The A-Z Of Printing Jargon

In any technical industry there tends to be a lot of specialist jargon that goes with it, and printing is no different. Understanding this jargon is an important part of ensuring you get the result you are looking for when it comes to investing in printing services. Whether you are trying to explain yourself, or trying to understand what is being offered to you, this A to (almost) Z of printing jargon is bound to help!

Art Paper

This paper, available in both gloss and matt, has a coating of what is usually china clay. Art paper would typically be used for jobs that require a particularly fine finish, such as colour brochures or annual reports.

Backed Up

This term refers to the second side of a sheet being printed, with the images usually identically aligned on both sides.


Bank is a lightweight paper, typically less than 60gsm. It is most commonly used in typewriting and correspondence as printed text is clear and easy to read on this paper.


One of the more common printing terms, bleed refers to the fact that the printed area exceeds the trimmed area. For logistical reasons, it is not possible to print to the very edge of paper, so to get the effect of this it is necessary to print a larger than necessary area and trim the paper down. Usually, printers would allow for around 3mm of bleed to allow a little flexibility when trimming.

Blind Embossing

In this process of embossing, no ink is used, which means colours are not possible. Instead, the design or text is only visible as a raised area on the paper.


This basic paper is most commonly used for copying or with laser printers. Better quality bond papers with a higher rag content will be used for letterheads.

Calendered Paper

Paper that has been put through heavy rollers during the manufacturing process in order to achieve a completely smooth result.


These initials are shorthand for the four main colours used in printing: Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K).


The process of putting together the multiple elements or sheets of a document in the correct order.


Mechanically creasing a printed job can make folding the sheet easier.

CTP- Computer to Plate

This term refers to the modern standard practice of transferring an image onto a plate using laser technology. This results in sharper, cleaner and more accurate image reproduction than the older methods where film separation was played out on image setters, which were exposed under light onto the aluminium printing plates. This modern CTP method is almost completely chemistry free, which makes it more environmentally friendly than the traditional method.

Digital Printing

This printing process avoids the stage of films and works directly from electronic data, making it very cost effective, so it is popular for short run jobs. 


Drilling refers to holes being made in paper for use in a ring binder. This process achieves a much cleaner result, and can penetrate a larger amount of paper, than a standard office hole punch.

Dummy (1)

This is a plain-white mock-up, without any printing, using the same paper, binding and assembly process as your final product. This allows you to get a feel for the finished product before you spend money on printing.

Dummy (2)

The designer’s mock-up to show how your finished product will look. These mock-ups won’t be printed on your intended stock, as they typically involve colour prints from a number of different sources.


Films are very rarely used nowadays, but are produced by an imagesetter from the artwork and are used to create the printing plate through a photochemical process. Each ink used will have an individual, separated film.


What follows the printing process, be it creasing, folding, stitching, binding, or anything else.


The page number.

Four Colour Process Printing

This is the most common method of producing full colour print. The four CMYK colours are translucent, which means they can be overprinted and combined a number of different ways to achieve a wide range of colours. Most magazines and colour books are printed using this process.


This is usually used for high quality or long run printing, and is sometimes known as intalgio printing. In this process, the image is etched below the surface of the plate.  The web version of the process is termed rotogravure.


Used to measure the weight of paper, or another stock, the abbreviation means grams per square metre. Typically, photocopier paper would be around 80gsm, whilst letterhead paper might be 100gsm, and a postcard 250gsm.


This is the process used to produce a range of tones, such as on a photograph or a tinted area, and involves dividing the image into a series of dots. For darker areas, the dots will be bigger and closer together, and lighter areas will have dots surrounded by white space. The more dots used, the better quality the image, for example, a newspaper is usually printed with a 60 dpi (dots per inch) screen, while an art brochure could have 175 dpi or more.


The layout of images on the printed sheet, to ensure they are in the right order when the sheet is folded and trimmed. Imposition layouts can be incredibly complex depending on how many times the sheet is to be folded.

Laid Paper

This paper is uncoated, and has a textured pattern of parallel lines, similar to handmade paper. It is often used for business stationery and can be compared to Wove Paper.

Make Ready

Term referring to the process of preparing a printing press for its run.


The pressure point between two rollers.

Offset Printing

In this printing process, the paper never comes into contact with the printing plate. Instead, the ink is transferred from the plate to a blanket cylinder, which then transfers the ink to the paper.


A US brand that created a colour matching system that identifies a wide range of colours by number to ensure standard results across the printing industry. The system also includes codes to show how a colour would look on matt and glossy stock.

Paper Sizes

In Europe, the ISO standard is the common way to define paper sizes. The A series, particularly A4 paper, is the most common, everyday paper; and the C series defines the size of most envelopes. However, there is also a B series, as well as RS and SRA, which are used by printers. These are slightly larger than the A series and allow for extra grip, trimming and bleed when printing.

Perfect Binding

Book binding that holds the paper to the spine using glue. This method is common for magazines and paperback books.

Printing Plate

This plate carries the image that is to be printed onto stock. Printing plates can be made of a variety of materials, and they are even available in paper for single-use printing plates.


The alignment of different printing plates, necessary when printing with two or more colours. The target-shaped register marks will be visible on an untrimmed sheet, and these are used for the accurate positioning of the plates.


When printers quote a job, they will usually give a price for a set number of copies, and a price for any additional copies after that- these additional copies are the run-on. In this case, the run-on copies must be made at the same time as the main job.

Saddle Stitch

You may know this as stapling, but printers call the process of assembling a magazine or small booklet with a wire stitch through the fold.

Screen Printing

A process of transferring ink to the printing surface by squeezing it through a fine sheet of fabric that is stretched across a frame. The process is most suitable for short runs, though it can be done mechanically, and is most commonly used on large poster printing or advertising material, but is also useful for difficult jobs, such as printing on clothing. Despite the screen being made from artificial fibres, the process is often known as silkscreen printing.


The folded sheet that is folded with other to make a book. Larger pieces of paper will create multiple sections as they are folded. For example, an A2 piece of paper will provide a section of 8 A4 pages, so a 20 page booklet would require two of these, as well as an additional 4 page section. Booklets this small could be saddle-stitched, but large booklets (comprising of more than 20 pages) could be perfect bound.


This refers to a printing fault where wet ink is transferred from one sheet to the back of the next as it leaves the stack, creating a ghost image. This can be prevented by spraying a very fine layer of starch based powder across the sheet as it lands; this allows for a fine layer of air to circulate the ink before it lands, aiding it to dry first.


A sheet-fed press prints by picking up one sheet of stock at a time and is the most common type of press.

Special Colours

These are specially mixed colours that are outside of the CMYK colour range, and require specialist inks.


Stock is the printing term that refers to the type of paper or cardboard that you are printing on.

Three Colour Printing

It is possible to print using just three of the four CMYK colours: Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. In the four colour printing process, black is used to add depth to the other colours, meaning less ink is required. The term ‘three colour printing’ could also refer to printing with three special coloured inks, or with black ink and two other colours.

Two Colour Printing

It is also possible to print using just two colours and this printing process is usually used for printing on stationery, as it is very cost-effective. Typically, two colour printing will involve a special colour from the Pantone range for the company logo and black for any text. Even using just two colours, it is possible to achieve different shades of each to create some variety.

Two Colour Machine

These machines can print two colours during one pass through the machine. Using Cyan and Magenta, then changing the plates to Yellow and Black and passing the sheet through once more would allow you to print four colours.

UV Varnishing

This adds a gloss finish to printed services, but in a different way to a regular varnish. UV varnishing can be used to achieve special effects on the printed service, and can be similar to printing another colour on the sheet. The UV element is the Ultra-Violet lamp that is used to speed up the drying of the varnish – the faster the varnish dries, the glossier the finish.


A web printing machine has nothing to do with the internet. Instead, it is a machine that can work with paper on the roll (known as the web). The high speed of these presses means they are only economic for high volume or long running jobs. Newspapers and, the majority of, magazines are printed on a web printing machine.

Work & Turn

This is a cost-effective way of printing both sides of a sheet without needing to change the printing plates, and often referred to as ‘Work & Tumble’. The whole job will be printed on one side of the sheet, then the sheets are flipped over and printed on again. This process is cost effective because the effort of changing the plates is eradicated.

Wove Paper

Wove paper is uncoated and has no apparent texture or pattern. It is often used for business stationery, and can be compared to Laid Paper.




This A-Z guide of printing jargon should help you get your message across to your printer, and also help you to understand any suggestions they make for you.

Free DeliveryFree Delivery on all orders
Artwork ChecksFree artwork file checks on request