A handy reference to common terms used in the print industry. 

If there is a term related to the print industry that you think should be included here, please get in touch!


A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z



Aluminium Composite Material – a Polyethylene core sandwiched between 2 thin aluminium panels.

Accordion Fold. See Concertina Fold.

Art Paper

A high-quality paper with a smooth surface. It has a thin coating of china clay to enhance the colour quality.


A thicker type of card, commonly used for business cards.


Backlit Display

Images are printed on a white translucent stock, with LED illuminating the panel from the back.


A knitted polyester with a PVC coating, with tiny holes for lower wind resistance, yet retaining the ability to provide clear, sharp images.


The extra area on the edges of a colour page to allow for minor adjustments when the page is cut. It allows for colour or images to be printed right to the edge of the page.

Blind Embossing

Raised sections created by pressing the paper between two dies and causing it to be embossed.


Paper stock that is thicker than normal printing paper but still retaining flexibility.

Body Copy

The main part of the words on a page; doesn’t include elements such as headlines and images.

Bond Paper

A high quality paper. Usually used for letterhead and other stationery. The name comes from its original use to print documents such as government bonds.


The thickness of paper, as measured by dividing its thickness by its weight.



A paper that has chemicals on one side of it that creates a copy from pressure instead of carbon paper.

Card Stock. See Board.

Case Bound

A hardback book.              


The colours that are used in 4-colour process: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key). Together they create full colour images.

Coated Paper

Paper that has been coated to make it more shiny (gloss) or less (matte). It also changes the paper’s ability to absorb ink and stop bleeding.


Sorting multiple kinds of print in to a specific order.

Colour Bar

Squares of colour printed on a proof sheet that are used for quality control, checking colour density and consistency.

Colour Control Bar. See Colour Bar (above).

Colour Separations

Separating a full-colour image into the four colours of 4-colour printing process: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

Concertina Fold

Making each fold in the opposite direction to the previous one, creating an accordion-like effect.


The written content.


Also Signflute - two trade names for ‘corrugated plastic’.  A twinwall plastic-sheet product made from high-impact polypropylene resin. It can be cut with a utility knife and comes in various thicknesses (such as 3mm, 4mm or 5mm).


A crease is placed onto paper by pushing a metal arm against it, a different method of folding paper to scoring.

Crop Marks

Lines printed on the corners of your artwork that indicate where to trim the paper.


Text or artwork that goes across the join to the next page.


To dry the ink and special finishes.

Cut Size

The finished size after cutting.   

Cut to Shape

Cutting products into a shape with either a machine cut on a cutting table; cut using a specifically made guide; or laser cut.      



Indenting a design onto the paper.


The level of colour on the page.


The metal blade used to cut that shape from the printed work.

Die Cut

The process of cutting out a shape using a metal die or electronic blade.

Digital Printing

Printing that uses a digital image as its source material. Also see Offset Printing.

Digital Proof

A press proof in digital form, usually a PDF file. Also see Press Proof.

Digital Short Run

Short run printing on a digital press allows for small quantities to be printed at a high quality. This is useful for viewing proofs and offers fast turnaround time.

Direct Mail

A postal marketing method using mass mailout of printed material; can also include individual data for each recipient.


Direct Marketing, selling directly to the consumer rather than through retail outlets.


Dots per inch, a measure of image resolution. Also see PPI, and Resolution.


Making holes in the paper stock, eg. for swing tags or documents to be filed.

Dull Finish

A slightly smoother finish than matte. Also called suede finish, velour finish and velvet finish.


A mock-up of the final product.



A raised surface that has been pressed onto the paper or card.

End Papers

The blank pages at the beginning and end of a book. Also see Case Bound.


Encapsulated PostScript. A graphics file that can also contain text, along with a bitmap preview image (for simpler viewing). Also see our Guide to Image File Formats.


Also Grommet. A ring or edge strip inserted into a hole through thin material, such as a sheet of textile fabric, sheet metal or composite. They may be used to prevent tearing or abrasion of the pierced material; or to protect the cable, wire or string passing through the hole; or to cover sharp edges of the piercing.


Face cut

Also Kiss cut or Top cut. Die cut stickers are cut all the way through the sticker and backing paper; whereas face cut stickers are cut through the vinyl or other material only – the backing stays intact.

Finished Size

The size of the end product after it is folded. Also see Flat Size.


Everything that happens to the paper after it is printed, eg. laminating, die-cutting or varnishing.

Flat Size

The size of the end product before it is folded. Also see Finished Size.

Flatten Image

A graphic design term, it is when the layers of an image are merged together to create one image.


A popular and effective marketing tool; usually a single sheet of paper, often folded.


Also Foamboard. A lightweight and easily cut material used for mounting photographs, as backing for picture framing, for making scale models and in painting. It consists of polystyrene foam with an outer facing of paper on either side.

Foil Stamping

Adding a metallic foil to the paper using heat to make it stick.

Fold Marks

The lines on artwork that show where to make the folds.

Folio Number

The page number.


A follower is a type of letterhead with reduced information, used for subsequent pages. A follower will often only feature the name of the company (whereas a letterhead will include contact details).

Footpath Decals

See Logo Mats.

Four-Colour Process

The printing process that uses four standard colours - cyan, magenta, yellow, and black – to make every colour and produce full-colour images. Also see CMYK.

French Fold

The paper is folded twice: first horizontally then vertically.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

A method of transferring files between computers that preserves the file regardless of which type of computer is being used.


Gang Up / Gang Run

Putting more than one print job in the printer at the same time.


The right and left sides of the paper are folded into the centre and then that is folded in half, giving you a double gate fold.


A faint printing of an image in a place it shouldn’t be.


Graphics Interchange Format: a file format that handles both static and animated images. A GIF is a lossless format.


Applying metal foil or gold leaf.

Gloss Finish

A shiny coating on the paper or card.


The predominant direction of the paper fibres.


Where the pixels are too large in an element of the content, usually an image. Generally caused by enlarging an image to a higher size than its resolution allows.

Grey Scale

The range of greys from white through to black. Also used when referring to black and white images, or when printing or capturing a colour image: selecting Grey Scale instead of Black and White produces a better quality black and white image from a colour image.


Grams per Square Metre, the standard measure of weight for sheets of paper.


The margin on the binding side of a page between the text and edge of the page; most of it becomes unreadable when the final product is bound.

Gutter Jump. See Crossover.



A process where an image is converted into dots of varying size to trick the eye into seeing it as a continuous tone.

Hard Proof

A printed proof, ie. not a digital proof.


The margin across the top of a page.

Heat Embossing. See Blind Embossing.


A printing defect caused by caused by a particle of dirt or other substance on the printing plate. Also called a bull’s eye or a fish eye.

High Res

High Resolution. A high quality image or printing. Print quality is measured in DPI (Dots Per Inch); image quality is measured in PPI (Pixels Per Inch).



Inside Back Cover.


Inside Front Cover.

Image area

The area that is to be printed.


Pages that are inserted between the printed sheets, such as carbon paper or loose pages in a bound document.



Joint Photographic Experts Group. The most commonly used image format, it is a lossy graphics file that compresses an image so it can be moved from one device to another.


Text that is aligned to the left and right margins so both edges of text appear straight.


Kedar edging

Commonly used with vinyl banners, Kedar rope is inserted into sail track and welded to the banner edge so that the banner can be tautened and smoothed.


Adjusting the space between characters in a piece of text.

Kiss Cut

A method of producing stickers where the top vinyl layer is cut but the backing remains intact.

Knocking Up

Lining up a stack of pages to make them ready to be bound.



The clear plastic coating added to paper to give it a glossy, matte or unique finish (such as velvet).


The orientation of the paper where the content sits across the longer side. Also see Portrait.

Lateral Reversal

Changing an image to its mirror reflection.


The arrangement of images and text on the page.


The amount of space between lines of text; pronounced ‘ledding’. More commonly known as line spacing.


One page, printed either on one side or on both. For a double-sided print product, two pages would be one leaf. Also called Page.


The degree of clarity or difficulty in reading a printed work.

Letter Fold. See Roll Fold.

Letter Spacing

The space between characters in a line of text.


Stationery with a printed heading (such as a logo and address). Usually printed on stock that can be used with a laser or jet printer afterwards.


The oldest form of printing, a raised surface is pressed into the paper or card to create letters and images, often as a raised (emboss) or lowered (deboss) imprint.

Light Fast Inks

Inks that hold the intensity of the colour and don’t fade when exposed to the light.

Line Copy

An image or document that has no grey tones, only black and white.

Linen Tester

A magnifier printers use to check colour dots to determine print quality. Also called a Printers Loupe.


Lines Per Inch. The measurement of lines of dots in an inch.

Loose Leaf

A loose page, not bound, usually with holes punched for filing.


Lossless refers to file compression. Saving a file using a lossless format means that all original data in the file can be recovered when uncompressed. A GIF file, commonly used for images, is a lossless format. See Guide to Image File Formats for more information.


Lossy refers to file compression. Saving a file in a lossy format means that the file has been reduced by permanently eliminating certain information. A JPEG file, commonly used for images, is a lossy format. See Guide to Image File Formats for more information.

Low Res

Low Resolution. A low quality image or printing. Print quality is measured in DPI (Dots Per Inch); image quality is measured in PPI (Pixels Per Inch).


Magnetic Ink

Usually used for bank cheques, it is ink that contains magnetised iron oxide.

Mailing House

A company that provides bulk mail and other related services.


Notes about required changes to a document.

Matte Finish

A smooth, non-glare coating on paper.

Metal Finish

A shiny Scodix spot varnish of gold or silver.

Metallic ink

Ink that creates a metallic sheen, usually gold, silver or bronze.

Mock-Up.  See Dummy.


A distortion caused in an image when it has a repetitive pattern such as parallel lines that are close together or where two patterns meet.


Irregular printing where the ink distribution is not even, usually caused by using the wrong type of paper.


Negative Space

The part of the page left white, ie. it has no text or images on it. Also called White Space.

New Velvet

A type of lamination that provides a velvet or suede like feel to the surface of print products. The coating is scratch-resistant, adding a layer of protection. This finish is good for solid coloured designs. It does have a slight ‘muting’ effect on very bright colours.

NCR (No Carbon Required). See Carbonless.

Non-Image Area

The area that is not to be printed.

Notch Binding

The pages are glued to the cover using slots in the binding.



Outside Back Cover.


Outside Front Cover.

Offset Printing

Uses full-colour (CMYK) and Pantone spot colour (PMS) on plates to transfer the ink to the paper. Also see Digital Printing.


Describes the amount of light passing through the paper. High-opacity paper will stop an image on one side of it from showing through on the other side.


A line of text that has been separated from the rest of its paragraph by a page or column break. Also see Widow.

Overhang Cover

A cover that’s bigger than the pages that come after it, usually used for covering tabs.


Printing an image or text over an existing piece of printing.


The quantity of extra items that have been printed over the required amount.


The extra printed pieces in an overrun.



Putting together stationery into pads and binding with glue on a straight edge.


One side of a leaf. If a piece of paper is printed on one side, that is one page; if it is printed on both sides, that is two pages. Also called Leaf.

Page Count

The number of pages in a document.


The numbering of the pages in a document.


Pantone colour is a standardised colour in the Pantone Matching System which is used as a reference system so each colour can be consistently reproduced throughout the print industry.

Paper Stock

The different types of paper. They are many types of paper with a huge variety of thickness, look, colour, feel and quality.

Pasteboard. See Board.


Portable Document Format. Captures all elements of a printed document in an electronic image that you can view, send, navigate or print.

Perf Marks

Perforation Marks. Usually a dotted line, used to show where the perforations are to be made.

Perfect Binding

The pages of a document are collated in bundles, the edges cut off, then glued to the spine which is then attached to the cover. Usually used for paperback books.


A row of small holes added so the paper can easily be torn along that line.


A type of plate used in printing, or the print produced from it.


A blemish on the paper that occurs if the ink is too sticky; it usually looks like white dots on the printed area.


A fault in the print when the ink doesn’t fully cover the area being printed and small holes appear.


Picture Element. A pixel is a single point in a graphic image.


A thin plate, usually metal, used to transfer the image to be printed onto the paper.


PANTONE Matching System. See PANTONE Colours.


Portable Network Graphic. A lossless format, best used for web images.


Pocket envelopes have the opening flap along the short side. See Guide to Standard Envelope Sizes for more information.


The orientation of the paper where the content sits across the shorter side. Also see Landscape.


A programming language developed by Adobe that has become the industry standard for creating high quality vector graphics.


Printed Pages. An abbreviated version for the number of pages, eg. 16pp is 16 pages.


Pixels per inch, a measure of image resolution.


The part of the printing process where all the files are checked to make sure they’re ready for printing.

Preflight Profile

The checklist for the preflight process.


All the procedures that need to be completed on artwork after the layout is complete and before printing begins.


Sort mailing into categories before posting, usually includes printing barcodes onto each item for tracking or postage.

Press Proof

A printed sheet of the final print copy; used to check quality, colour control and for both the client and the printer to verify that the document is being printed to their specifications. When signed, it is the agreement by the client to print that version. Also see Digital Proof.

Printer’s Loup. See Linen Tester.

Printer’s Spread

The way multiple pages are placed together for printing, eg. a 4-page brochure will have pages 1 and 4 on one side, pages 2 and 3 on the other. Also called Reader’s Spread.

Process Colour. See Four-Colour Process.

Process Inks

The inks used in the four-colour print process: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key).

Proof Bar. See Colour Bar.


A thorough reading of a document to detect errors.

Pull up banner

Also Roll up banner. A portable display system that consists of a stand that holds the rolled up vertical banner, which can be pulled out and propped up to the stand. The banner design is printed on a durable non-curl polyester.


Ragged-left / Ragged-right Type

Ragged-left: text that is set so the right edge is aligned straight and the left edge is ragged; more commonly called Right Align.

Ragged-right: text that is set so the left edge is aligned straight and the right edge is ragged; more commonly called Left Align.


An image file made up of coloured or monochrome pixels. The number of pixels is fixed, so when enlarged, the image clarity can be compromised (also known as grainy or pixelated). Types of raster files include Bitmap - BMP (.bmp), Tagged Image File Format - TIFF (.tif), Graphics Interchange Format - GIF (.gif), Joint Photographic Experts Group - JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg), Portable Network Graphics - PNG (.png). See Guide to Image File Formats for more information.

Readability. See Legibility.


500 sheets of paper.


The relationship between two elements on a printed piece. A correct register is when any overlapping elements are correctly aligned; out of register is when they are not.

Register Marks

The crosshairs printed onto a proof sheet so the printer can line up the different layers to be printed. Also see Register (above).

Repositional Vinyl

A type of adhesive that can be removed and reapplied whilst retaining adhesive strength and leaving no residue. Also known as repositionable vinyl.


The scale of print quality measured in Dots Per Inch (DPI) or Pixels Per Inch (PPI).


Altering artwork to correct faults or improve the image.

Reverse Printing / Reverse Text

Printing light-coloured text on a dark background.


Red, Green, Blue.  A colour system. When combined, these colours create white (CMYK create black). RGB has to be converted to CMYK before printing and is best used for artwork to be displayed on a computer. Also see CMYK.

Rich Black

A mix of solid black ink over one or more CMYK colours so the result is a darker tone than using black only. The formula is C=60, M=40, Y=40, K=100 (240% ink coverage).


Raster Image Processor. A hardware/software combination that converts images into bitmaps.

Roll Fold

A document folded into three sections where the two side sections are folded over the middle section, creating six panels.

Rough Layout

Usually hand drawn, this draft layout shows where all the elements of the page will go.


Rich Text Format. A cross-platform file format designed to be used on any device without any loss of data or formatting.


A depiction of how a document is to be finished; usually how it is to be cut, folded and/or perforated.


Saddle Stitching

The method of binding a document where the pages are folded once and held together with staples on the spine.

Sans-Serif Font

A font without the small projections on its characters. Arial is the most common sans-serif font.

Satin Finish

A coating on paper or card that produces a finish that is less shiny than gloss but more shiny than a matte finish.


The measure of how much an image is enlarged or reduced.


A special polymer coating that produces a selective spot varnish to highlight specific areas.

Score.  See Crease.

A line that is pressed or cut part of the way through paper or card so it can be bent or cut along that line.

Screen Printing

A printing method where ink is forced through a silk screen with a stencil on it so only the negative image is printed. Usually used for printing on fabric.

Screen Tint

Creating the appearance of a lighter colour by using dots of ink instead of full coverage.


Also Display Board. A twin-sided display board suitable for screen printing and offset printing. Screenboard has a triple-coated surface and comes in weights of 620gsm, 880gsm and 1100gsm. Can be cut to shape.

Seal / Sealer

A coating applied over the print to set it so smudging doesn’t occur.

Security Paper

Paper that has special features, such as dyes, watermarks etc, for cheques, vouchers and other security documents.

Selective Binding

A technique where recipient-specific material is included in printed documents, eg. a special offer for a defined age group or location.


The cover is printed on the same paper stock as the inside pages.


A document that is folded into its own envelope or printed to include the address and postage on the cover.

Semibold Type

A type face that is darker than normal, but lighter than bold.


Splitting an image into cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) to be printed.

Serif Font

A font that has small projections on its characters. Times New Roman is the most common serif font.

Set Off

A printing fault where the image from one sheet is also printed onto the back of the one on top of it.

Shelf edge strip

Thin strips used on the front edges of display shelving. They can be used for pricing, information or to add decorative detail. Most commonly they are paper strips slotted into plastic holders, but they can also be printed onto adhesive.

Shelf wobbler

Often printed on PVC, shelf wobblers are designed to grab attention in a crowded display. They are usually no larger than A5 and can be attached using double sided tape or slotted into a display shelving system.

Show Through

When the printed side of the paper can be seen from the other side, usually caused by a lack using paper without enough opacity.

Side Stitching

A binding method where the document is bound by staples inserted in a line down the spine, passing from the first page to the last page and visible on the front and back covers.

Silk Coated Paper

A coating with a low surface shine and a smooth finish, but not as shiny as gloss.

Small Caps

Small Capitals. Upper case letters that are the same height as the lowercase letters around it.

Soft Back / Soft Cover

A book bound with a paper cover.


An area to be printed with 100% ink coverage.

Solvent ink

An ink that does not have a water base. Commonly used in inkjet printers.

Soy-Based Inks

An alternative to petroleum or oil-based inks, soy inks are more environmentally friendly without any loss of ink quality.

Specs / Specification

A description of all the elements of a print job. It can include paper size and paper stock (type), colours, folding and trim size.


The bound edge of a document that holds the pages together.

Spiral Binding

Also Coil Binding. Plastic or metal coil is wound through holes that have been drilled close to the edge of a set of pages. This allows the finished product to open completely flat and will enable 360 degree rotation. See Guide to Standard Binding Types for more information.


The wastage caused as part of the printing process due to trimming, obtaining the exact number of copies needed from sheets of paper larger than the finished size and testing.

Spot colour

A small area printed in a second or special colour, usually used to ensure a specific shade of tone of a colour for elements such as a logo.

Spot Gloss UV Varnish

A very high gloss coating applied a specific area using ultraviolet light.


A pair of pages that face each other, usually a left- and right-hand page in a document.

Spread and Choke

When two elements of different colours are to be printed, the edge around the foreground element is spread slightly, and the edge of the background element is reduced slightly (choked) to make sure they overlap and there are no white gaps.

Step and Repeat

When multiple copies of the same image are repeated on the one page, eg. sheets of stickers.


The type of material or substrate (such as paper, card, board, PVC, vinyl) on to which a design is printed.


A thick board made from compressed straw. Often used as the backing card for pads and for cartons, it is not suitable to be printed on.


A printing fault where ink soaks through a printed page.

Strut card

Often used in point of sale displays, strut cards are a design printed on a card stock up to A3 in size. A fold-out arm attached to the back of the card enables stand-up display.


The surface the ink is applied to during the printing process, eg., the paper in a document or the canvas in a banner.


A printed tab of colour sample.



The main part of the words on a page; doesn’t include elements such as headlines and images. Also called Body Copy.

Thumbnail Sketch

A rough sketch of a design to give an approximation of its concept.


Tagged Image File Format. A lossless file format that does not use compression so several layers can be saved in the one file.


A shade of a colour. Often referred to as a percentage of a colour.


Measures how well one ink colour prints over another. It is also used to describe how printing one colour over another can get rid of any white lines between the two colours.


To cut to size.

Trim Marks. See Crop Marks.

Type Family

A set of related fonts that have similar design characteristics

Type Style

A characteristic of a font that changes its appearance, eg. that same font in bold or italic.


Uncoated Paper

Any paper that has no coating and so is more absorbent than coated paper.


Stock that does not have a gloss or matte coating to protect it. Unlaminated stock may be prone to the print ‘bleeding’.

Unsharp Masking

A technique used to make edges more well defined by adjusting the dot size.

UV Coating

A liquid applied to a printed sheet, then cured with ultraviolet light to give a tough finish that produces  more brilliant colours. Often used in business cards.



A clear matte, gloss or satin ink that produces a sheen, protects against damage or is used to highlight a specific element.


Variable Digital Printing / Variable Information Printing / Variable Data. A method of digital printing that allows different information to be included in each piece without interrupting the printing process, eg. letters addressed to individuals.


A type of image that is made using mathematical formulae to create and connect points, curves and lines. No matter how much the size of the image is changed, it will still look great. Types of vector files include Encapsulated Postscript - EPS (.eps), Adobe Illustrator - AI (.ai), Portable Document Format - PDF (.pdf), Photoshop Document - PSD (.psd). See Guide to Image File Formats for more information.

Vehicle / Vinyl wrap

The application of a thin, digitally printed vinyl film onto the surface of a car. Designs can be a full body wrap or partial wrap. The film can be removed safely by a professional.


A high quality paper, often used for invitations (translucent vellum) or drawing art (thicker vellum). Vellum was originally made from calf hide.

Vellum Finish

A paper that is finished to be slightly rough to the feel but appears to be smooth. Usually used for art and crafts.


An illustration at the beginning or end of a chapter. The technique began in the Middle Ages.


A raised, glossy image created by coating wet ink with a powder and heating it.



Wallet envelopes or presentation folders have the opening flap along the long side. See Guide to Standard Envelope Sizes for more information.

Washed Out

Text or images where the colours are too faded.


A faint image or text in the paper that can only be seen if held up to the light.

Web Press

A type of printing press that uses large drums and continuous rolls of paper. Newspapers are printed this way.


Can refer to either the thickness of paper or the thickness of text characters.

White Space.  See Negative Space.


A line beginning a new paragraph that is left by itself before a new page or column begins. Also see Orphan.

Wire binding

Also Wiro, Twin loop, Ringwire binding. Punched pages are bound with a ‘c’ shaped metal or plastic-coated metal spine. Bound documents can then be opened flat and the binding may allow for full 360 degree rotation. See Guide to Standard Binding Types for more information.

Wire Stitching


With Compliments Slips

Smaller (often DL sized) sections of paper (usually of the same stock as a letterhead) with the details and logo of a company. There is usually space for a handwritten note. ‘With compliments’ will often be printed on these slips. They can be used as a more informal form of communication than a letter printed on a letterhead.

Wood Free Paper

Paper that has little or no wood pulp in it (less than 10%); it is made from chemicals.

Word Break

Breaking or adding a hyphen to a long word so it can go over the end of a line and onto the next line.

Word Wrapping

A computer software function where the words are forced to fit into the margin settings and will automatically create the next line when the right margin is reached.

Wove Paper

A smooth, fine paper that has no visible rib marks or watermarks.


Z-Fold.  See Concertina Fold.