Below is a helpful list of terms used in the printing industry and could be helpful with your print project:


Bleed – A bleed occurs when your color or image extends off of the printed piece, typically bleeds are created when the printed piece is trimmed because we print outside of the bleed onto a larger sheet. Files should be set-up accordingly with tick marks and typically 1/8” of bleed extending beyond the tick marks.


CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black are the colors used in 4 color process printing. On the printing press they are run in a specific order. Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, the most transparent of the four and containing the most varnish in the formula is yellow and is laid down last. The most opaque color, black, is laid down first. Following this sequence allows for brighter imaging and better control of color.


Color Density – The amount of ink printed on the sheet.


Digital Printing – refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods, but this price is usually offset by avoiding the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates.


Emboss – Impressing an image by forming the paper using a die that is cast in the shape of the image you want to create. When pressure is applied, the paper takes the form of the die.


Foil Stamping – The application of pigment or metallic foil, often gold or silver, but can also be various patterns or what is known as pastel foil which is a flat opaque color or white special film-backed material, to paper where a heated die is stamped onto the foil, making it adhere to the surface leaving the design of the die on the paper. Foil stamping can be combined with embossing to create a more striking 3D image.


Halftone – The screening of a continuous tone image, converting the image into different sized, yet, equally spaced dots.


Impression – Each time the sheet passes through the press and is printed, it is an impression. The terminology is useful in production scheduling and estimating because it determines the quantity of the run and the efficiency and speed of the press and the operator.


Large Format – A term that describes the printing of large sized substrates. Printed pieces would include large posters, POP (Point of Purchase) signage and banners.


Offset – The printing process that uses a blanket to receive the ink from the plate and then impresses it onto a sheet of paper as the paper passes between the blanket and a hard steel cylinder called an Impression Cylinder.


Perfect Bind – A type of binding that combines the cover and the inside pages on the spine with glue.


Registration – The alignment of dots in relation to each other. When the cyan, magenta, yellow and black plates are aligned and brought into focus, the printed piece is considered to be in register.


Saddle Stitch – The binding of a book using wire staples on the binding edge to hold the book together.


Score – A crease that is impressed into the paper. Scoring will allow for exact folding on heavier stocks and helps to eliminate the cracking of some substrates.


Wire-O Binding –  A popular commercial book binding method. With this binding method, users insert their punched pages onto a "C" shaped spine and then use a wire closer to squeeze the spine until it is round. Documents that are bound with wire binding will open completely flat on a desk and allow for 360 degree rotation of bound pages.

Printing Terminology

Northern California Graphics

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