Printing Basics


Accordian fold – two or more parallel folds that open like an accordian.

Aquous Coating – a water-based coating applied to protect printed piece – gloss or matte

Artwork – photographs, drawings, paintings, hand lettering to illustrate printed matter.

Alteration – change in copy or specifications made after production has begun.


Banding – method of packaging printed pieces using paper, rubber or fiberglass bands.

Barrel fold – folding a sheet two or more times in same direction

Base color – a first color used as a background on which other colors are printed. Basic size – a standard, predetermined size for a particular type of paper

Basic weight – the weight in pounds of a predetermined number of sheets of paper having a specific size for a specific type of paper

Binding – various methods of securing sections together and/or fastening them to a cover, to form singles copies.

Bleed – printing that extends to the edge of a sheet or page after trimming.

Blind Embossing – a raised impression made without using ink of foil

Bond paper – strong durable paper grade used of letterheads and forms Brightness – characteristic of paper referring to how much light it reflects.

Bristol – type of board paper used for post cards, business cards, and other heavy-use products.


C – Roman numeral for 100 CF – coated front CB – coated back CFB – coated front and back

Caliper – thickness of paper, expressed in thousandths of an inch.

C1S – paper stock coated on one side.

C2S – paper stock coated on both sides.

Carbonless – paper that is coated with chemicals to produce copies without carbon in-between the sheets. (also referred to as NCR paper)

Card Stock – a stiff rigid paper used for postcards, manual covers or table tents. Cast coated – coated paper with a surface similar to that of a glossy photograph. Chipboard – inexpensive, single-ply cardboard, usually brown or gray. Coated Paper – paper with a layer of coating applied to one or both sides, such as gloss, dull and matte finish.

Collate – a finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order

Color separations – the separation of color artwork or transparencies on to separate sheet for each color. The division of a multi-color original into the primary process colors of yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.

Cotton fiber paper (rag content or cotton content)– paper that contains 25% or more cellulose fibers derived from lint cotton, cotton linters and cotton or line cloth cuttings.

Copy – all furnished material or disc used in the production of a printed product

Copyright – An exclusive right that has been granted by law to a particular creative product. The right of copyright gives protection to the originator of material to prevent use without express permission or acknowledgement of the originator.

Composition – the process of setting type and arranging it on the page

Cover stock – a heavy printing paper used to cover books

Crash printing – letterpress printing on carbon or carbonless forms so image prints simultaneously on all sheets in the set.

Crash numbering – numbering paper by pressing an image on the first sheet which is transferred to all parts of a printed set.

Crimping – puncture marks holding business forms together

Cut Sheet – paper cut into standard sizes ready for use with a copier or press.

Cutting Die – sharp edged devise usually made of steel rule, to cut paper, cardboard, etc. on printing press.

CWT – paper distributor abbreviation for 100 pounds.


Density – a measure of the relative difference between a white area and a toned or black area. Or the ability of a material to absorb light.

Die – a metal rule or imaged block used to cut or place an image on paper in the finishing process.

Diecut – The use of a sharp, formed piece of metal to cut out specific shapes in a piece of paper.

Drill – to bore holes in paper so sheets fit over posts of loose-leaf binders. Duetones – 2 colors combined to reproduce pictures with greater depth

Dull finish – characteristic of paper that reflects relatively little light.


Embossing – a process performed after printing to stamp a raised or depressed image into the surface of paper using engraved metal embossing dies, extreme pressure and heat.

Embossed paper – a paper surface textured in one of a variety of patterns by passing the paper through engraved steel rolls.

Engraving – method of printing using a plate, with an image carved into it.

Enamel paper – a coated sheet or the coating on a sheet

Estimate – a price provided to a customer, based on the specifications outlined on the estimate form; it is normally set prior to the entry of an order and prices may change if the order specifications are not the same as the estimate specifications.


Finish – surface characteristic of paper.

Finishing – the bindery process performed after the document has been copied or printed.

Finish size – size of printed product after production is complete.

Flyer – an inexpensively produced circular used for promotional distribution.

Foil emboss – to foil stamp and emboss an image on paper with a die

Foil stamp – a letterpress process using foil and dies. Foil is transferred from its backing to the paper when stamped with a heated die.

Format – size, shape and overall style of layout or printed piece.

Four-Color Process – printing in full color using four color separations negatives and ink (yellow, magenta, cyan and black) which reproduce full-color photographs of art. (color pictures)


Gloss – characteristic of paper, ink or varnish that reflects relatively large amounts of light.

Glossy – photographic print made on glossy paper.

Glue-on-fold – a binding method where a strip of glue is placed along the fold of a page or signature.

Gothic – typefaces with no serifs and broad, even strokes

Graphic design – the use of graphic elements and text to communicate an idea or concept.

Gusset – expandable portion of bag, file folder or envelope.


Halftone – an illustration reproduced by breaking down the original tone into a pattern of dots of varying size. Light areas have small dots and darker areas or shadows have larger dots.

Head –to – head – printing on both sides of a sheet where the top of each page is placed at the same end.

Head – to – foot – printing on both sides of a sheet where the top of each page is placed at the opposite ends.

Hard copy – a printed paper copy of output in readable form

Hot stamping – a letterpress process using foil and dies. Foil is transferred from its backing to the paper when stamped with a heated die.


Imposition – the process of arranging the pages of copy so that when the sheets are printed and folded for binding the pages will be in the proper order

Impression – the image produced in a single operation on a printer, copier or press.

Imprinting – the printing of additional information on an already printed piece

Inserts – extra printed pages inserted loosely into printed pieces. Index paper – light weight board paper for writing and easy erasure


Kraft paper – strong paper, usually brown

Kromekote – high-gloss, cast-coated paper.


Laminate – a thin transparent plastic coating applied to paper or board to provide protection and give it a glossy finish.

Layout – sketch or drawing of a design for a proposed printed piece showing position, size and color of copy.

Letterpress – method of printing from raised surfaces. A letter press is the kind of press used.

Leaf – a sheet in a book. Two pages. The front and back together of a page is called a “leaf”.

Light weight paper – book grade paper of basis weight 40# or less with high opacity for its weight.

Lithography – method of printing using a chemically-coated plate whose image areas attract ink and whose non-image areas repel ink.


M – Roman numeral for 1,000

Make Ready – all activities required to set up the press for a pressrun, including running test sheets of paper.

Manilla paper – strong, buff-colored paper used to make envelopes and file folders.

Matte finish – dull finish paper Matte ink – ink that appears dull when dry.

Micrometer – instrument used to measure thickness of paper

Mike – to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper using a micrometer

Mock-up – a rough visual of a publication or design.

Mylar – polyester film


Negative – characteristic of image on film or paper in which blacks in the original subject are white or clear and whites in the original are black or opaque. Also, piece of film on which negative image appears.

Numbering – putting a sequential number on each copy.


Offset – a method in which the plate or cylinder transfers an ink image to an offset or transfer roller, which then transfers the image to stock.

Offset paper – uncoated book paper

Offset printing – method of lithographic printing that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket, then from the blanket to paper.

Opaque – relates to the show-through of the printed image from the opposite side of the sheet or the sheet under it.

Opacity – characteristic of paper that helps prevent printing on one side from showing on the other.

Overlay – a transparent sheet used in the preparation of multi-color artwork showing the color breakdown and designer instructions.

Over Run – the number of pieces that were printed in excess of the quantity specified.


PMS color – pantone matching system – an international system used to mix inks to standard colors used by printers.

Pad – to bind by applying glue along one edge of a stack of sheets.

Page count – total number of pages, including blanks and printed pages without numbers

Page proofs – a proof output to plain paper before the entire job is printed.

Pagination – the numbering of pages in a book.

Parchment – paper that simulates writing surfaces made from animal skins.

Parallel fold – folds that are parallel to each other – a letter is parallel fold

Perfect Binding – a binding process whereby single sheets are stacked together, the binding edge is ground to create a rough surface and adhesive is applied. A cover is then wrapped around the pages.

Perforating – punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper or cardboard to facilitate tearing along a desired line.

Plastic Combs – a binding that allows the publication to lay flat when open. Often called GBC.

Press numbering – method of numbering manufactured business forms or tickets

Prepress – the processes performed on a printing order prior to its going to the press to be printed. (examples: typesetting, layout, scanning, etc.)

Pressure-sensitive paper – paper material with self sticking adhesive covered by a backing sheet.

Proof – a method of checking for errors prior to printing an order.

Press-Proof– Actual press sheets to show image, tone values and colors as well as imposition of frame or press-plate.


Rag bond – high quality paper, a percentage of which is made from cotton fibers

Ream – five hundred sheets of paper

Reverse – type or other image defined by printing the background rather than the image itself, allowing the underlying color of paper or previously printed ink to show in the shape of the image.


Saddle Stitch – the binding of sheets of paper to form a book which works by stapling in seam where sheets are folded.

Score – to mechanically crease or press a channel into paper along a line so it will fold more easily.

Self-cover – using same paper as the text for the cover

Self-mailer – printed piece designed to be mailed without an envelope.

Shrink wrap – a tight fitting plastic wrap used to protect a publication from handling or storage problems.

Side stitch – to bind by stapling through sheets along one edge.

Signature – a section of a book made by folding a printed sheet so that the pages follow in correct order.( standard signatures are 8, 16 & 32)

Slip Sheet – blank sheet placed between newly-made printed products to prevent setoff or scuffing during handling and shipping.

Slit – to cut paper using a disk or wheel

Specifications – complete and precise descriptions of paper, ink, binding, quantity and other features of a printing job.

Spine – the binding edge of a book Spiral bind – a binding method using a continuous coil of wire extending from the top to the bottom of the spine.

Stock – paper used for a printing job


Tag – board grade paper used for products such as tags and file folders.

Text – the written or printed material which forms the main body of a publication.

Text paper – lighter that cover stock but heavier than writing grade.

Thermography – a finishing technique applied after printing that raises the ink and gives the effect of engraved printing.

Trim – the cutting of the finished product to the correct size.

Transparency – a color or black and white photographically produced image on transparent film.

Turnaround time – amount of time needed to complete a job

Two-up – printing two up or three up means printing the same image twice or three times on the same sheet of paper in one impression

Transfer tape – a peel and stick tape used in business forms

Trim size – the final size of one printed image after the last trim is made.


Uncoated paper – paper that is not clay coated

Underrun – production run of fewer copies that the amount specified.

UV coating – liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light


Varnishing – a finishing process whereby a transparent varnish is applied over the printed sheet to serve as protection, produce a glossy finish or color.

Vellum finish – relatively rough finish on uncoated paper


Watermark – distinctive design created in paper during manufacture

Web – a roll of printing paper

Wove paper – a paper having a uniform unlined surface with a smooth finish


Xerography – alternate term for photocopying