Glossary of Terms

There’s a specialized terminology that comes with the prepress process – so here’s a comprehensive glossary of some common terms you may encounter in the printing process.

A | B | C | D | E | F

Accordion fold Folding paper by bending each fold in the opposite direction of the previous fold creating a pleated or accordion effect.
Acid-free paper A paper containing no acidity or acid producing chemicals that degrades less over time than acidic papers.
Airbrush A compressed air tool that sprays a fine mist of paint or ink (used in illustrator and/or photoshop)
Aqueous coating This clear coating is used to protect your printed pieces. It provides a high-gloss surface that deters dirt and fingerprints. it improves the durability of postcards as they go through the mail, and protects business cards as they ride around in people's pockets. It also looks beautiful on brochures, catalog covers, and stand-alone flyers.
Ascender Any part of a lower case letter which rises above the main body of the letter such as in "d", "b" and "h".
Backslant Any type that tilts to the left or backward direction; opposite of italic type.
Base line The imaginary horizontal line upon which stand capitals, lower case letters, punctuation points, etc.
Basis weight Basis or basic weight refers to the weight, in pounds, of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to a given standard size for that particular paper grade.
Blanket The rubberized surfaced material secured onto a cylinder onto which the ink is transferred from the plate and then to the paper.
Bleed Any element that extends up to or past the edge of a printed page.
Blind emboss A design or bas relief impression that is made without using inks or metal foils.
Body In typography, the main shank or portion of a letter character other than the ascenders and descenders.
Bond A grade of durable writing, printing and typing paper that is erasable and somewhat rigid.
Bulk A term given to paper to describe its thickness relative to its weight.
Bullet A boldface square or dot used before a sentence to emphasize its importance.
Caliper The measurement of the thickness of paper measured in thousandths of an inch or mils.
Case binding Books bound using hard board (case) covers.
Cast coated A paper that is coated and then pressure dried using a polished roller that imparts an enamel like hard gloss finish.
Center spread The two pages that face each other in the center of a book or publication.
Chain lines Lines that appear on laid paper as a result of the wires of the papermaking machine.
Clip art Graphic images, designs, and artwork in digital form that can be used in a digital document.
Coarse screen Halftone screens commonly used in newsprint; up to 85 lines per inch.
Coated stock Any paper that has a mineral coating applied after the paper is made, giving the paper a smoother finish.
Cold color Any color that is toward the blue side of the color spectrum.
Collate To gather sheets or printed signatures together in their correct order.
Colophon A printers' or publishers' identifying symbol or emblem.
Color bars A color test strip that is printed on the waste portion of a press sheet. It helps a press operator to monitor and control the quality of the printed material relative to ink density, registration and dot gain. It can also include a Star Target, which is designed to detect inking and press problems.
Color correction Using a computer to adjust, change or manipulate a color image, such as retouching, adjusting color balance, color saturation, contrast, etc.
Color separating The processes of separating the primary color components (CMYK) for printing.
Color transparency Transparent film containing a positive photographic color image.
Condensed type A narrow, elongated typeface.
Contrast The degree of tonal separation or gradation in the range from black to white.
Cover A term describing a general type of paper used for the covers of books, pamphlets, etc., also used for business cards and postcards.
Crop To reduce the size of an image.
Crossover An image, rule or line art on one printed page that carries over to an adjacent page of a bound or folded work.
Cyan A shade of blue used in four-color process printing. The C in CMYK.
Dampening An essential part of the offset printing process whereby rollers distribute a solution to the plate that covers the non-printing area of the plate, repelling ink in those areas. Some newer presses use a waterless ink technology that does not use dampening.
Deckle edge The rough or feathered edge of paper when left untrimmed.
Densitometer An optical device used by printers and photographers to measure and control the density of ink or color.
Density The degree of tone, weight of darkness or color within a photo or reproduction measured by a densitometer.
Descender A term that describes that portion of lower case letters that extends below the main body of the letter, as in "p".
Desktop Publishing Creating materials to be printed using a personal computer, as opposed to taking non-electronic documents to a commercial printing company to be prepared for printing.
Die Cutting The process of cutting paper in a shape or design by the use of a wooden die or block in which are positioned steel rules in the shape of the desired pattern.
Digital Proof Color separation data is digitally stored and then exposed to color photographic paper creating a picture of the final product before it is actually printed with ink.
Dithering The process of averaging between pixels of different colors. This results in a smoother, blended transition between the edge of two areas rather than a jagged or 'stair-step' appearance. Also a method used on ink jet printers where colors are produced by mixing colored dots in a randomized pattern.
Dot The smallest individual element of a halftone.
Dot gain A term used to describe when dots are printing larger than they should.
Drill The drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding.
Drop shadow A shadow image placed offset behind an image to create the affect of the image lifting off the page.
Dull finish A semi-gloss finish on paper that is less glossy than gloss and more than matte paper.
Dummy The preliminary assemblage of copy and art elements to be reproduced in the desired finished product, also called a comp.
Duotone A two-color halftone reproduction generated from a one color photo.
Dye sublimation A photographic looking color print created by heating dyes on a substrate instead of using inks. Often used for proofing.
Electronic Proof A process of generating a prepress proof in which paper is electronically exposed to the color separation negatives and passed through electrically charged pigmented toners, which adhere electrostatically, resulting in the finished proof.
Embossing The molding and reshaping of paper by the use of special metal dies and heat, counter dies and pressure, to produce a raised image on the paper surface.
Enamel Another term for gloss coated paper.
Felt side The smoother side of a sheet in the paper. The wire side is the rougher side of the paper. The difference happens in the papermaking process. The differences are eliminated when papers are gloss or matte coated.
Finish The surface quality of a paper.
Fit The registration of the different colors on a printed sheet.
Flexography A printing method using flexible plates where the image to be printed is higher than the non-printing areas. The inked areas are then contact the material to be printed, transferring the ink from the raised areas to the material. Fast drying inks are usually used in this process. Common uses are the printing of cans and bottles and other non-flat items.
Foil Then metal that is applied to paper using the foil stamping process.
Font The characters which make up a complete typeface and size.
Free sheet Any paper that is free from wood pulp impurities.