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Print Terms Dictionary.

This glossary is your handy reference when the acronyms come a callin'!


Printed colors that extend past the edge of a finished page, no margins. Artwork submitted to the printer must include a portion of the image extending beyond the edge of the page, typically by 1/8". A larger size paper is used for printing and is then trimmed to the final size.

Crop marks (Guide Marks)

Thin lines printed in the margin of the sheet that indicate where the finished product should be trimmed. They are also used to show what part of a photo should be used and what part should be cropped off.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

A measure of the resolution or quality of the file image or output process. The higher the dpi, the higher the resolution, the greater the clarity and the higher the quality of the output. (see Resolution)


The non-printed areas around the image area of a page. Unless there is an intentional bleed (see Bleed), a margin of at least 1/4" is usually required.


Resolution is expressed by the number of small dots per inch (DPI) of either light, as in a computer monitor, or ink on a printed page. Some common resolutions:

  • 100 dpi - Approximate resolution of current computer monitors.
  • 300 dpi - Minimum for quality print output of CMYK images & photos.
  • 600 dpi - Minimum for quality output of Spot Color Line Art and Text.
  • 1200 dpi - Minimum for high quality output of thin or angled lines.
  • 2540 dpi - Common standard in commercial 4-color printing.

The process of cutting the printed product to its finished size. The excess that is cut off is also referred to as the trim.

FTP (file transfer protocol)

A standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host to another. FTP is often used in print environments to transfer a print job from a private computer to a server, where it is then printed.


JPEG is a commonly used method of compression for photographic and bitmap images.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

A universal Adobe Acrobat® portable document format that is entirely independent of the computer operating system used. PDFs can be created and read on PCs or Macs, or any other system.

TIF or TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)

A file format for storing images, including photographs and line art. The TIFF format is widely supported by publishing, page layout & image-manipulation applications.


4 Color Process Printing (also 5 color and 6 color)

A system in which a color image is separated into four different color values by the use of filters and screens. The result is four screens separated by color, which are then printed sequentially with plates with the colored inks cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

PMS Color (Pantone Matching System)

A registered name for an ink color matching system used to compare, match and identify specific colors from a wide variety of standard pigments. Includes specific, individual spot colors spread throughout the possible range.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

The four ink colors used in 4-color process printing that combine to produce a broad spectrum of color.

Digital Printing

A printing method in which an image is sent directly to a printer using digital files, eliminating the need for a printing plate.

Offset Printing

A method of mass-production printing in which images on metal plates are transferred to the print media by way of rubber blankets/rollers. This type of printing is known for its high image quality.

Variable data printing

A form of digital printing in which elements such as text and graphics can be changed from one piece to the next using information from a database or external file. This is often used for direct marketing, customer relationship management, and advertising.

Envelope Types

Open End, Open Side

Folding Types

Accordion Fold, Gate Fold, Double Gate Fold, French Fold, Half Fold, Tri Fold, Z Fold, Double Parallel Fold, Half Fold & Tri Fold

Paper Finish

The treated (or untreated) surface quality of a paper that determines paper porosity, finish, light reflectivity, feel and print quality.

  • Matte Finish - A coated paper finish that is flat, but still keeps much of the ink from being absorbed by the paper, producing an excellent image.
  • Gloss Finish - An extra coating that gives it a shiny appearance and also reduces paper porosity and improves finish, light reflection, feel and print quality.
  • Vellum - A finish of paper that is somewhat bulky and is slightly rough.
  • Dull finish - A semi-gloss finish on paper that is less glossy than gloss and more than matte paper.
  • C1S - Paper coated on one side.
  • C2S - Paper coated on both sides
  • AQ Coating (Aqueous Coating) - A clear, non-toxic coating that is applied like ink to protect and enhance the printed surface, adding brilliance and durability
  • UV Coating - The liquid applied to a printed sheet, then bonded and cured with ultraviolet light, giving it a tough, almost unscratchable surface that is extremely durable.
  • Uncoated Paper - Paper that does not have any type of coating, making it more absorbent than coated paper. Typically used for letterhead, copy paper, or lower quality leaflets and brochures.
  • Specialty Paper - A wide variety of options, such as linen and felt, are available. Please ask us for samples.
Paper Grade

There are many types, or "grades", of paper. Common paper grades and basic sheet sizes include:

  • Bond (17"x22") - Commonly used for letters and business forms. Has a surface that accepts ink readily from a pen or typewriter and can be easily erased.
  • Coated (25"x38") - Papers used when high printing quality is desired.
  • Text (25"x38") - Papers frequently used for announcements, booklets and brochures. Noted for their interesting textures and attractive colors.
  • Book (25"x38") - Papers used for trade and textbooks, as well as general printing. Come in a wide range of weights and sizes.
  • Offset (25"x38") - Papers similar to coated and uncoated book, but specially designed for use on an offset press.
  • Cover/Card (20"x26") - Papers that complement coated and text stock, but are in heavier weights which allow for dimensional stability, durability, uniform printing surface, good scoring, folding, embossing and die-cutting.
  • Newsprint (24"x36") - Paper used in printing newspapers.
Paper Weight

Paper thickness, often expressed in the weight in pounds of a ream (500 sheets) of paper in the basic size for that grade. For example, 100# (pound) card stock is thicker than 80# card stock.


The printing of new copy on a piece that is already printed, e.g., printing addresses on postcards after the actual cards have been printed.

Die Cutting

A printing process in which an object is cut out of paper using a steel rule die. Commonly used to produce door hangers, pocket folders, and tabs.


The molding and reshaping of paper by the use of special metal dies and heat, counter dies and pressure, to produce a raised image on the paper surface.


A straight-line crease pressed into a sheet of paper to allow it to fold easier and more accurately.

Punching (also called Drilling)

Drilling of holes through a stack of paper.


Different methods used to secure loose pages in a book. Examples include spiral binding, coil binding, plastic comb binding, or saddle stitch binding.


Applying thin transparent plastic sheets to both sides of a sheet of paper, providing scuff resistance, waterproofing and durability.


The sorting of mail prior to its delivery to the post office, resulting in lower postage.

Intelligent mail barcoding

USPS technology used to sort and track letters and flats.

Let Us Be Your Translator

Wearing too many hats? The small business model forces you to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, but that doesn't mean you have time to memorize all the print terms to get you though your next project.

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