dots per inch in a halftone screen; the higher the LPI., the sharper the image

A method of printing where plates are chemically treated so that the image area accepts ink and non-image areas repel ink.


Also known as process red; one of the 4 basic ink colors in process color printing; M in abbreviation CMYK

Blocking light from reaching parts of a printing plate, also called knockout

Dull non-glossy finish

Devise used to measure the thickness (caliper) of paper

Middle tones
The tones in a photograph between highlights and shadows; must be balanced for accurate reproduction

An undesirable screen pattern caused by incorrect screen angles


A film in which the white areas of the original image appear black and the black areas appear white


Offset Lithography or Offset Printing
A common printing process in which the image to be printed is transferred from a metal plate to a rubber blanket onto paper

Transfer of ink or impression from one page to the opposite page

The property of paper that minimizes the show-through on a printed sheet

Outline halftone
A halftone image with the background removed to outline the main image

Production of larger quantities than ordered

Scanning at more than the ideal sampling rate


Page count
Total number of pages in a book or publication

Pantone Matching Systems (PMS) 
The standard color-matching system used by printers and graphic designers

Perfect Bind
A binding technique in which pages are collated into a single sheet and then glued together and attached to the cover with an adhesive

Perfecting press
A printing press that prints both sides of a sheet at the same time

Process of making holes or a series of cuts to make tearing or folding easy

A printer’s measure of type; One pica is 1/6 of an inch

A flat sheet of metal on which an image is reproduced using a printing press

A page description language developed by Adobe Systems that tells a printer how an image is to be printed

Press Layout
See Ruleup

Pressure-sensitive paper
Paper material with a self sticking adhesive protected by a backing sheet, usually used for labels and stickers

Process colors
The four basic colors used in printing to simulate full spectrum color – Cyan (blue), magenta (process red), yellow (process yellow), black (process black)


To render an image, pixel by pixel, vertically and horizontally

Raster image
See bitmap image

Raster Image Processor (RIP)
A device that translates data into dots or pixels

A quantity of paper equivalent to 500 sheets

Refers to the number of pixels an image expressed in pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi); the higher the number, the sharper the image

Refers to red, green, blue - the additive primary colors used for color video display as on a computer screen

Rich Black
A darker and deeper black color created by combining other ink colors with black ink. The values to create Rich Black is usually 40% Cyan, 30% Magenta, 30% Yellow, 100% Black

A map or drawing showing how a printing job must be imposed with a specific press and sheet size; also called Press Layout


Saddle stitch
A method of binding using staples in the seam or spine of a book or booklet where it folds

An instrument used to make color separations; also an instrument to scan images or photos in desktop publishing

A mark or crease pressed on paper to make folding easier

The process of pressing a sheet of paper to create a groove or line for folding

Screen angles
The angles at which halftone screens are positioned to avoid unwanted patterns

The paper used as cover is the same as that used in the inside pages

The darkest areas of a photograph or image

Side stitch
To bind by stapling sheets along one side of a sheet

Term for a printed sheet after folding

A precise description of features of a print order such as paper type and quantity

The back edge of a bound book or publication that connects the 2 covers

Split Run
Printing of a book or booklet that has copies bound in different ways

Planned paper waste

Spot varnish
Varnishing a specific part of a sheet

Pressing a design or image onto paper with a metal die

Technique of repeatedly exposing the same image on the plate in different places

Paper Type
The paper or material to be printed on

The process of positioning film negatives for plate making

Any surface or material on which printing is done


Tagged Image File Format (.TIFF) 
A standard graphic image file format often used for storing high resolution images that can easily handle up to 24 bits of photographic image color

A mixture of a hue with white

Tissue overlay
A thin transparent paper placed over artwork for protection and may be used for marking printer instructions

Printing of one ink over the other to prevent gaps from appearing

Refers to pulp or paper made without cutting down trees; paper made from cotton, or hemp or other resources

Trim marks
Marks on a printed sheet that show where to cut or trim the page

Trim size
The final size of a printed image after trimming

To arrange or layout artwork and text for printing


Paper with no treatment or coating on the surface

Production of fewer copies than ordered by customer

Printing multiple copies of the same on the same sheet

UV coating
Liquid glossy coating applied to paper’s surface and cured with ultraviolet light


A clear liquid coating applied to printed sheet for protection and shine

A halftone or image with whose background gradually fades to white

Vector Images 
Images made up of solids, lines and curves that can be scaled or edited without affecting image resolution


Process of cleaning the parts of a printing press (rollers, plate, blanket, etc) so that a different ink can be applied

Planned spoilage

A distinctive design created in paper during manufacturing that is visible when the paper is held up to the light

The roll of printing paper used in web or rotary printing

Web press
A high speed printing press that print on a continuous roll of paper or web rather than on individual sheets

Wire O
A method of binding using double loops of wire through a hole

With the grain
Folding or feeding paper into the press parallel to the paper’s grain or fiber

Work and tumble
Printing the second side of a sheet by turning the sheet over from the gripper to the tail utilizing the same side guides and plate

Wove paper
A paper having a uniform unlined surface and a smooth finish