Litho and Digital Printing is full of technical terms, which can be confusing to those not in the print industry. Our site explains commonly used printing terms with simple definitions.
The most common paper sizes used for stationery, leaflets and other publications.
A term used for coated paper, in particular gloss.
Text, graphics and illustrations arranged individually or in any combination for subsequent printing. Artwork will normally be computer-originated, in which case it will be supplied as an electronic file. This may be the native file in a program such as Quark or InDesign or as a Hi-res PDF. Artwork may also be in the form of a full-colour drawing or picture which requires specialist reprographic colour separation. This enables the separation to be printed in the four basic printing process colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black).
Changes made by the customer, usually at the proofing stage. These are normally chargeable, as they require studio time to make the corrections and re-rip the file.
ISO International sizes intended primarily for posters, wall charts and similar items where difference in size of the larger sheets in the A series represents too large a gap. B sizes are also used for our printing services to print B sized finished work (e.g. a B5 booklet), or a bespoke size where the job fits more economically onto a B sized sheet than an SRA sheet size.
To print on the reverse of a sheet which has already been printed on one side
An image arranged accordingly to bit location in columns. Resolution of a PostScript file processed through a RIP will have a bitmap image with the characteristics and resolution of the particular output device.
Where the image to be printed extends (usually by 3mm) over the crop marks. This makes trimming easier and means the finished documents will run to the edges, rather than having unsightly white paper showing.
A type of finishing where no ink is used. Instead, the design or text is only visible as a raised area on the paper/card. Also see debossing which has the opposite effect.
Where a design is stamped into the paper/board, usually in a metallic foil.
Is the method of packaging in which an object is placed in a pre-formed, clear plastic tray and backed by a printed card.
Any sheet in its basic size (not folded or cut); also denotes a newspaper size.
Uncoated paper often used for stationery.
Thickness of paper measured in Microns, as opposed to the weight (see gsm)
Burst Binding (or slot binding)
A method similar to perfect binding where the text pages are glued in to the cover. In burst binding, slots are cut in to the sections to help the adhesive seep into the spine for a stronger hold. This has somewhat been superseded by PUR binding, which uses a much stronger glue and achieves similar results to Burst Binding.
Paper sizes used for envelopes. These correspond to A-sizes (e.g. C4 envelope will hold A4 sheets)
C3 – 324 x 458 mm
C4 – 229 x 324 mm
C5 – 162 x 229 mm
C6 – 114 x 162 mm
DL – 110 x 220 mm (holds A4 folded twice)
Abbreviation of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These make up the standard 4 colour process used for printing in full colour.
Paper which has a coating on one or both sides. This can have a gloss or silk (matt) finish. Coated papers are used for the majority of printed products, but not for stationery where an uncoated (or bond) paper is used. Coated materials can have a different number of coatings. The more coatings, the better quality material is produced.
A colour, hard copy representation of the printed image, made from the electronic files which will be used to make the final printing plates. The word “contract” comes from the fact that, when signed by the client, a contract is formed, which states that the final printed job should be a close match to the contract proof. (Contract proof can also mean colour accurate proof)
Where a line is scored to allow for easier and tidier folding. We score any board over 170gsm, as this helps us prevent cracking on the fold.
Lines marking where the paper is to be trimmed after printing. These should be set up in the artwork.
Cutting Forme (or Die or Tool)
The custom made cutter used when die-cutting printed work to a particular shape.
Where an image is pressed or stamped into the paper creating a depression as opposed to an embossed, raised impression.
Where an irregular shape is cut from the paper instead of trimming square edges. This can be any shape but requires a die or cutting forme to be made up specially.
Low cost method of printing best suited for short run jobs. It works directly from electronic files without the need for printing plates. This makes the process very quick and as you can make ready so quickly, prices are extremely competitive on short run printing. On 9 out of 10 jobs you may struggle to tell the difference between digital and litho work. However Digital Printing still struggles with solids, in particularly pastel colours. We have two Xeroxes, a Konica and and an OCE digital press backed up by extensive finishing.
Printed digitally on our Epson 7800 wide format printers. These are suitable for checking layout and pagination and colour thanks to our Heidelberg Colour Proofing system, which calibrates the proofs to the ISO12647-2 standard. However our proofs are printed on a satin material, and if the job is being printed on uncoated material there will be a considerable colour difference.
A generic title given to the introduction of personal computers (PC) to typesetting, page composition and image handling. The combination of all these gives electronic control within a single system of what was traditionally a specialist and segmented operation. The most common desktop publishing program is Publisher, although we still get some artwork supplied in Word and Powerpoint! For best results, a professional program such as Quark or InDesign is recommended.
An intaglio process of printing in which the resultant impression stands out in relief above the surface of the stamped material, either coloured (using inks) or blind (that is, without colour): relief stamping.
Envelope size to hold an A4 sheet folded twice (or a compliment slip). 220 x 110mm. See C-sizes
Dots per inch, or the image resolution. For print, all images in a document should always be a minimum of 300dpi
Drawn On Covers
A paper back cover with the text pages glued in. (see perfect binding & burst binding)
Where holes are drilled. This is essentially hole punching but on a larger scale.
A mock-up of the finished product. This can be printed or unprinted, depending on the purpose. See proofs.
Where designs are pressed in to the paper to leave a raised effect
Where printed material is fully enclosed and sealed in plastic. This leaves a small, clear plastic border around the sheet where it is sealed. Encapsulation is durable and water resistant.
The size once trimmed and folded.
The size before folding, after trimming. Can also be used if a product is to be supplied creased but unfolded.
There are a large number of different folding options. Some common folds are:
- Simple Fold
- Concertina or Z fold
- Gate fold
- Roll fold
- Cross Fold
Colour printing by means of the three subtractive primary colours (yellows, magenta, cyan) and black superimposed; the colours of the original having been separated by a photographic or electronic process.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC.org) is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Certain paper brands are accredited by the FSC®.
Printing in CMYK, as opposed to using spot colours.
The direction of the fibres of paper. It is easier to fold with the grain.
Gloss coated paper
These papers have a smooth surface and a high shine, perfect for producing printed promotional items e.g. flyers and leaflets
Abbreviation of grams per square metre. A method of indicating the substance of paper or board (whatever the size of the paper/board or number of sheets in the package) on the basis of weight in grams per square metre.
A printing technique using very thin aluminium foil in a variety of metallic colours, such as gold, silver, red and blue. The metallic foil is released from carrier base onto a substrate by the application of heat and pressure from a metal printing plate which bears the image to be hot-foiled.
The pages of the artwork are arranged such that after printing, cutting and folding, the pages will be in the correct order. Sometimes seen when an imposition proof is supplied electronically, the pages will not be in chronological order.
A non-impact printing process in which droplets of ink are projected onto paper or other material, in a computer-determined pattern.
A piece of paper or card laid between the leaves of a book and not secured in anyway.
To die-cut the top layer but not the backing of a two layered sticker/label.
Where a thin plastic film is fixed to one or both sides of the paper. This can create a silky matt or a high gloss finish, depending on the intended purpose and personal preference. It also acts as a protective barrier if the print needs to be more durable or is likely to encounter a demanding environment.
Where a document is oriented so the long edges are at the top and bottom. (As opposed to portrait.)
Lithography / Lithographic (or litho printing)
The most popular print process, a metal plate is treated so that the image area attracts the oil-based inks, while the wet non-image areas resist them
All work associated with setting up the print press and finishing equipment before production.
The files to be printed which make up the artwork. Usually a print ready PDF. (Hi-res, CMYK, 3mm bleed)
A lithographic method of printing in which the ink is first transferred from the image to an offset blanket and then to the stock which may be paper, card, metal or other material.
The term applied to copy which is to be reproduced.
The quantity of unit production, for example, books and sheets, delivered to the customer above the net amount ordered; also allowance to cover wastage.
One side of a sheet of paper. For example, an A4 sheet has 2 pages. An A4 sheet folded in half to A5 has 4 pages.
Pantone, Pantone Matching System and PMS + are standard trademarks for colour standards, colour data, colour reproduction and colour reproduction materials, and other colour related products and services, meeting its specifications, control and quality requirements.
Portable Document Format. Universal file format which combines images and text.
Where the text is glued into the cover with a square back spine.
Printing the second side of a sheet on one pass; backing-up. Our 10 colour press perfects 5/5 and our 5 colour press perfects 3/2.
Where a document is oriented so the long edges are on either side. (As opposed to landscape.)
A Page Description Language (PDL) developed by Adobe, which describes the contents and layout of a page. PostScript also serves as a programming language whereby the PostScript code is executed by a PostScript RIP in the output device in order to produce a printout or film containing the page.
A version of a document or colour illustration produced specifically for the purpose of review prior to reproduction.
Pantone Matching System. Followed by 3 or 4 digits to make up a code e.g. PMS 072. See spot colours.
Printed pages. Refers to the number of pages in a document e.g. 12pp (12 pages)
The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy a given need or requirement; also described as “fitness for purpose” or value for money as perceived by the customer.
500 sheets of paper.
The printing of two or more plates in juxtaposition so that they complete a design if printing on the same side of the sheet or back up accurately if printed on opposite sides of the sheet.
Where a document is wire stitched on the spine, also known as stapled.
To stitch with wire through the back of the folded work.
The oldest method of printing. Ink is applied to a porous silk screen and passes through a stencil or template to leave an impression. Normally used when printing on fabric and banners and when printing on board that is too thick to pass through a standard litho print press.
Seal or Sealer
A coating applied over the print. This helps prevent set off and smudging.
A folded sheet of paper forming part of a book; sections are sometimes made of insetted folded sheets of four, eight sixteen or more pages.
Where the cover and text pages are on the same paper stock
This is where the ink from one sheet is transferred on to the reverse of the sheet above. Leaving ample time for the ink to dry and applying a sealer helps to prevent this
Silk Coated Paper
Silk papers have a low surface shine, a smooth finish, but not glossy.
A sheet-fed printing press uses individual sheets, instead of continuous rolls of paper used on web offset.
Refers to solid colours which are found in commercially obtainable colour ranges such as Pantone®, these are mostly used in addition to CMYK where CMYK is not available e.g. Printing gold or silver. When using Pantone colours, it is worth bearing in mind for future jobs that should you want to print in CMYK, the chosen Pantone® may not have a suitable CMYK equivalent, which may in turn lead to the expense of using additional plates .
Method of packing printed products by surrounding them with plastic, then shrinking by heat.
To stitch through the side from front to back at the binding edge with thread or wire. Also known as stab stitching.
Spot Gloss UV Varnish
A high gloss finish applied to specific areas of print. This differs from gloss laminating which has to cover the whole sheet.
Tagged Image File Format, a file format for exchanging bitmapped images (usually scans) between applications.
Mechanical shading in line areas, normally available in 5% steps from 5% to 95%.
Paper which has not been coated, not gloss or silk
To apply oil, synthetic, spirit, cellulose or water varnish to printed matter by hand or machine to enhance its appearance or increase its durability.
This term usually refers to a single dot pattern that may start at 50% dot and gradually decrease to say 5% in a smooth graduation.
Reel-fed offset litho printing. Three main systems of presses exist blanket-to-blanket in which two plate and two blanket cylinders per unit print and perfect the web of paper or board; three-cylinder system in which plate, blanket and impression cylinders operate in the usual manner to print one side of the paper or board; and satellite or planetary systems in which two, three or four plate and blanket cylinders are arranged around a common impression cylinders to print one side of the web in several colours.
This is a fully made up, printed proof. The same machine and materials will be used as for the finished product. Whilst this is quite expensive, it does leave you with an exact mock-up of what is to be printed. This is suitable for colour checking. Only recommended for large runs and specialist items.