Below are some of the terms that are regularly used in the printing industry.


A general term for any of various methods of securing or binding together the loose pages or sections of a book or booklet using stitching, staples, wire, plastic, tape, or glue.

In documents where printing goes right to the edge of the page, the bleed is the part of the image that extends beyond the trim marks. A printer must print on a larger sheet and trim the page to size to achieve the "print to the edge" results.

Artwork that is properly prepared and ready to be photographed for platemaking. Traditional prepress consisted of boards or mats with all elements in place. Today, printouts from electronic files may serve as camera ready art. Commonly also used to refer to artwork that is ready for the direct-to-plate imagesetter.

CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Keyplate)
To reproduce full-color photographic images, typical printing presses use 4 colors of ink. The four inks are placed on the paper in layers of dots that combine to create the illusion of many more colors. CMYK refers to the 4 ink colors used by the printing press. C is cyan (blue), M is magenta (red), Y is yellow, and K is black, the key plate or keyline color. Also Known As: 4-color • process colors

Color Separations
Artwork split into component plates of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in preparation for process printing (CMYK) or into the required number of plates for spot color printing. Each separation prints a single process or spot color.

DPI (dots per inch)
A measure of the resolution of a printer. It properly refers to the dots of ink or toner used by an imagesetter, laser printer, or other printing device to print your text and graphics. In general, the more dots, the better and sharper the image. DPI is printer resolution. DPI is not image resolution although frequently used that way.

EPS (Encapsulated PostScript)
A vector format designed for printing to PostScript printers and imagesetters. It is considered the best choice of graphics format for high resolution printing of illustrations.

Frequently used for printing on plastic, foil, acetate film, brown paper, and other materials used in packaging, flexography uses flexible printing plates made of rubber or plastic.

Historically refers to a specific typeface in a specific point size and style. Therefore, Times New Roman Bold 12 points is a single font while Times New Roman 10 points is another separate font. Today, in common usage font refers to any digital typeface that can normally be rendered in a variety of sizes. Also Known As: typeface

FPO (For Position Only)
The placement of a blank placeholder or a temporary low-resolution illustration in the required location and size on the camera ready artwork to indicate where an actual image is to be placed on the final film or plate. Also used to indicate cutlines, folds, or perforations.

Graphic Design
The process and art of combining text and graphics and communicating an effective message in the design of logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signs, and any other type of visual communication.

Nonsense text used to check layout and overall appearance without the distraction of the actual text. One type of nonsense text used as a placeholder is the Lorem ipsum text. As originally created the Lorem ipsum text matched the average frequency and pattern of word lengths typically found in the English language.

A printed reproduction of a photograph or other illustration, using evenly spaced spots of varying diameter to produce apparent shades of gray. The darker the shade at a particular point in the image, the larger the corresponding spot in the halftone. In traditional publishing, halftones are created by photographing an image through a screen. In desktop publishing, each halftone spot is represented by an area containing a number of dots printed by a laser printer or digital imagesetter. In both cases, the frequency of the halftone dots is measured in lines per inch (LPI).

Image Area
The image area is the part of the layout that contains text and images that must be visible in the final product. Leaving a small margin between the trim size and the image areas allows for small variances in the cutting process.

A typesetting device that can transfer camera–ready text and artwork from computer files directly onto paper or film. Imagesetters print at high resolution (commonly above 1000 dpi) and are usually PostScript–compatible.

The adjustment of space between pairs of letters to make them more visually appealing. It is normally applied to individual letter pairs in headlines or other large type.

A portion of an image that has been removed. When two colors overlap, they don't normally print on top of each other. The bottom color is knocked out of - not printed - in the area where the other color overlaps. Knockout type is typically text that is knocked out or reversed out of a dark background so that the type appears in the color of the paper.

The space between lines of type. It is generally measured from baseline to baseline and expressed in points. The name leading is derived from the days of hot metal type when strips of lead were placed between lines of type to provide line spacing.

LPI (Lines Per Inch)
The way printers reproduce images, simulating continuous tone images by printing lines of halftone spots is measured in lines per inch. Also Known As: line frequency, screen frequency, halftone resolution

The usually empty space between the trim (where the page is cut) and the live printing area (primary text and graphics) of the page, at top, bottom, and left and right sides.

Offset Lithography
The offset lithography process works by first transferring an image photographically to thin metal, paper, or plastic printing plates. Rollers apply oil-based ink and water to the plates. Since oil and water don't mix, the oil-based ink won't adhere to the non-image areas. Only the inked image portion is then transferred to a rubber blanket (cylinder) that then transfers the image onto the paper as it passes between it and another cylinder beneath the paper.

In most cases, when two objects of different colors overlap they knockout -- they won't print on top of each other. To intentionally print one layer of ink on top of another is to overprint. Overprinting is sometimes used to avoid the need for trapping and avoid gaps between touching colors. The most common color used for overptint is black.

Page Layout
The process of placing and arranging and rearranging text and graphics on the page to produce documents such as newsletters, brochures, books, etc. Page layout also refers to the actual document page and its composition.

PDF (Portable Document Format)
Created by Adobe Systems, Inc., a file format that uses the PostScript printer description language and is highly portable across computer platforms. PDF documents are created with Adobe Acrobat or other programs and can be viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader and other PDF reader programs.

A unit of measurement that is the standard for measuring type and is used for measuring depth of printing. 72 points equate to approximately 1 inch. Frequently abbreviated as pt.

A general term for a variety of options for seeing what your file will look like when printed. Printing proofs are used for checking that all text and graphics and colors come out as expected before going to press. A prepress proof uses ink jets, dyes, overlays or other methods to simulate the final printed piece. A press proof uses the printing plates and inks specified for the job. Different types of printing proofs are more accurate than others but with increased accuracy comes increased costs.

RGB (Red-Green-Blue)
The three primary colors that combine to create white light. Red, green and blue are mixed to display the color of pixels on a computer monitor. Every color of emitted light can be created by combining these three colors in varying levels.

A type of graphic composed of pixels (picture elements) in a grid. Each pixel or "bit" contains color information for the image. Raster/bitmap graphics formats have a fixed resolution which means that resizing a bitmap graphic can result in distortion and jagged edges.

Sans Serif
Type which does not have serifs, the little extra strokes found at the end of main vertical and horizontal strokes of some letterforms.

A printed object which is created with less than 100% strength of an ink color. Ninety percent black would be called a screen. Similar in concept to halftone.

The little extra stroke found at the end of main vertical and horizontal strokes of some letterforms. Some are subtle and others may be quite pronounced and obvious. In some cases serifs may aid in the readability of a typeface. Serif also refers, in general, to any style of type that has serifs. Fonts without serifs are called sans serif.

Sheet-fed Press
A press that prints on individual sheets of paper, as opposed to continuous rolls of paper used on web presses.

A process that produces raised printing similiar in appearance to engraving but using a different method. In thermography, a special powder is added to the ink printed on the paper. The printed piece is heated and the powder and ink mixture dries to form a raised effect on the paper.

The adjustment of letterspacing for words, phrases, and extended blocks of text. Tracking can be applied automatically by word processing and page layout software or manually applied to only portions of text to enhance readability, to fit more text in a column, or for special effects.

Trapping digital files is the process of compensating for the possibility of misregistration on the printing press by printing small areas of overlapping color where objects meet. Trapping is accomplished with features built-in to some software programs or with dedicated programs devoted solely to trapping, but The Forms Outlet prefers to do the trapping ourselves.

To cut out or trim unneeded portions of an image or a page. Cutting lines, known as cut marks or crop marks, may be indicated on a print-out of the image or page to show where to trim. Especially used when a bleed requires a larger paper size than the final trim size.

Trim Size
The final size of a printed page after excess edges have been cut off. Cut marks to indicate where to cut are printed in the edges that are then trimmed after printing.

The design and use of typefaces as a means of visual communication. Typography is sometimes seen as encompassing many separate fields from the type designer who creates letterforms to the graphic designer who selects typefaces and arranges them on the page.

A resolution-independent, scalable graphics format composed of individual objects made up of mathematical calculations. Vector images can be resized easily without loss of quality making them an ideal format for initial design of logos and illustrations that to be used at multiple sizes.

Web Press
A press that prints on continuous rolls of paper or other substrates.


See Design Tips: Paper for more information.

Comparative Basis Weights

































Acid-free papers are manufactured in an alkaline environment, which prevents the internal chemical deterioration of the paper over time.  The addition of calcium carbonate as a buffer also makes the paper resistant to the effects of an external acidic environment.

Basis Weight 
The weight of 500 sheets (one ream) of a standard basic size.  For example, the standard basic size for text papers is 25 x 38." A ream of basis 70 text sheets in that size weighs 70 lbs.  The basic size for cover papers is 20 x 26."

Originally a term applied to cotton-content paper used for printing bonds and legal documents, and distinguished by strength, performance, and durability.  Bond paper may now be made from either cotton, chemical wood pulp, or a combination of the two.  Today, writing, digital, and cut-size papers are often identified with the bond scale.

General term for papers suitable for the graphic arts; may be coated or uncoated.

Brightness is measured as the percentage of light in a narrow spectral range reflected from the surface of a sheet of paper.  It is not necessarily related to color or whiteness.  a paper with a brightness of 98 is an extremely bright sheet with almost all light being reflected back to the viewer.  Bright white papers illuminate transparent printing inks, giving cleaner, crisper color, and contrasty blacks.

Caliper is a measure of paper thickness expressed in thousandths of an inch.  The micrometer is used to measure caliper.

Cast Coated 
High-gloss coated paper manufactured by casting the coating paper against a highly polished heated steel drum.

Coated Paper 
A surface coating, which allows for maximum smoothness and ink holdout in the printing process.  Coated papers are available in range of finishes from dull to matte, and gloss. 

Cover Paper 
Heavyweight coated or uncoated papers with good folding characteristics.  their diverse uses include folders, booklet covers, brochures, and pamphlets.

Deckle Edge 
Produced in hand-papermaking by drainage under wooden frame surrounding the hand mould.  The rough edges on hand-made and some machine-made papers were originally considered an imperfection.  The deckle edge came back in fashion with the handcraft revival in the last decade of the 19th century.

Digital Papers 
Papers designed for the specific processes of the emerging digital printing technologies.  Unlike traditional offset printing, the digital environment is centered in quick turnarounds, short runs, and the ability to vary printed information within the run.

Double Thick Cover 
Stiff durable cover papers produced by laminating together two pieces of equal weight paper.  The resulting sheet is heavy and strong, with excellent printing and folding characteristics.

Woven textile, originally wool but now usually synthetic, used to carry the web while moisture is pressed from it.  While on the paper machine, the felt acts as a support for the paper web.  Felts, if they are rough, can impart a felt finish to the paper.

Refers to the uniformity and distribution of fibers within a sheet of paper.  In well formed sheet, solid ink coverage will go down smoothly.  A poorly formed sheet will exhibit a mottled appearance when printed.  Formation can be checked by holding the paper up to a light source: A well formed sheet appears uniform, while in a poorly formed sheet the fibers appear as clumps, giving it a cloudy look.

Ink Holdout 
A characteristic of paper related to its capacity to keep ink sitting on its surface rather than absorbing into the sheet.  Better ink holdout produces sharper printed images.

A linear pattern which is applied by a dandy roll while the paper is still very wet, to mimic the effects of some hand-made papers.

Laser Paper 
Very smooth, low-moisture papers manufactured in cut sizes for laser printers and office duplicating equipment.

Linen Finish 
One of the many textured effects that is produced by embossing a web of web of paper with a patterned steel roll.  Embossing takes place off the machine as a separate operation.

Measure of the percentage of light passage through a sheet of paper.

Papers that contain post-consumer fiber can currently be called recycled.  The Federal Executive Order calls for a 20% post-consumer fiber minimum for uncoated papers, and a 10% post-consumer fiber minimum for coated papers.

Designs formed in fine wire or in low-relief metal castings and sewn onto the dandy roll.  The resulting thick and thin areas make the watermark slightly more translucent than the rest of the sheet.