Crop. Absorption. Feeder. If you’re not familiar with printing terms, hearing them for the first time may cause some confusion. As printing professionals, printing terminology is like a second language to us. We’re always happy to explain the various definitions and meanings but we thought it’d be useful to provide a glossary of printing terms. An A to Z of printing terms and phrases.
You can access this glossary anytime and, soon enough, you’ll be a natural in printing terms too. Just click on the letters below to be taken to the relevant section.
The Complete Glossary Of Printing Terms
3D Printing: 3D printers are able to print 3D shapes. Aeroplane companies are creating parts with 3D printers and some food companies, like Hershey’s, have created edible 3D food printers.
A, B and C Series: These refer to the different industry standard of paper sizes. Most countries follow this system so most paper sizes (e.g. A1, A2, A3, A4, etc) are universal around the world. Don’t worry! You don’t need to know the ins and outs of the different series - it’s an industry standard that printing presses should follow.
Absorbency: How much liquid the paper can hold. Before you start printing it’s worth checking the absorbency of your paper. If you use too much ink, the ink will seep through and make the paper look wet.
Absorption: When the first inks are drying onto the surface of the material, it is usually referred to as absorption.
Adhesives: In print, adhesives are substances which are used to make things stick firmly together.
Art Paper: Paper that has a smooth glossy finish which is made by adding a special coating.
Bespoke Printing: A technique which isn't restricted to certain printing products, materials or sizes. The technique is all about meeting a company's needs to create something truly unique which can't be produced elsewhere.
Binding: Binding is used to bind or fasten a book together. Some printers may offer you a service to bind your printed works.
Blanket: On a lithography printing press, the interior cylinder used for printing is covered by a rubber blanket which is used to help transfer the print onto the paper.
Bleed: After paper has been printed, the inks may run over the trim marks of the paper. This is known as ‘bleeding.’
Bulk: A term sometimes used when describing the thickness and feeling of a piece of paper.
C1S And C2S: Acronyms used for 'Coated One Side' and 'Coated Two Sides' paper stock. It's a cover stock with a glossy finish on one side and uncoated on the other, usually between .008" and 0.18" in thickness.
Caliper: The measurement of the thickness of paper, measured in thousandths of an inch or mils.
Chemical Resistance: The extend to which printed materials will resist reacting with chemicals it comes into contact with - ensuring no damage is done.
Coating: To reduce the risk of ink smudging after printing, a special liquid coating can be applied to the paper. It’s particularly beneficial for literature prints.
Colour Separation: The process of separating colours into their basic elements.
Constellation Snow: A luxury stock which provides a textured effect. This paper comes with an embossed linen effect to give a high-end feel.
Crop Marks: Lines put onto the pages to show where the document or print will be trimmed.
Damping: The process where the lithographic plate on a lithography printer has to have water applied before printing.
Digital Printing: Using lasers, digital printing is a fast printing method, and is commonly used in offices and at home. It’s ideal for quick and small-scale jobs.
Dummy: Before printing a large quantity, it’s the norm to print a ‘dummy,’ an example, to show the customer an example of the finished product.
Dye-Sublimation: Rather than putting colour onto the material, dye-sublimation changes the colour of the material instead.
Elasticity: This is the term used for when a printed product doesn't lose its shape when it's opened.
Embossing: The process of creating raised relief images in paper and other materials. The design will bulge out of the paper.
Feeder: Equipment used to ‘feed’ or supply the paper into the printer in the correct position for printing.
Finishing: The finishing touches of a print (for example, cutting the crop lines and adding protective gloss).
Flexography: A method commonly used for printing onto uneven surfaces such as packaging. Flexographic printing uses a flexible relief plate to print and this process prints letters and small texts - popularly used for labels.
Font: The font refers to the style of letters used in the print.
Ghosting: On a printed image, another lighter image in the same print is called ghosting because of the lighter, ghostly finish.
Gripper: Special grips inside printers that hold the paper in place during print.
Guillotine: A sharp blade used to cut and trim printed paper accurately.
Hardness: This is a term used for when the quality or the condition of a printed product remains 'hard.' So, the quality doesn't deteriorate the more it's used.
Hickey: An accidental imperfection mark that appears on a finished printing product; it may be caused by dust or issues with the ink.
Imposition: The arrangement of pages in a sequence which reads consecutively when the printed sheet is folded.
Ink Set-Off: Ink that is unintentionally transferred from a printed sheet to the back of the sheet above it when the materials have been printed and are stacked in a pile.
LED UV: LED UV is a print technique which provides a high-end finish. Inks are mixed to perfection and pressed onto the stock (paper, card etc.), and this then gets blasted under LED lights to dry it in super-fast time. This helps keep colours sharper and speeds up the whole printing process.
Lithography: Lithographic printing is popularly used for high quality image printing. The image is placed on the lithography plate, inked and then printed onto the paper. It’s a fast and smooth printing process.
Lux Paper: A stock which suits classic products. This material is an ultra-thick, triple-layered card which features a signature coloured core running through the centre layer.
Monochrome: An image in black and white or varying tones of only one colour (for example, different shades of green - green, lime, pear, pine, etc).
Original: Before you can start any printing work, the printing press will need the ‘original’ - which is the original image you wish to produce.
Print Blemishing: If printed using an unsuitable or outdated printing technique, materials can feature small marks of flaws which spoils the overall appearance or quality.
Process Colours: The process colours are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The printer combines these base colours to create different colours.
Reel: A continuous length of paper wrapped around a cylinder is commonly referred to as a reel of paper.
Register: To accurately position an image or text onto paper, register marks are used as reference points to help make sure the printing work is accurate at every step.
Rotogravure Printing: This printing process uses an engraved rotating roll that rolls the image onto the paper. Rotogravure is used for printing magazines and newspapers.
Runnability: How quickly a printer can ‘run’ without making any mistakes is often referred to as a printer’s runnability.
Satin Finish: A smooth and soft finish over the paper.
Scratch Resistance: Depending on the technique used, it can be difficult to scratch or cause damage to products because the physical properties will have been dramatically improved.
Screen Printing: With screen printing, a fine mesh is used to transfer an image onto another material. It’s useful for printing logos onto clothes and printing fabric banners.
Silk Paper: Silk paper is a stock which has a low surface sheen and provides excellent ink-to-paper contrast. Colours appear a lot brighter and more defined when printed on, making it a better choice for readability.
Solvent Evaporation: During a drying process, the liquid parts of the ink evaporate depending on the print technology used. If solvents are evaporated, the pigments remain in place.
Spot Varnish: A way of highlighting a certain area of a page by selectively applying a varnish to it.
Stock: This is what is receiving your printed images and content. It can be paper, card, foil or whatever, and it can massively alter the impact of printed pieces.
Tint: The process of adding the colour white to another colour so, when printed, the colour is lighter and more white shines through.
Typography: Everything related to the text on the printed product. Your printer will want to know the layout of your text, along with colour and style.
Ultraviolet light: UV light is a form of radiation which isn't visible to the human eye, it's in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In LED UV printing technology, this light is what instantly dries the ink.
UV Curing: A drying method which uses light instead of heat. It's a photochemical process where the high-intensity UV light instantly cures or dries inks, coatings and adhesives.
UV Varnish: A thin coating which is applied to a printed sheet for protection and appearance. It's dried immediately by UV light.
Varnish: A glossy finish added to a finished printed product to give it an extra shine and protection against damage.
Vignette: An illustration where the background gradually fades away until it blends into the unprinted paper.
Watermark: A logo or design printed onto the paper; it is only visible under light.
Work and Tumble: The process of printing one side of the paper and then turning the paper over to print the other side. The paper has to be precisely aligned to ensure continuity and accuracy.
Work and Turn: One side of paper has the front and back of a print. When the printing is complete, the paper is turned over and the back and front is printed, creating two copies of the print.
Want to learn a bit more?
With over 60 years’ experience in the printing industry, it's safe to say we know a thing or two about print.
We wanted to share this knowledge with people like yourself who want to learn about printing techniques.
That's why we've made this super helpful guide. Learn about different types of print, when to use them and for what purpose. It even includes a handy reference chart.
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