Printing Terminology

Printing terminology questions and answers ranging from what is offset printing, digital printing, foil stamping or hot foil stamping.

Printing Terminology Questions and Answers

…is a process which involves the transfer of an image from a plate to a rubber “blanket” to a sheet of paper using wet ink on an offset printing press.
…is a process which involves the transfer of an image using electrostatic charges and dry toner on a laser printer, copier or digital printing press.
…is a process in which a set of metal dies is used to push a foil material, sometimes metallic and sometimes not, into a sheet of paper. Typically, foil produces a shinier, more opaque image than offset printing.
…is a process in which a set of metal dies is used to emboss or push the image up out of the paper from below. Blind embossing does not involve any ink or foil being used; the image is merely pushed up and the user can “feel” the image sticking up out of the paper.
…is a process in which a set of metal dies is used to emboss or push the image down into the paper from above. The user of a debossed sheet should be able to “feel” the image on the bottom side of the sheet.
…is a process in which a set of metal dies is used to both emboss or deboss an image into or out of a piece of paper and to push a foil material into the paper. In this way, the foil image is either pushed into our pushed out of the paper for visual effect.
…is a coating which can be added to a printed sheet. The coating can be glossy or dull and helps protect the underlying ink from fingerprints or damage. UV coating can be applied as a “flood” where the entire sheet is covered or it can be applied to specific spots for visual effect. UV Coating can be applied on a printing press, or it can be applied later to either offset printed or digitally printed sheets. UV Coating can only be used on coated papers.
…is a process in which specific PMS inks are applied one by one to a sheet of paper. From a client standpoint, spot color printing is more exact in terms of the final colors on the sheet. Spot color printing can sometimes be less costly than process color printing, but it will depend on the equipment used, the pricing structure and the specifications of the job.
…is a process in which four specific ink colors are applied to a sheet—cyan, yellow, magenta and black. Blending these four process colors can simulate many other colors. In typical printing parlance, process color printing is sometimes referred to as “full color printing” or “four color process.”
…refers to the number of dots per inch that appear in a line of a screened area of a printed sheet. Typically, a higher dpi can result in a finer or better resolved printed image.
…are generally the highest quality plates used on a sheetfed, offset printing press. These plates convey finer detail and higher line screens to a sheet of paper than polyester plates or paper plates. In addition, usually metal plates stretch less than paper or polyester plates, meaning that images should be more consistent throughout a run.
…are printing plates made out of polyester material. These are typically a little less expensive than metal plates, but they may not convey quite as much fine detail as metal plates. In addition, polyester plates may stretch more than metal plates throughout a run.
…is a printer’s term for a printing defect which occurs when an image appears more than once on an offset printed sheet when it should only appear one time. Ghosting sometimes occurs when there is a large solid area next to an area with light ink coverage. One cause of ghosting can be if the ink system of a printing press cannot fully recharge after the solid area is printed.
…is a printer’s term for a printing defect which occurs when wet ink is transferred from the top of one offset printed sheet to the bottom of the next sheet which is laying on top of it. There can be a variety of causes for this problem, including improper or inadequate use of printing powder, lack of a dryer on press, or cutting printed sheets prematurely.
…refers to images which run “off the page”. The proper way to print bleeds is to print an image on an oversized sheet where the image physically runs outside the final image area. After printing, the printed sheets are cut so that the image runs to the edge.
…is a bindery trick which enables cutting a printed sheet on which the ink is still wet. Slipsheeting is accomplished by putting blank sheets between each printed sheet and cutting a stack of printed sheets with the slipsheets in position. After cutting, the blank slipsheets must be removed.
…is a process in which stacks of paper are enclosed for easy transport or storage inside a “pocket” of thin plastic. This plastic can later be cut off easily so the sheets can be used.
is a finishing (bindery) function where printed sheets are cut so that the printed materials are the correct final size.
…is a finishing process where a printed sheet is folded to a final folded layout specified by the client. Some sheets are more easily folded than others based on the paper weight, printing process used, finish and the type of folder being used.
…is a finishing process in which a sheet of paper is folded first in one direction and then folded again where the second fold is at a right angle to the first fold. This can be done in one pass with certain types of folding equipment. Folding involving multiple right angle folds, like pharmaceutical inserts for example, may require special equipment.
…is a finishing process where several sheets are folded in half together and stapled on the edge of the fold, like a magazine. After the sheets are collated, folded and stapled, the booklet is usually trimmed on the edge away from the staples so that the edge of the book looks clean and even.
…is a finishing process where a sheet of paper (or possibly other material) is encased permanently between two sheets of plastic. This process can either have a sealed edge or can be flush cut so the edges of the sheet are not encased in the plastic. There are varying weights of laminate which can be used depending on the desired final weight of the laminated sheet. Typically, cost varies with the weight of the laminate used. At The Print Authority, we offer gloss laminate, dull laminates and soft touch laminate for a unique texture.
…refers to inks which are categorized according to the Pantone® Matching System. This is a standardized system used by printing companies and design professionals so that exact colors can be specified and achieved. Typically, PMS inks are used in spot color printing.
…is a coating which is typically applied on a printing press. Aqueous coating can be dull, glossy, or “soft touch” and it seals in the ink to reduce fingerprinting and scuffing. Aqueous coating also seals in wet ink quickly so that offset printed sheets can go to finishing more quickly.
…is a coating which is typically applied on a printing press. Varnish can be dull or glossy, and it seals in the ink to reduce fingerprinting.
…are generally the lowest quality plates used on a sheetfed, offset printing press. These plates will not usually convey as much detail as either metal or polyester plates.
…refers to a situation in an offset printing job where two colors are extremely close to one another or touching on a printed sheet. This term is usually used with reference to spot color printing. Sometimes, extremely close registration can be referred to as “hairline” registration.
is a graphic arts term for the setup of two ink colors in a printing job where one ink color appears behind part of another ink color. The purpose of trapping is to eliminate the appearance of gaps between two colors where no gaps are desired.
…refer to thousands of different styles of type which are available. The terms “font” and “typeface” are commonly interchanged, but the correct use of the term “font” refers to the collection of the letters, numbers and symbols, while the term “typeface” refers to the design of the letters. The two largest categories of fonts are serifed fonts and sans-serifed fonts. Serifs are classical embellishments which may appear on some or all letters of a serifed font. Sans-serif, derived from the French word “sans” meaning “without,” simply means without serifs.
…are thin lines which appear at the edge of photos or other images to add definition to the image.
…refers to Portable Document Format. This is a format for a document which is hard to alter without special software. PDF files are desirable in the printing business because they are less likely to be corrupted or altered in moving them from one computer to another. Printers also prefer PDF files for printing because all used fonts and images are embedded into the file, so all a printer needs to output the job is contained in one pdf file.
…refers to an Encapsulated Post Script format.
…is a bindery process in which an impression of a folding line is embossed into a sheet of paper to enable easy and clean folding. Scoring is typically, although not exclusively, used on cover weight paper.
…is a finishing process in which tiny holes are punched out of a sheet of paper to enable an easy tear by a user at a later date. Perforations can be lineal or can follow an irregular pattern depending on what is later to be torn out of the sheet.
…refers to affixing one sheet to another using a small amount of glue. The purpose is to allow one sheet to be removed from the other at a later date.
…refers to printing in which some part of the image on a printed sheet must be different on each sheet of paper. A good example of this would be the mailing address on a business letter which must be customized for each recipient. There can also be variable pictures or other information on some variable data projects. Typically, variable data projects are printed digitally.
…refers to the official USPS National Change of Address list. All pre-sorted mailings must follow Post Office procedures on the use of the NCOA.
…is a final proof of a printing job where a client sees the first sheet off of a run before the job is run in full. This is the most accurate type of proofing because the client sees the actual printed sheet.
…is a proof of a printing project where the proof is generated by some type of digital device which approximates the final printed piece. Be aware that for offset printing, some digital devices are calibrated to the offset press and some are not.
…is a finishing process which involves punching holes in sheets of paper. Drilling may involve one hole or many holes being placed in a sheet. A common use for drilling is to enable materials to be displayed later in a three ring binder.
…refers to binding which takes place on a digital press or on a printing press. This is becoming more common on digital presses, although the capabilities of various companies will vary.
…are offset printing inks which are formulated using oil as a base.
…are offset printing inks which are formulated using rubber as a base.
…are offset printing inks which are formulated using vegetable oils (like soy) as a base. The Print Authority uses soy and vegetable-based inks, which are made from renewable resources and are generally better for the environment.
…refers to paper or other waste in the printing process. Setup, and waste, can vary from process to process and operator to operator.
…refers to the situation where a printing company reruns a printing job after the first one is completed due to a defect in the job. Successful printing companies try to keep redos to a minimum by employing rigorous quality checking throughout the production process.
…is an electronic format for text without any graphics incorporated. While this is not typically used as the final format for a printed piece, it can be helpful in moving large quantities of text electronically.
…is what takes place when a client provides text only for a printing job and a designer or printing company works the text into a layout for final printing. Frequently, the final layout may include graphics, photos or other elements.
…is the process of designing documents for printing or use on the internet.
…refers to the boldness of a particular font used.
…refers to the size of the type used for a particular project. Typefaces/fonts are readily available in various point sizes.
…refers to the graphic design of any printed piece.
…refers to the process in offset printing where a press operator uses the four process colors to approximate a PMS ink color. Generally speaking, in process color printing, specific colors can be fairly closely approximated, but never matched exactly unless a spot color is run on press.
…is a PMS ink with metallic fragments. These can appear shiny when printed on coated papers, because the ink dries flat on the smooth surface allowing the metallic fragments to lay flat and reflect the maximum light. However, when the same metallic ink is printed on uncoated paper, absorption of the ink into the porous surface of the paper causes the metallic fragments to lay unevenly and reflect less light. The result is the loss of most of the shine.
…refers to a printed sheet where the entire sheet is covered in a large solid area of ink. This may also be referred to as Full Solid Coverage.
…is a small area of type or an image which is not printed inside of a large area of solid ink coverage.
…is providing storage, packaging, order taking and shipping services for a client. Some people refer to storing and shipping out materials as “Pick and Pack,” although nowadays many items can be printed on demand rather than stored.
…is someone who does not produce printed materials, but who vends them out through various printers for resale to clients.
…refers to ordering printing online, either through a public site or one customized for the print buyer.
…is an offset printing press which feeds cut sheets through for printing. These are optimal for small to large runs.
…is an offset printing press which feeds rolls of paper through for printing. These are optimal for extremely high quantity runs.
…is a finishing process where a label is die cut such that individual labels can be peeled easily off of a backing sheet at a later time.
…is an attachment which rolls up to an offset printing press and allows for rapid feeding of envelopes through the press.
…refers to the electronic file to be used for some type of printing.
…refers to the amount by which small dots in a screened area increase in size when they are printed. Traditionally, offset printed dots expand slightly when wet ink hits the paper.
...refers to the number of rows of dots that fit in 1” of space (measured in dpi--dots per inch). Rows of dots are used for halftones (reproducing photographs) and for shaded areas. A higher line screen usually translates into finer detail being visible in the printed screen.
…refers to the number of sheets per minute or hour that an offset press can print.
…refers to the number of smaller images that will fit on a press sheet (also known as Multi Up or Number Out). As an example, many standard sized business cards can fit onto a press sheet. If 10 cards fit on the sheet, the business cards are said to be printed 10 up.
…is one of the larger cut sheet sizes that a particular paper stock is available in.
…is the size of the sheet which is run through a printing press. This will vary according to equipment and job specifications.
…is a problem mostly associated with Digital Printing. As many digital presses use heat in processing the printing, sometimes sheets curl in the process. Curling can interfere with some finishing functions after printing.
…is the process whereby a printed image is run through a scanner to be incorporated electronically into something else or to be printed out from the scan. Usually, some resolution of the scanned document is lost in the process.
…is used in traditional copiers to feed hard copy originals for copying. This method of reproduction is becoming less common since digitally printed documents are higher quality.
…refers to printing of documents where the final product is physically too large for a traditional digital press. 24” x 36” posters in small quantities are a good example.
…is the process where flat printed sheets are made into envelopes after printing. This is typically done when a client needs an unusual size envelope or needs an envelope in an unusual stock which does not come in the size desired. It is also done when a client wants custom printing on the inside of the envelope, or wants the art to bleed, since pre-made envelopes cannot be cut down after printing. Envelope conversion usually makes sense economically only in larger quantities.
…refers to the number of reader’s pages in a document.
…refers to the size of the flat sheet being printed before any folding is done.
…is the process where a metal die is obtained to stamp out a certain shape from a flat sheet of paper. As an example, standard pocket folders require die cutting and gluing in order to complete the pockets.
…is the fabricated metal used for either die cutting, embossing, foil stamping or foil embossing. Dies can be made of a variety of metals, including aluminum, magnesium, steel, copper, and brass, and the material may affect the durability of the die and the quality of the final product.
…is a metal die which is set up for embossing, debossing or foil embossing an image which will appear on the final printed sheet to be 3 dimensional in some way. To say this another way, tradional embossing, debossing and foil embossing will push all of the paper to one level, whereas multilevel dies will push the paper to several levels creating a sculptured look.
…refers to a superfine powder which is applied at the end of an offset printing press after printing to keep the sheets slightly separated and prevent offsetting.
…is the finishing process where several sheets that make up a printed job are put in the proper order. Sometimes, this process is automated and sometimes manual.
…refers to what happens when you put many sheets together and fold, stitch and trim the document. The inner most sheets will have much smaller margins that the outer sheets and this causes the image to “creep” toward the margins. This can be adjusted for in the design of the document.
…refers to dots in screens which vary in size and location depending on the image being printed. This is an advanced process which can result in better print quality and truer color reproduction.
…is a halftone screen which is made up of two different colored inks.
…is the final size of a printed piece after all bindery has been completed.
…is a visual representation of a photograph made by using screens made up of dots to convey the details of the photograph.
…is an offset printing term that refers to the edge of a cut press sheet which is grabbed by a gripper bar in a press so that it feeds through the press. Typically, there cannot be any printing on the gripper edge. The size of a gripper edge will vary with different printing presses.
…refers to every side of every sheet which is being printed. As an example, if you are printing 5,000 flyers which are double sided, there will be 10,000 impressions in the job.
…is a piece of equipment which physically shakes a stack of paper sheets so the stack will line up evenly and print or bind well afterwards.
…typically refers to the time and materials used to set up an offset printing job to an acceptable quality level.
…is soft cover book binding.
…is the type of book binding with a plastic coil inserted through holes on one side of the book.
…is the type of book binding with a double metal loop inserted through holes on one side of the book.
…is the type of book binding with a plastic comb inserted through rectangular holes on one side of the book.
…refers to a usually round spot which is not printed properly on an offset printing job. This can result from a variety of problems on press.
…refers to a page orientation which is wider than it is high when it is held so it is right side up.
…refers to a page orientation which is higher than it is wide when it is held so it is right side up.
…refers to an increase or decrease in size of an image in which both the height and width are enlarged or reduced by the same percentage.
…is a document color mode and is shorthand for red, green, blue. Red, green, and blue are the 3 primary colors of light which make up all colors. While this is the preferred color mode for web applications, RGB is not suitable for full color offset printing which uses the CMYK color mode.
…is a document color mode and is shorthand for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are the 4 primary colors of pigment which make up all colors. CMYK is the preferred document color mode for four color process printing.
…is a printing defect in some offset printed or digital items with a large degree of solid ink coverage. This appears as lighter or darker “bands” in the middle of a solid ink area.
…refers to any finishing process which takes place after printing in order to get the product to its final state for the customer.

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