Like any professional industry, printing has a plethora of specific terminology used during the process. When speaking with a printer, it can help to know some of these terms. Today, we’ll list the most common words and phrases that your printer may discuss with you when determining the best process for your project.
Bleed: Excess image outside the trim area on a layout. This ensures the design stretches to the full edge of the page.
C1S and C2S: “Coated One Side” and “Coated Two Sides”. Paper that has a glossy coating on either one side (C1S) or two sides (C2S), usually a thicker cardstock weight.
Carbonless Paper: Sometimes referred to as “two-part forms”, “three-part forms”, and similar terms. These are sets of attached sheets, usually in varying paper colors, in which anything written on the top sheet is transferred to the bottom sheet(s) as well. Often used for contracts and other legal forms, when multiple people need to retain a hard copy of a signed form.
Cardstock: Paper that is thicker and heavier than standard paper weight, often used for business cards, book covers, post cards, and similar.
Case Bound: Sometimes called “hardcover”, this is a form of book binding that uses thick boards wrapped in the cover design in order to create a durable finished book. (See our blog post on book binding options.)
CMYK: Also referred to as “four-color printing” or “four-color process”, this is a method of printing that mixes four base inks or toners in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to create a wide spectrum of color in the finished print. (See our blog post on why we use CMYK.)
Coated Stock: Paper that has a glossy finish.
Coating: See “UV Coating”.
Collate: Collating is the process of arranging printed pages into a desired order. “Collated” stacks will include all pages in the document (Page 1, followed Page 2, then Page 3, and so on). “Uncollated” stacks will be the same page in each group (a full stack of Page 1, a stack of Page 2, etc).
Coroplast: Corrugated plastic. This is similar to corrugated cardboard used in many boxes, but made of plastic that allows it to better withstand outdoor weather. This makes it ideal for yard signs.
Die-cut: A die cut can create a custom shape in your piece, whether that’s a cardstock wedding invitation shaped like a heart, or the custom shape around the edge of a sticker/decal.
Digital: A printing process that uses digital equipment. Its speed and low project setup cost make this process ideal for small-to-mid-sized print runs. Many digital printers often use dry toner instead of liquid inks.
DPI / Dots Per Inch: A specific term used to define resolution. DPI refers to how many ink dots appear in a square inch of a printed piece. In a digital file, it can also be used to define how many pixels are in a square inch of the image. The more “dots” there are in a printed area, the finer the detail will be and the more crisp the image. Standard print resolution is 300dpi.
Drilling: Drills specifically made for paper are used for jobs that need to be 3-hole to fit into a binder, or specialty drill arrangements for specific binding rings.
Finishing: Any additional processes applied after the printing portion of the project. This can include lamination, collating, drilling, book-binding, and more.
Foam Core: A piece of foam sandwiched between cardstock, it is both rigid and lightweight. It can be found in various thicknesses, but 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch are common.
French Fold: A type of fold in which a piece of paper is folded in half, then that piece is folded in half again running in a perpendicular direction to the first fold.
Gate Fold: A type of fold in which a piece of paper has folded flaps on either side to create a look somewhat like double-doors.
Gator Board: A piece of foam sandwiched between cardstock sheets, this is similar to foam core but is even more firm and durable to add rigidity without a lot of weight. It can be found in various thicknesses, but 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch are common.
Grommets: These are hollow metal rings placed into a banner along the edges, and can be used to hang the banner on hooks, with cords, or with zip ties.
Hemming / Tape Hem: Used on outdoor vinyl banners, this process folds the outer edges of a banner and uses a strong adhesive to glue them down, creating a more durable banner.
Laminate: A process in which a thin sheet of plastic is adhered to a printed piece. It adds durability to the piece and can also be used to create a matte or glossy finish on the completed project. (See our blog post on lamination vs UV coating.)
Leaves / Sheets: A “leaf” is a single sheet of paper, including both sides. The term “sheet” is used relatively interchangeably. (Whereas a “page” is only one printed side of the paper.)
Margin: The blank area between the edge of a page and the content. Margins help keep content more readable and visually appealing.
Mounting: The process of applying a printed piece to a sturdy base. This can be foam core, a more durable type of foam called gator board, corrugated plastic, or even an outdoor material called poly metal. This creates a rigid piece ideal for event easels, yard signs, or outdoor signage.
Offset: A printing process that uses offset printers, which use plates and ink to print finished pieces. It has a higher initial setup cost than digital due to the production of the plates, but a lower per-piece cost, making this process a good option for very large print runs.
Packaged Files: When sending files to a printer, they will often request “packaged files”. This is a process in most software that gathers up all of the elements used in the file like images or fonts and collects them in a folder. That folder can then be zipped and uploaded to ensure the printer receives all the digital assets needed to properly print the files. For more detailed information and instructions, please see our blog post on packaging and zipping files for submission.
Pages: A “page” is one printed side of a sheet of paper. The full sheet with both sides is referred to as a “leaf”.
Paper Stock: The type of paper used for a printing project. Various paper stocks can be of differing weights and thicknesses, different colors, or different finishes like glossy or matte.
PDF Proof: A digital PDF file sent from the printer to the client via email to review a design. This is a quicker and more efficient process when ironing out an initial design before the possibility of a physical printed proof.
Perfect Bound: Sometimes called “paperback”, this is a more cost-effective method of book-binding than case-bound, in which pages are glued together with a heavy cardstock cover. The cover can also be coated or laminated for additional durability. (See our blog post on book binding options.)
PMS / Pantone: Pantone or PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors are the industry standard for color matching in printing. By referring to a standardized color swatch book and assigning one of these color swatches to your logo or printed piece, a printer can ensure your printed materials and branding remain consistent every time.
Pole Pocket: Used on banners, this is similar to the hemming process, but a long pocket is left along the banner, usually on the top edge. This allows for a dowel or pole to be threaded through for hanging, and can ensure a banner remains flat and smooth without any drooping.
Poly Metal: A composite type of board that combines plastic with thin sheets of metal, for a durable yet lightweight signage option. This is most often used in outdoor signage.
Press OK / Press Sheets: A review stage partway between a PDF proof and a full physical proof. These are printed sheets of your project without the additional finishing such as laminating, coating, or binding. This type of proof allows you to review colors and print quality before the additional final stages of production.
Proof: A copy of a project or design intended for review by a client, who will then either request revisions or give approval to proceed. These can take the form of emailed PDF files for design review, printed press sheets before finishing is applied, or a fully-finished sample piece. (See our blog post on the benefits of a finished proof.)
Raster Image: A raster image is the counterpart of a vector graphic. Raster images are made up of square pixels, and the print quality can be determined by the image’s resolution, or the number of pixels in the image. Photos are raster graphics, but the more pixels in the image, the higher-quality it will print.
Registration: In a four-color CMYK print process, each color is layered to create the design. Registration is the alignment of these layers to ensure the design is clear and crisp. Some older, inexpensive printing methods like vintage comic books often had poor registration, resulting in color mis-alignment and “halos”. However, modern printing processes allow for superior registration accuracy.
Resolution: Used to refer to how many pixels will print in a square area. Often referred to as “DPI (dots per inch)”. See “DPI” for more information.
Saddle-stitch: Often used for event programs and similar brochures, this process is for multiple-page booklets that are folded and then stapled in the center along the fold to keep the pages together. (See our blog post on book binding options.)
Score: This process applies a crease in the paper before folding, to ensure the fold is precise and clean.
Signature: This is a group of larger printed pages that will be finished into a specific number of pages, often after folding, trimming, and binding.
Spiral-bound: A book-binding method that uses a plastic coil to hold pages together. This method is inexpensive and allows books to lay flat while open, making it ideal for training materials or other reference materials. (See our blog post on book binding options.)
Spot Color: In offset printing, this can be a custom or specific ink used to ensure a color remains consistent, such as in a logo or other branding. In digital printing, a spot color can be assigned to a file and the printer’s software ensures that the color is accurate.
Stock: See “Paper Stock”.
Trifold: One of the most common fold types commonly seen in brochures and handouts, in which flaps on both sides overlay one another.
Trim: The trim is where a piece is cut after printing. Can also be used in the term “trim size”, referring to the finished size of a piece, such as a business card with a trim size of 3.5 inches by 2 inches.
UV Coating: A clear liquid coating is applied to a printed piece and cured using ultraviolet light. This coating adds durability and an interesting finish to the piece, without adding as much weight or thickness as lamination. (See our blog post on lamination vs UV coating.)
UV Inks: Printer ink that is cured within seconds by an ultraviolet light. This allows for fast and durable printing, especially on large format pieces like banners and posters.
Variable Data Printing: A process in which a database of information is applied to a base design, such as addresses added to envelopes or personalization added to a set of letters. The information is pulled from a provided spreadsheet and fed into the layout by our prepress team using specialized software. (See our blog post on variable data printing.)
Vector Image: A vector image is a special type of graphic file that is infinitely scaleable to any size. This makes it ideal for large pieces like signage, and it allows for greater control over spot colors. Common vector file formats are EPS, AI, and SVG.
Wire-O: A binding method that uses a wire comb to hold pages together. It is similar to spiral but some specialty cover formats can add more visual interest than a spiral bind. (See our blog post on book binding options.)
Zip / Zipped Files: A process that compresses multiple files into a single file for ease of uploading to a printer. For more information on zipping files, please see our blog post on packaging and zipping files for submission.
We hope this list helps shine some light on printing terms! Our customer service representatives will also be more than happy to help walk you through whichever ones apply to your project. Give us a call or email today to discuss how we can help bring your ideas to life.