Glossary for Printing Terms

Note: Words in all caps are also defined in this glossary.

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This refers to the electronic files that are provided to a printer by the client. This is what the final printed piece is going to be produced from and in order to print it the client must give the printer electronic ready to print files.


This is what happens to a piece after it's printed. This could include stapling, COLLATING (sorting multiple single PAGES or single sections  into their correct sequence) cutting and many other items. This all happens after the piece is printed.

When ink goes right up to the edge of a PAGE, this is
called a bleed. A printer has to print on a larger size piece of
STOCK than what your finished project size is, to make the ink go
to the edge. Then they TRIM it back to the actual size of the
project and it prints to the edge of the PAGE.



(Mailing term) Certification Address Standard Software



Coatings that go on top of inks have a number of names.

AQUEOUS (AQ): A water based coating that normally covers the entire sheet. It is used on matt COATED STOCKS or gloss COATED STOCKS to give them an additional brilliance. It also makes the ink dry faster when it prints.

VARNISH: This coating can be done over the whole PAGE or just a portion of it. It is thicker than AQUEOUS COATING so you can put it on just one part of a PAGE to make that stand out and not have it on all of the PAGE. Or you can cover the whole piece.

UV COATING: This is an ultra-violet coating. This is used for a number of reasons. To cover a limited area because it’s very thick and will stay in an isolated area unlike AQUEOUS COATING that would need to be printed over the entire PAGE. UV can be used on a STOCK with no COATING on it; AQUEOUS COATING  and VARNISH can not -- they would absorb into the PAGE. UV is very common on post cards and magazine covers, handouts and business cards. It makes the piece look and feel very glossy. A stack of printed pieces with UV on them tends to slip and slide a bit – it's that slick. It is capable of providing some degree of protection from fading due to direct sun exposure. Check manufacturers specifications if that is the client’s intent for the piece to ensure the right product is used.


Sorting multiple PAGES or sections of a printed piece into their correct sequence.

Images can be broken into multiple colors. A composite is the complete image once all the colors are layered on top of each other.



Copying uses a copy machine. This is different from printing which uses a PRESS. The two should not be confused.


DIE: This is a device that is molded into the exact shape the client wants to DIE CUT, EMBOSS or FOIL on their piece. This is a permanent mold and would be stored for use the next time the project was done again. The die is typically made from wood and metal.

When a client has a unique shape that needs to be cut in a piece (like the flaps of a folder or rounded edges on a project) this is called die cutting. A DIE is made and it's used to make the uniquely cut shape or perforation in the project using a die cutting machine.


A digital proof comes from a DIGITAL PRESS. This proof is an exact representation (down to the STOCK) of what the client will get when the product is done. The printing department then produces 500, etc., more of that exact same item. What the client sees as a proof is the first of the 500, etc., of what they ordered.

(Mailing term) Delivery Point Validation (proof of delivery to USPS)

This is the abbreviation for "direct to plate" or "computer to plate". 
When an electronic file goes directly from the PREPRESS computer
to the PLATE MACHINE without the use of cameras (the printing industry used to use cameras similar to a 35 mm camera however, they were bigger) or negatives (the printing industry used to use negatives similar to 35 mm negatives however they were bigger) to create the PLATES, this would be considered “direct to plate” or "computer to plate". Sometimes one will see this hyphenated as well to create one word.

A draw down is a sample of an ink color, usually on the
STOCK that the client wants to use as their finished product. A
draw down can be used to create a special ink color that doesn't exist; it can be used to show what an ink will look like on a certain STOCK. It also can be used to show what an ink plus a clear COATING will look like on a certain STOCK or simply what the ink and clear COATING will look like when printed together.


This is when an image is pressed into the STOCK using a
DIE in whatever design you would like. It creates a raised image on the piece in that design. There is no ink on this unless you run it
through a PRESS before you emboss it. You could also FOIL a piece
and then emboss as stated here.

This is the abbreviation for "electronic prepress." This term covers the computers, the electronic ARTWORK, scanning, etc.; done in PREPRESS. It could also be said that it is the various things in a print shop's PREPRESS department that are electronic. This can also be a term used to describe PREPRESS all together.


This is when foil is placed on the project in a design. Foil is stamped onto the project in whatever design you are looking to create using a DIE.

This is when FOIL is stamped onto the project and then the image is pressed up in the STOCK. This gives depth to the foil and raises it above the PAGE.

This is the process of creating a full color image by layering the following colors on top of each other in SCREENS to create the image.

CYAN (a blue color)
MAGENTA (a red color)

These are also referred to as CMYK (see above how the bolded letters correspond to C,M,Y & K). If someone says, "Please make
a CMYK build out of this." What they mean is please make this color
from layering cyan, magenta, yellow and black on top of each other
in the correct sequence and percentages of ink to make this color.  Or if they ask, "Is this CMYK?" They are asking if it's been created with cyan, magenta, yellow and black to make a full color image.  This is called "four color" as well because there are four colors that make up the image (as stated above).

CMYK verses RGB: The printing industry for the most part uses
CMYK. Desk top printers, some copy machines, the Internet, one’s
monitor, typically use RGB. RGB stands for Red, Green & Blue. This
color combination will look different in degrees than if one creates the same colors in CMYK; it's two different processes.

4/4 ETC.:
When a bid is given to the client under the word "Prints"
one will find 4/4, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, etc. This indicates how many
colors print on each side. 4/4 means it prints FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS on both sides. 1/1 means it prints one color or black on both sides. 2/2 means it prints 2 colors or black and a color on both sides, etc. Note: VARNISHES and various COATINGS placed above the ink are considered a color so if it was FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS and a COATING it would be 5/5. Or if it was FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS plus an additional color it would be 5/5.

Forest Stewardship Council. Established in over 50 countries in 1993, an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests.

FSC certification provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value. The FSC trademark can be used on printed material that qualify in recycled or post consumers content with FSC regulations. The FSC trademark is added to a client's art files by the printer.




When one wants a piece to have changing information or one is mailing a piece and needs different addresses on each one this can be done using an inkjetting machine. It lays down ink on the piece with a person's address and often times other information as well (such as bar codes, or billing information, etc.). 


This term refers to how many units of something exist. If 3 brochures are being printed that all have the same parameters or specifications but each has different ARTWORK then it would be considered 3 lots.  If 4 inserts are being printed that have all the same specifications but different ARTWORK that would be 4 lots. Each lot may be 1000, 2000, etc., in quantity.






In printing terminology a page is each side of the page whether it's printed on or not. If you have a single sheet printed on one side and the back is blank, each side is considered a page, so that would be 2 pages.

In copy terminology a page is each side that is printed. If you have a sheet that is copied on just one side that is 1 page. If you have a sheet that is copied on both sides, then that is two sided copy.

This stands for Pantone Matching System®. Pantone® is a color product.  Each solid single color is a Pantone. They are all numbered for standardness from one printing company to the next. The Pantone Matching System® is the name for this numbering system. If a printing company needs to know what color they are to produce on a piece they ask the client, "What PMS do you use?" The PMS numbers can be found in the Pantone® formula guide. Each color in the guide is marked with a number, one finds one’s color and the corresponding number is one’s PMS number.

A personalized URL is a personalized website. It is a website setup specifically for your client and tailored to them. For instance: Upon logging into that site one would see a website of information about printing specific to the
individual person it is directed at. If they have a history of ordering direct mail and forms then it would talk about that. If they normally order magnets and letterhead, it would talk about that. It would also capture any contact information that is missing on them and possibly get them to respond to a survey so that Gilliam & Associates (or whichever company is doing the campaign – for instance the client’s company) can learn more about them and their interests. This way they can better promote to that person in the future. Once the client has logged in, filled out information and reviewed the data directed at them then they log out.

As indicated in the above definition of PURLS a personalized website is created for one’s client. A campaign typically includes the following: In the coming weeks there are normally follow up emails addressed directly to the client and as personalized as possible.  They are setup to run automatically as follow up "touches" after they have logged onto their website. These follow ups continue to work to close the sale or further inform the client about one’s services.  In some campaigns as soon as the client logs onto their website and completes the survey and contact information then one’s sales reps (in this case Gilliam & Associates sales reps) are immediately emailed to let them know of the new lead. This allows a rapid follow up from the sales rep. Additionally, some of these campaigns are run by a program that will forward all the information the individual logging onto their PURL fills out, so that the company running the campaign has the data for future mailing or PURL campaigns. The program sends a file compatible with most contact management systems as well; so databases can be maintained quickly and easily. This program also tracks the effectiveness of the campaign so company running it can see what they made on the campaign.

When you print on an OFFSET PRESS (either COLD OR HEATSET styles) you print with a metal plate. It’s a large rather thin sheet of metal that goes on the PRESS and has the image you want to print on it. Each color of the image you print has its own plate. So, if the image is FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS then there are 4 plates that go on the press, one for each color you are printing.

ARTWORK the client provides to the printer to print from is supplied electronically and a computer is used in the PREPRESS department to review that artwork. Once it's confirmed everything is okay it is then sent from the computer to a machine that creates the PLATES that are used on the PRESS to print an image. The machine that creates those PLATES is called a plate machine.

When a disc is brought into a print shop for printing, the first thing that happens with it is that it is processed by a computer. Any missing elements are located and added to the ARTWORK (usually by the client, missing fonts, graphics, etc.). Then it is prepared for press. There are a number of steps involved in this. This whole area of a print shop is called "prepress."

This is the actually printing equipment used to produce the finished product. See below for a few descriptions of the different types of presses.

This is a traditional press. The name comes from the fact that they don't print directly on the STOCK and heat is used to bind the ink to the PAGE. The image offsets on another part of the press and that sets the image on the STOCK to get the finished image. There are 1-color offset presses, 2-color offset presses then most commonly it skips to a FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS offset press or a 5-color offset press. The number of colors indicates how many can be put on the PAGE at the same time. 5-color presses are typically used for FOUR (4) COLOR PROCESS and a clear COATING of some sort. There's a heater on the end of the press that bakes the ink to the STOCK.

This is an offset press that uses a giant role of STOCK and runs faster. It doesn't have a heater so it typically is used for quantities of 15,000 and up and multiple PAGES that are an UNCOATED STOCK. Newspapers are frequently run on this style of press. The quality isn't anywhere near as good as an OFFSET HEATSET WEB but it's much more cost efficient.

This is an offset press that uses a giant role of STOCK and runs faster. A version of this is used to run newspapers. (see PRESS [OFFSET COLD WEB]) and if one has ever seen a movie with such
a press in it that would probably bring up thoughts of a press that takes up half a warehouse and runs very quickly. This particular definition refers to one like that however this one uses a heater to bind the ink to the PAGE. It would likely be similar in size to the newspaper press mentioned above. It's traditionally used for running 15,000 and up and multiple PAGES and frequently the STOCK has a COATING. Magazines are often run on this type of press. It's more cost efficient because it runs faster. The quality isn't as high as
a OFFSET SHEETFED HEATSET PRESS though. However, this statement is in degrees – some offset heatset webs when properly operated and maintained can produce a product that would be difficult to differentiate between OFFSET SHEETFED HEATSET and offset heatset web.

Is an offset press that uses large sheets of STOCK and runs slower.  It's more expensive because it runs slower. It's traditionally used for quantities less than 15,000; especially if they are a lower PAGE count. Brochures and smaller publications are typically run on this style of a press.

This is a press that's computer driven. It's smaller than a lot of other styles of presses. It uses a different method of producing the printing than offset styles do. It runs 50-3000 or so pieces depending on size, cost efficiently. There are different styles of digital presses. Some use toner cartridges, some use actual liquid ink. Digital presses can have VARIABLE DATA which is very effective for personalization. See definition of VARIABLE DATA. Digital presses use DIGITAL PROOFS. 
This is convenient as one can see exactly what one’s going to be receiving down to the STOCK.

Proofs are the examples of a finished product that the printer creates for the customer before they actually print. See the various types below. The proof is on a special type of paper and is designed to give the customer a last look to ensure that everything they think is going to be there is and it's all accurate. It also gives a good representation of color (if it's a HIGH RESOLUTION PROOF) and a good representation of folding, PAGE sequence, etc., (if it's a LOW RESOLUTION PROOF). The color won't be completely accurate if the type of paper the proof is on is very different than the STOCK it's printing on when it gets to press but it's typically a good enough representation to allow the client to see and understand what's going to press.

This is very accurate for color around 90% (taking into account what kind of STOCK it's printing on). These aren't usually TRIMMED so they are good for checking color and you can check text and graphics placement, photo placement, etc. They don't ensure the PAGE sequence is correct or that the piece is folding and TRIMMING correctly. These are more costly than a LOW RESOLUTION PROOF and may not be needed if a project's color isn't highly critical.

There is an additional style of HIGH RESOLUTION PROOF that is higher than 90% accurate for color. If color is extremely vital then this style of proof is used. It's the most costly and can add hundreds of dollars to a multiple PAGE job.

Also referred to as a folding dummy. When one has a printed project that has PAGES or folds this proof is TRIMMED to the finished size and folded (if there are folds) or properly paginated if there are multiple PAGES to show that everything is being folded, paginated and TRIMMED correctly. This proof is also low resolution, so it can be blurry, the images aren’t the correct color and frequently lines are running through it because of it’s lack of resolution. It’s primary purpose is to show that folding, TRIMMING and pagination are correct. Sometimes it happens that a client doesn’t want to spend the money on a HIGH RESOLUTION PROOF and because the color isn’t vital and they just need to get the general idea that all of the fonts,
graphics, text and to some degree (ONLY) color is right they will opt
to go this route. It does save money and gives one a general idea
of color.


This is stapling that you see on a magazine, large brochure, newsletter, etc. It is typically two staples in the spine. The machine that is used to do this is designed so that the magazine or brochure lays over the top with the front half of the magazine laying over one side and the back half laying over the other side. This looks like a person sitting on a saddle. 

An image that is not solid color, it's a percentage of the solid color, regardless of how many colors it took to create the image.

These are the individual colors that create the image before they are layered on top of each other into a complete image.


This is the paper a project prints on. Each type and thickness of paper has a name. This is a basic rundown of those names and thicknesses.

This is generally regarded as the same concept as a text stock.

This stock is thicker than text or book. It would be on the cover of a book, magazine or maybe the outside of a brochure. It's also used for business cards, folders and other items.

This is a stock that's thicker than writing and you might find it on the inside of a book, or it can be used to make a brochure or the inside of a magazine or a single PAGE insert. It will not typically have a watermark on it and you don't normally see it used for letterhead, although it can be.

This usually has a watermark and is used for stationary (also known as letterhead). If one holds it up to the light, one will see a watermark. It usually says the name of the company that made the stock and frequently it says, "Writing 25% Cotton" under or near the company name.

There are different types of coatings that one can find on STOCK. Standard letterhead has no coating or it could be said to be "uncoated". There are many other types of papers that are uncoated. For example: Pastel and brightly color papers are uncoated. Standard copy paper is uncoated as well. Then there are coated papers. A lot of magazines in the grocery store have coating. In the case of the grocery store magazine there is a glossy coating to the actual sheet that makes it more reflective and feel smoother -- this is not something printed on the STOCK but an actual part of the STOCK. Here is a breakdown of the various types of coated STOCK.

Full glossy is considered "gloss"
Then there are less glossy coatings that are called:

One may run across others that are in this category but these are the main ones. There are some minor to moderate differences between matte, dull, velvet and silk. There are differences in price and some in quality but often they can be substituted for each other without concern. One would need to review their needs and budget to determine the best STOCK to use in this category. STOCK samples, as well as what other printed products look like on the STOCK could help one determine how to proceed as well.


The circular or square sticker put on a mailed piece (usually
if it's folded or if it's a magazine that needs to be kept closed).

Putting a circular or square sticker on each mailed piece (usually if it's folded or if it's a magazine that needs to be kept closed). Sometimes the Post Office requires this and sometimes it doesn't.


This is cutting the project down to it's finished size. Most projects start on a much larger sheet of STOCK than their finished size is going to be. They get trimmed down to the finished size.


When information on a printed piece changes for each piece, this is referred to as variable data. Example: A mortgage company wants to send 5 people a rate of 2.5%, then 100 people a rate of 5%, then 200 people a rate of 7.5 %, etc. They also want to have each piece say Dear John, Dear Ronni, Dear June, etc.; and they want to include photos geared at each person’s age range. It's personalized, addressed to the individual and communicating a specific message to them. The PRESS (ONSET DIGITAL) allows this to occur. INKJETTING is another way this can occur. Note: PURLS AND PURL CAMPAIGNS are frequently promoted using a post card or direct mail piece that is printed using variable data. This way, the PURL can be put on each piece IE: and then , etc. Because you can change every piece using variable data, it’s an ideal way to promote a PURL campaign. This would probably be done using a PRESS (ONSET DIGITAL) as opposed to INKJETTING.



Each STOCK has a corresponding weight. Here is a general

Writing STOCKS are generally 24# (# means "pound" and refers to how much 1000 sheets of a certain size of that STOCK weigh).

Text STOCKS are generally 70#, 80# or 100#.

Cover STOCKS are generally 80# or 100#. You differentiate between
text STOCKS and cover STOCKS that have the same weight by saying, "100# text or 100# cover." This lets someone know if you are talking about a cover weight or a text weight.

C1S STOCK: One other type of STOCK one will frequently run into is
"C1S" or “C2S." This means it's coated one side (just the front) or
two sides (front and back) with a glossy material. This is frequently used for folders, post cards or business cards. These STOCKS have a different weight associated with them. They are referred to as 8 point, 9 point, 10 point, 12 point, etc. They are frequently a bit thicker than an 80# cover STOCK or a 100# cover STOCK. Once you get into the 12 point and above range, they are definitely thicker. 


Copyright Gilliam & Associates 2009, all rights reserved.
Pantone Matching System® and Pantone® are registered trademarks of that company. 


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