Glossary of Common Commercial Printing Definitions
Commercial printing is an essential part of many businesses, but it can be difficult to understand all the terms associated with it. This article will provide definitions for some of the most common commercial printing terms, so you have a better understanding of what they mean and how they are used in the printing process. From offset lithography to spot colors and halftones, we'll explain each term in detail, so you know exactly what's involved when you order your next print job.
What are commercial printing terms?
Commercial printing terminology includes a range of words and phrases that refer to the specific processes associated with print production. It’s important for anyone ordering a print job to understand these terms, as they will affect the quality of the final product.
What is the definition of the printing process?
The printing process is a complex set of steps used to create printed materials. It includes everything from designing the layout and selecting the right paper stock, to actually printing the job onto a press and inspecting it for quality control. Different types of commercial printing processes can be used depending on the type of project, such as offset lithography, digital printing, and screen printing.
Commercial Printing Terminology: Defined
Here are some of the most common commercial printing terms to familiarize yourself with the commercial printing process.
1. Accent Color
An additional color used in addition to the primary colors (CMYK) in a printing job, such as Pantone or metallic ink.
2. Abrasion Resistance
The ability of printed material to resist wear or damage caused by rubbing, scraping, or scuffing.
3. Accordion Fold
The adjustment of text and graphics in relation to each other on the page.
5. Anodized plate
A metal printing plate coated with a thin oxide layer that increases the printability and durability of the image.
The spaces between columns of type or images on a printed page.
The smoothing effect used to reduce jagged lines in digital images and text.
8. Backup Copy
A copy of the original artwork stored in a secure location.
The central fold of a folded printed piece.
Lines or bands that appear on a printed piece as a result of incorrect printing settings.
11. Banner Printing
The process of printing large format signs or posters.
The imaginary line on which letters, characters, or images sit.
The base on which a printing press holds the paper as it is being printed.
14. Bindery Equipment
Bindery equipment is used for post-printing operations like cutting, folding, inserting, and stitching.
The process of attaching several pages together to form a book or booklet.
16. Blind Embossing
The process of creating a raised image on paper without the use of ink or foil.
17. Body Copy
The main text content of a printed piece, such as articles or descriptions.
A term used to describe when an image extends beyond the edge of the paper. It is important for any artwork that has a background color or element that touches all edges of the page, as it ensures that there is no white border around the final product.
19. Blow up
To enlarge an image or text to a larger size than their original size.
20. Brochure Printing
The process of printing promotional materials such as brochures and flyers.
Also known as four-color process printing, it's a color model that uses the primary colors of light – cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) – to create full-color prints.
22. Coated Paper
Paper that has a special coating to make it easier for the ink to adhere and dry quickly.
To assemble printed material in a specific order.
24. Color Bar
A strip of printed bars used on proofs and production prints to indicate the color values used in the printing process.
25. Column Rule
A line that is used to separate columns of type on a page.
Determining the best font size and column widths for a given amount of text, so that it will fit properly on a printed page.
When an additional amount of paper is added to a signature to account for the thickness that accumulated when folded. This helps prevent images from being cut off during folding and binding operations.
The process of cutting away part of an image or page to make a desired shape.
Cutting is the process used to trim a printed sheet or press proof into its finished size.
The trim size of a printed piece, determined by the size and shape of the paper it's printed on.
A process in which pre-made dies are used to cut paper into various shapes.
32. Digital Printing
Digital printing is a modern printing method that uses digital files instead of traditional plates, eliminating the need for time-consuming preparation stages.
33. Display Type
Large and/or bold type used to attract the reader's attention.
34. Doctor Blade
A tool used to remove excess ink from a printing plate.
35. Dot Gain
The expansion of dots in a halftone image that can occur when it is printed, causing darker or lighter areas than expected.
36. Double-Sided Printing
Printing on both sides of a piece of paper.
37. DPI (Dots Per Inch)
A measure of resolution for printing, which indicates how many dots of ink are used per inch. Higher DPI results in a sharper image.
38. Dry Mounting
Dry mounting is a technique used to permanently affix a printed image to a substrate, such as foam core board or mat board.
39. Ductor Roller
A rubber roller on a printing press that ensures even ink distribution to the type and illustrations.
40. Duplex Printing
Printing two-sided documents from one sheet of paper.
41. Element Positioning
The arrangement of elements on a page, such as text and graphics.
Any added material used to enhance the look of a printed piece, such as foil stamping or die-cutting.
43. Emulsion Coating
A type of coating applied to paper that helps the ink adhere more easily and dry faster.
44. Envelope Printing
Printing on the front and back of an envelope, usually to add branding or promotional information.
The process of pressing a design or image into paper, creating a raised effect.
46. Fiery Controller
A type of printer controller that makes it easier to manage graphic-intensive documents and quickly adjust settings for multiple prints.
47. Fill Color
A solid color used to fill in an area of a page, such as graphics and text.
48. Film Positive
Also known as a "film out," this is a printed transparency used for creating a printing plate.
The surface of a printed piece, such as glossy or matte.
50. Flash Point
The temperature at which a material will ignite if exposed to an open flame or spark.
51. Full Bleed Printing
Printing an image or page so that it covers the entire page without any white borders.
52. Gang Run Printing
Printing multiple jobs on the same press sheet, then trimming them down to their proper sizes afterward.
A coating applied to a printed piece that gives it a glossy finish.
54. Gloss Ink
Quick drying oil-based inks with low penetration qualities, used on coated stock.
A type of ink that is formulated to produce a glossy finish.
55. Grain Direction
The direction in which paper fibers are aligned, which determines how easily ink will absorb and how the paper folds.
56. Gravure Printing
A printing method that uses etched plates and a cylinder to transfer ink.
57. Gray Balance
Adjusting the levels of cyan, magenta and yellow inks, so they blend together to appear as neutral gray on paper.
58. Gray Component Replacement (GCR)
A technique used in digital printing that helps reduce the amount of ink used by replacing some colors with black.
59. Gray Levels
The various shades of gray that can be printed in a halftone image.
60. Greeting Card Printing
Printing cards with special messages or images for holidays, birthdays or other occasions.
The process of printing on heat-sensitive paper with specialty inks that set quickly when heated.
61. Green Printing
Green printing is the practice of using sustainable and eco-friendly materials and processes in printing. There are many ways that a printing company can sponsor green initiatives. Each type of certification indicates a different area or level of eco-consciousness.
Metal fingers or a metal bar on a printing press that holds the paper in place while it's being printed.
The application of an adhesive to the back side of a printed piece for binding or mounting purposes.
The blank area between columns of type or illustrations that are used to separate the elements and keep them aligned.
65. Hairline Register
The exact alignment of two or more colors that are printed very close together.
A technique used to reproduce continuous-tone images (such as photographs) using only dots in varying sizes and spacing.
67. Halftone Printing
The process of converting a continuous tone image into a series of dots for printing.
68. Halftone Screen
A pattern of dots used to represent images when printing, which can vary in size and angle depending on the desired effect.
69. Halftone Screen Angle
The angle at which the halftone dots are printed, ranging from 0 to 90 degrees.
70. Head to Tail Register
Registering two or more colors, so they align perfectly along their top and bottom edges when printed.
71. Heat Set Printing
A printing method that uses heat and pressure to dry inks quickly and give them a glossy finish.
72. Helioscript Printing
A process for printing engraved metal plates using a light-sensitive film and exposure to ultraviolet light.
73. Hexachrome Printing
A six-color printing process that utilizes the CMYK plus two spot colors for a more vibrant range of color reproduction.
74. Highlight Color
A spot color that stands out from the other colors in a design, usually a bright or vibrant hue.
75. Hinge Bind
A type of binding where folded sheets are bound together using metal rings punched into the spine of the book.
An unintended dot or imperfection in a printed piece, usually caused by dirt on the printing plate.
77. High-Fidelity Color
A printing term used to describe colors that closely match the original design. They are usually produced using a process like CMYK or Pantone.
78. Hot Foil Stamping
A process in which a metal die is heated and pressed onto paper, creating an imprint on the page.
79. Image Area
The area on a printed piece that contains words and images, as opposed to the margins or other areas of white space.
80. Image Resolution
The amount of detail included in an image, often measured in dots per inch (DPI).
81. Impression Count
The number of times a sheet of paper is printed on a printing press.
The arrangement of pages into their proper order for printing, usually done by computer software or a plate maker.
A single pass of the printing press when producing a printed piece.
84. Ink Density
The amount of ink applied to a surface, usually measured in terms of dot gain or coverage area per unit of paper.
85. Ink Key Presets
Settings on the control panel of a printing press that adjust the pressure and speed at which ink is applied.
86. Ink Run
The amount of ink that is applied to a printed piece, usually measured in terms of the total coverage area per unit of paper.
87. Intaglio Printing
A type of printing process where an image is etched into a metal plate; when pressed against paper it leaves behind an impression.
88. Inkjet Printing
A type of digital printing where liquid ink is sprayed onto paper through tiny jets, creating an image on the page.
A device for aligning sheets of paper before they are fed into a printing press or binding machine.
90. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
An image compression file format used for digital photography and other images that need to be reduced in size without losing quality.
A point in a book or other printed product where the text moves from one page to the next. When the second page doesn't immediately continue after the first, it is denoted with "continued on p. X."
When elements of a printed piece (such as text or images) are moved from one page to the next, creating an overlap. The reader's eyes are drawn across the pages and down to the content to continue reading through the copy.
93. Justified Text
Text that is aligned along both margins, creating a straight line at each side of the text block. It is often used for body copy in books and magazines, as it creates an even look throughout the page.
The process of adjusting the spacing between words and letters in a line of text to make it appear even on both sides.
The process of adjusting the spacing between individual characters in a line of text, usually to create a more even and aesthetically pleasing look.
A thin line or border that surrounds an image, usually used to denote what portion of the page will be printed. It is often used as a guide for trimming and finishing the piece.
A short phrase or caption that is inserted into a block of text to draw attention to a particular point. It is commonly used in headlines and advertising copy.
The process of removing an image from its background, leaving only the image on the page. This is often done in digital printing for two-color jobs and dark backgrounds.
99. Knockout Text
Text that is printed over a background color or image, in which the text itself has been "knocked out" of the background, leaving an imprint on the page.
100. Label Printing
The process of printing labels, such as those found on packages or bottles. Label printing is usually done using a digital or offset press or thermal transfer printer.
The process of coating paper or other materials with plastic film to preserve them and make them more durable. It is often used to protect printed products from dust, moisture, and other environmental factors.
102. Laser Proofing
A type of proof created using a laser printer or imagesetter to generate a digital proof that is similar in quality to a press proof.
The arrangement and placement of elements on a printed piece, including text, images and other graphical elements.
A type of folding that results in a piece of paper with three panels, each containing a single page. It is usually used for brochures and other printed materials.
105. Letterpress Printing
A traditional method of printing that involves pressing inked type or plates onto paper to create an impression. It is often used for fine art prints, business cards and wedding invitations.
The process of arranging a document so that it can be printed correctly in a linear format, such as on a web press.
107. Line Art
An illustration composed of black and white lines and shapes, usually in vector format. It is commonly used for logos and other graphics that need to be printed at a high resolution.
A process where ink is applied to a printing plate and then transferred onto paper using a press. It is the most common type of printing used for books, magazines and other mass-produced printed materials.
A graphic symbol or design that represents an organization, company or product. It is often used on letterhead, business cards and other printed materials.
110. Long Grain
The orientation of a piece of paper where the grain runs parallel to the longest edge, resulting in an image that prints more sharply and evenly than on short-grain paper.
111. Mailing Service
A type of service that specializes in preparing and sending out printed materials, such as letters or postcards. They often provide bulk mailing discounts and specialized services to ensure delivery.
The process of blocking out certain areas of an image or document so that they are not printed. It is often used to create a drop shadow or a vignette effect.
113. Matte Finish
A type of paper finish that is not shiny, giving it a softer and less reflective look than glossy paper. It is often used for business cards, brochures and other printed materials.
114. Metallic Ink
A type of ink that reflects light and creates a metallic look. It is often used for business cards, invitations and other printed materials.
115. Moiré Pattern
An optical effect that occurs when two patterns are overlaid on top of each other, creating an interference pattern that appears as a wavy or distorted image. It is commonly caused by printing photographs or halftones onto newsprint or other low-grade paper.
The process of applying an adhesive to the back of an image or printed piece and attaching it to a board, such as foam core or gatorboard, for display purposes.
Section of a newsletter's front page that graphically displays its name, issue number subtitle, date line and more.
118. Negative Space
The area between or around elements of a design that provides balance and contrast. It is often used to draw attention to a particular element in the design.
A publication that is sent out regularly to subscribers, usually by mail. It often contains news, articles and other information related to a particular topic or organization.
The gap between two rollers on a printing press where the paper passes through as it is printed.
121. Non-Impact Printing
A type of printing that does not involve physical contact between the printing plate and the paper. Examples include laser, inkjet and thermal transfer printing.
Part of an inkjet printer that delivers the ink to the page.
123. Offset Printing
A printing method in which ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket and then onto the printing surface. Offset Printing is also known as lithography, and it is commonly used for large-scale projects, such as magazine or newspaper prints.
The degree of transparency of a printed image or document, which is measured in terms of the amount of light that can pass through it. The higher the opacity, the less light passes through.
The process of printing one color over another without mixing them together. It is often used to add subtle touches or accents to a design.
A piece of paper that is printed with instructions or information and then placed on top of another piece of paper before printing. It is often used to provide registration marks for folding or other types of finishing work.
The amount of printed material that exceeds the specified quantity. It is often necessary in order to ensure an accurate final count.
A printing technique in which a metal plate is exposed to light, causing it to oxidize and create a raised image on the paper. This technique is used for traditional letterpress printing.
129. Page Count
The number of pages in a printed document.
130. Pantone Matching System (PMS)
An internationally recognized system for accurately mixing and matching colors, which consists of thousands of different shades. It is commonly used in the printing industry as a reference for matching and mixing colors.
131. Perfect Binding
A type of binding in which sheets are glued along the spine with a strong adhesive, creating a smooth, flat edge. It is often used for magazines or catalogs.
A series of cuts or holes in paper that allows it to be easily separated into smaller pieces. It is often used for coupons, tickets or other items that need to be detached from a larger sheet.
133. Photo Paper
A type of paper made specifically for printing photographs and other images. It is usually coated with a special coating to produce a sharp, glossy finish.
134. Plate Maker
A machine that creates printing plates from digital files. The plates are then used on offset and other types of presses to print the image onto paper or other substrates.
The process of preparing a printed piece for printing, which includes layout, pagination and color proofing.
The process of ensuring that all necessary elements are present in a digital file before it is sent to the printer. This includes checking that all fonts, images and other elements are included in the file and that they are of a suitable resolution for printing.
137. Press Check
The process of reviewing a printed piece while it is on the press to make sure that it meets the desired specifications. It often involves adjusting the ink, color or other elements of the print job.
138. Printing Plate
A thin metal plate used on an offset press to transfer ink onto paper or other substrates. The images and text are etched into the plate through a chemical process before being mounted on the press.
139. Pull Quote
Words from an article printed in large type or highlighted. It is inserted in the page similarly to an image to draw attention. It is often used in magazines and newspapers for feature articles.
140. Quality Control
The process of checking a printed piece to make sure that it meets the necessary quality standards. It involves inspecting for accuracy, color consistency and other factors.
A desktop publishing program used for creating layouts and designs for print and digital media. It is commonly used by graphic designers and prepress professionals.
142. Quick Printing
Printing using duplicators, which are tiny sheetfed presses. Duplicators cut different-sized portions of offset paper and bond. With this process, plastic paper or rubber plates are fabricated from camera-ready copy, as opposed to commercial printing's metal plates that require creating film beforehand.
An estimate provided by a printer for a specific job, which includes the cost of producing the material and any other details necessary for pricing.
144. Reader Spread
As opposed to printer spreads, these mechanicals are designed in 2-page spreads as a reader would see the pages. For instance, an 11 x 17-inch mechanical for an 8-page newsletter might have pages 2 and 3 opposite to one another.
A package of 500 sheets of paper. It is commonly used to describe paper that has been cut from large rolls or sheets into smaller, more manageable sizes.
The act of placing printing properly with regard to the paper's edges. This type of printing is known as being "in register."
147. Register Marks
Marks or symbols that are printed onto each sheet of paper during a print job, usually near the edges, to help ensure that the printed image is properly aligned when it is trimmed.
The amount of detail contained in an image or graphic, measured in dots per inch (dpi). A higher resolution generally produces a sharper and more detailed image.
149. Reverse Print
A printing technique in which text or images are printed in a color that contrasts with the background. It is often used to make text or images stand out from the background, such as white text on a black background.
150. Rough Layout
Also known as simply rough and esquisse, a rough layout is a preliminary design of a printed piece, consisting of only the basic elements such as text and images. It is used to get an idea of how the finished product will look before investing time into creating a detailed layout.
151. Routing Slip
A slip of paper containing information about how a printed piece should be handled and where it should be sent. It is usually attached to the outside of the package and includes information such as the printer, number of copies and any special instructions.
152. Saddle Stitching
The process of binding a booklet or magazine with staples along its spine. Saddle stitching is often used for smaller publications such as brochures, newsletters and catalogs.
The process of lightly pressing paper with a sharp blade to weaken it along a straight line, making it easier to fold. It also helps keep the fold line sharp and prevents cracking.
154. Screen Printing
A type of printing in which ink is forced through a mesh screen onto the substrate. It is often used for printing large areas of solid color and can be used to create t-shirts, signage and promotional items.
A publication that uses the same paper weight for both cover and interior pages. This allows for a more consistent look throughout the piece.
156. Short Run Printing
A printing process used for small quantities of prints, usually less than 500 pieces. It is often used for on-demand, quick-turnaround printing jobs or for prototyping purposes.
157. Spot Color
A single color used in a printing process, usually a Pantone or special ink that is not part of the standard CMYK palette.
A pre-designed layout that can be used as a starting point for creating a printed piece. It is often used to save time by eliminating the need to create a design from scratch.
The powder used to create an image on a printer or copier. It is typically made from a mixture of toner particles, wax and plastic resins.
A clear sheet of plastic or acetate film used for printing images or text. It is often placed over artwork in order to produce multiple copies without having to re-create the artwork.
161. Unit Cost
The cost of producing a single unit, or print. Unit cost is calculated by dividing the total cost of a job by the number of prints produced.
162. UV Coating
A coating applied to a printed piece after it has been printed, usually for protection or aesthetic purposes. The coating is cured with UV light and can give the printed piece a glossy finish. It is often used on business cards, postcards and other marketing materials.
163. Variable Data Printing (VDP)
A printing process that uses data from a database to customize each printed piece. VDP allows for mass customization by generating unique documents based on the customer's individual data. This makes it ideal for personalized direct mail campaigns and other marketing materials.
164. Vellum Finish
A paper finish that is slightly textured and translucent. Vellum finish is often used for cards and other printed pieces that require a luxurious look and feel.
An image or design that has been impressed into the paper to create a subtle texture. It can be used to indicate the quality of the paper.
166. Web Printing
A printing process that uses large rolls of paper instead of individual sheets. This allows for faster production speeds and lower costs than traditional sheet-fed printing processes. It is commonly used in newspaper and magazine production.
167. White Ink
Ink that has been specially formulated to be opaque and show up on dark-colored paper stock. It is often used to add detail or text to a printed piece that would otherwise be impossible due to the color of the substrate.
On a mechanical, an area that has been marked for placement of a halftone. When photographed using graphic arts film, a window made using masking material (dark area) creates a window on the film (transparent area)
A process used in binding where a window cutout is made in the cover material, allowing images or text from the interior page to be visible. This is often used to create a more eye-catching design on book covers.
The height of lowercase letters in a typeface, not including ascenders or descenders. It is an important measurement when designing with typefaces, as it helps to ensure legibility and readability.
A discoloration that can occur on printed materials due to age, exposure to sunlight or other environmental factors. This can be prevented by using acid-free paper and UV coatings to protect the printed piece.
Pages in Our Commercial Printing Guide:
- What is Commercial Printing
- Printing Definitions
- The Printing Process
- Industries & Companies that Use Printing
- Types of Commercial Printing
- The Future of the Commercial Printing Industry
About The Author
Craig Sheer is the owner of Sheer Print Solutions, located in New York City & Portchester, NY. We are the proven leader for affordable, high-quality Digital and Offset, and Large Format Printing in NYC. Sheer Printing Solutions is your single source for solutions to all your printing, binding, warehousing and fulfillment needs.