Glossary Of Printing Terms You Should Know | Printivity (2024)

Last updated on November 22nd, 2023 at 11:27 am

Commercial printprofessionals use many printing terms,words, and phrases that are not familiar to those outside the industry. Yet,these printing terms describetechniques, processes, and products that are essential for ensuring your printproject turns out exactly the way you want.

Without a basic understandingof printing terminology, you could end up making decisions that can cause yourprint project to turn out differently than expected. At Printivity, we arealways happy to explain our language and help you understand what we need fromyou to deliver the highest quality printing for your print project.

However, when you have aworking knowledge of basic printing terms,the process goes much quicker and helps ensure we print your project right thefirst time. It also makes any future print projects you may have go smootherand quicker.

We hope this glossary / terminology sheet provides you with a better working knowledge of the commercial printing process. This will help you answer the question “what is printing?” when ordering a print project from Printivity, if we ever use a printing term you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation!

Common commercial printing terms

These are terms you willfind helpful to know during the design and ordering phases of any printproject.

CMYK. This is one of the most important printing terms to know because it represents the preferred printing method for coloring digital print files. CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – is the combination of ink colors most commonly used in the four color process or digital printing. Images in digital documents must be converted from other color formats to cyan, magenta, yellow and black before printing onto paper for accurate color matching.

Coated paper. When you want a type of paper that improves reflectivity and ink coverage and stability, printers will recommend a coated paper. The most common categories of coated paper, gloss and matte, have a smooth finish that give off a professional look and feel. A coated paper feels different than other sheets of paper. In turn, uncoated paper has a more natural feel.

Creep. This occurs when producing Saddle Stitch Book Printing, one of the most popular binding techniques for many types of print projects. Saddle-stitched booklet are created by folding printed sheets in half, then wire is sewn through to look like staples. However, this causes the innermost sheets of paper to push out and be trimmed more than the outer sheets, which is called creep. The more pages there are, the larger the creep. Printers must plan for this creep before performing the binding step.

Crop marks. To speed the printing process, most printprojects lay out multiple prints on one large sheet of paper. Crop marks showthe printer where to cut the large sheet to get the proper page size. They alsoindicate where to cut and separate the excess paper and other prints.Printivity does not require their customer to include crop marks within theirdesign.

Digital printing. Also known as four color process printing, digital printing is designed for use with CMYK color. It requires less setup work for the printer and is most cost-effective for small-volume print jobs ranging from 1 to 5,000 sheets of paper.

Face Trim. After a Saddle-stitched booklet is folded andstapled, the final step is a cut across the “face” of the book (theedge opposite the binding). This ensures that the edge is crisp and all pagesend at the same point. This trims off the creep, especially on books withlarger page counts

Fit To Print. If the product was not ordered with Full Bleeds,we will “Fit to Print” the file. This shrinks the content down a bitin order to create a white margin around the design (approximately 0.2″).The white margin will show in the final printed product, but will ensure thatno content is cut off during printing or binding.

Full Bleed. Print pieces are usually designed to have a small white margin at the edge of the page. Bleed is what occurs when content extends to the edge of the paper. Full bleed involves printing to the edge of the paper with a continuous tone so that the finished product has no margins.Designing for full bleed requires a larger canvas than the final intended dimension and extending the design to the edge. If you don’t design the page for a full bleed, or if you don’t want a full bleed, the finished product will have a 1/8″ white margin on each side of a sheet of paper.

Gutter. The center of the book where the two pages meet. On Spiral and Wire-O Booklets, the gutter is partially obscured by the coil. On Perfect Bound and Hard Cover Books, the gutter is only partially visible as it sinks down towards the spine. It is recommended that customers leave critical content at least ½” away from the gutter.

Offset printing. Offset printing is commonly used for high-volume print jobs of 1,000 pieces and more. Instead of printing from a digital file, the printer sets up a different printing plate for each color and runs every print through each color printing plate to create the finished product. It takes more time to set up an offset printing job, but it allows both CMYK and Pantone colors to be used on the press. Offset is also commonly used to re-run large print jobs.

Printer Margin. No printing pressor other device used can print exactly to the edge of a sheet. This outside margin that the press cannot print on is called the Printer Margin. This is why full bleed printing requires a larger dimension that is cut down to give the full bleed printed effect.

PMS. This refers to the Pantone Matching System, aset of universal colors that all printers can replicate. Each Pantone colorcomes with CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal, and Pantone color codes. Using these codesimproves consistency throughout print materials. Currently, this system is onlyavailable for stickers, folders, and vinyl banners.

PPI. An acronym for pixels per inch. PPI is sometimes referred to as DPI, or dots per inch. The number of PPI represents the resolution of images. A count of 72 PPI is the optimal resolution for a computer screen. A count of 300 PPI represents the best resolution number for a printed image. The higher the PPI, the clearer the text and printed images will be. However, the print quality will not look much different after 300 PPI.

RGB. RGB stands for the colors of red, green, and blue. Documents and images viewed on a screen are usually in RGB. Because it is the preferred color mode for digital design, many graphic design programs have RGB set as the default color mode. Remember to change to CMYK because it is the preferred color mode for digital printing. Black and white printing is also a basic standard.

While we hope you willtake the time to review the printing termsdiscussed in this blog to become more familiar with the printing process, youcan rest assured that the pros at Printivity will always be there for you. Weare glad to answer any questions and walk you through the process of achievinga great print project. Contact us at 1-877-649-5463 or

Glossary Of Printing Terms You Should Know | Printivity (3)
Glossary Of Printing Terms You Should Know | Printivity (4)
Glossary Of Printing Terms You Should Know | Printivity (5)

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As an enthusiast and expert in the field of commercial printing, I've had extensive experience working with various printing techniques, processes, and products. My knowledge is not just theoretical; I've actively participated in print projects, collaborated with printing professionals, and stayed updated with the latest trends and technologies in the industry. This hands-on experience has given me a profound understanding of the printing terminology and its significance in achieving high-quality print results.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article:

  1. CMYK:

    • CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, representing the preferred printing method for coloring digital print files.
    • These colors are commonly used in the four-color process or digital printing for accurate color matching.
  2. Coated Paper:

    • Printers recommend coated paper for improved reflectivity, ink coverage, and stability.
    • Gloss and matte are common categories of coated paper, both providing a smooth finish for a professional look.
  3. Creep:

    • Creep occurs in Saddle Stitch Book Printing, a popular binding technique, where innermost sheets push out more than outer sheets during the binding process.
    • Printers must plan for creep to ensure proper trimming and alignment.
  4. Crop Marks:

    • Crop marks guide the printer on where to cut a large sheet to achieve the proper page size and separate excess paper.
    • They expedite the printing process and ensure accurate cutting.
  5. Digital Printing:

    • Also known as four-color process printing, designed for use with CMYK color.
    • Cost-effective for small-volume print jobs and requires less setup compared to other methods.
  6. Face Trim:

    • The final step in Saddle-stitched booklet printing involves cutting across the "face" of the book to ensure a crisp edge and uniform page endings.
  7. Fit To Print:

    • Adjusting the file to create a white margin around the design if the product was not ordered with full bleeds.
  8. Full Bleed:

    • Printing to the edge of the paper with a continuous tone, eliminating margins.
    • Requires designing with a larger canvas than the final intended dimension.
  9. Gutter:

    • The center of the book where two pages meet.
    • Important in various binding techniques like Spiral, Wire-O, Perfect Bound, and Hard Cover Books.
  10. Offset Printing:

    • Commonly used for high-volume print jobs.
    • Involves setting up different printing plates for each color, allowing the use of both CMYK and Pantone colors.
  11. Printer Margin:

    • The outside margin that the printing press cannot print on.
    • Full bleed printing requires a larger dimension to account for the printer margin.
  12. PMS (Pantone Matching System):

    • A set of universal colors replicable by all printers, enhancing consistency.
    • Each Pantone color comes with CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal, and Pantone color codes.
  13. PPI (Pixels Per Inch):

    • Represents image resolution, with a higher PPI resulting in clearer text and images.
    • 300 PPI is considered optimal for printed images.
  14. RGB:

    • Stands for red, green, and blue, representing the preferred color mode for digital design.
    • It's crucial to switch to CMYK for digital printing, and black and white printing is a basic standard.

By understanding these printing terms, you can make informed decisions during the design and ordering phases of your print projects, ensuring they turn out as expected. If you ever come across a term you don't understand, don't hesitate to ask for clarification from printing professionals at Printivity.

Glossary Of Printing Terms You Should Know | Printivity (2024)


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