Like any sustainable professional relationship, working with a print vendor requires clear and respectful communication.

Familiarity with these concepts and production terms will help you, your designer, and your vendor communicate clearly throughout every project.

Use our print production glossary to build your own background knowledge, Shop for the best bid and walk into your next press check with confidence!

Search for a term below or browse alphabetically.

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  • Aqueous Coating
    An aqueous coating is a water-based coating applied like ink by the printing press, to protect and enhance the finished printed product.
  • Bleed
    A bleed is part of the sheet’s printed area that’s trimmed off, so that the printed material extends to the end of the trimmed page.
  • Blueline
    A blueline is a pre-press photographic proof made from negatives, where all colors display as blue images on white backgrounds. It may be made from different materials, so it’s also sometimes called a blue, blueprint, silverprint, brownprint, blackprint, or position proof.
  • Camera Ready
    When a mechanical, photograph, or other graphic artwork is fully prepared for print plate creation and reproduction, it’s known as camera-ready. Also known as finished artwork.
  • Carton
    A carton is a unit of paper that weighs about 150 pounds. It can contain 500 to 5,000 sheets depending on sheet size and weight.
  • CMYK
    CMYK is the abbreviation for the color format of four-color physical printing. C = Cyan, M = Magenta, Y = Yellow, K = Black.
  • Coated Paper
    When paper stock is coated, it's enhanced with clay and other substances to improve reflectivity and ink holdout. Coated paper is produced in cast, gloss, dull and matte categories.
  • Composite Proof
    A composite proof is made of of color separations, in correct position with graphics and type. It’s also called stripping proof, imposition proof, or final final proof.
  • Dummy
    A dummy, also called a mockup, is an approximation of the final printed product, usually lacking one or more variables (accurate trim, stock etc.).
  • Form
    A form is each side of a print signature.
  • FPO
    “For Position Only” or “For Placement Only” is abbreviated “FPO,” and it refers to inexpensive copies of photos or art (usually stock) used on a mechanical to indicate position/placement and scale, but is not intended for reproduction.
  • Galley
    A galley is a proof that may be uncut and unbound, created for proofreading and copy-editing, but may also be used for promotion or reviews.
  • Gang
    Also called a combination run, a gang is to reproduce multiple different printed pieces simultaneously on one sheet during the same press run.
  • Gutter
    The gutter is a blank space or margin between items (text, images, etc.) on a printed page or press sheet.
  • Live Area
    Live area, also called safe area, is the part of a mechanical within which type and images will print. Borders and type should not extend outside this area, as they may be unintentionally cropped.
  • Logo
    A logo is a unique graphic or image, often a combination of letters and imagery, representing an entity such as a company, partnership, or other corporate creation.
  • Margin
    A margin is the empty space within the printed area, but around the edges of the printed material.
  • Mechanical
    A mechanical is the final assembly of graphics, type and other copy, with instructions for the printer included. Hard mechanicals are physical (paper and/or acetate) and soft mechanicals are electronic, digital-only, computer-generated files.
  • Mockup
    A mockup, also called a dummy, is an approximation of the final printed product, usually lacking one or more variables (accurate trim, stock etc.).
  • Offset Printing
    Offset is a printing technique that transfers ink from a plate to a rubber blanket to the printing surface (usually paper), instead of transferring directly from plate to paper. Offset is generally the cheapest method for producing high quality prints in mass quantities.
  • Overprint
    To overprint means printing one image over a previously printed image, like printing type over a screen tint.
  • Pagination
    Pagination is the sequence of numbers assigned to pages in a book or periodical.
  • Perfect Bind
    Perfect binding is binding sheets already ground at the spine and held to the cover by glue. Also called soft cover or adhesive-, cut-back-, glue-, paper-, patent-, or soft-binding.
  • Plate
    A plate, or printing plate, is used in offset printing as the first inked surface before transferring to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface (paper or other surface). A plate may be made of metal (usually aluminum) or polyester. They are are thiner, more flexible, and larger than the finished printed paper size. If an error is not caught before this stage of the printing process, new correct plates need to be made, which bumps up the overall job cost.
  • Pre-Flight
    Pre-flight is the process of preparing a digital file for delivery to the printer: packaging all assets, pulling bleeds, checking font functionality, checking color format, checking spelling, folios, file resolution and size, and more.
  • Press Proof
    A press proof is made on press, using the paper, ink and plates specified for the job.
  • Raster
    Raster art (sometimes called bitmap art) is pixel-based digital imagery, such as a scanned photograph. Raster images decrease in quality when enlarged, becoming blurry and distorted. A raster graphic file is usually larger than a vector graphic file. File types include .psd, .tif, .jpg, .gif, and .bmp.
  • Resolution
    An image’s resolution is its sharpness on film, paper, screen, disc, tape, or other medium. Resolution is most commonly measured in PPI (pixels per inch, for screen), DPI (dots per inch, for print), and LPI (lines per inch, for halftones in print). Higher numbers mean more detail and sharpness. 72 dpi is fine for display on-screen, but any image files sent to print should be 300 dpi or more.
  • RGB
    RGB is the abbreviation for the color format of digital design, used online or on-screen: websites, apps, video, etc. R = Red, G = Green, B = Blue. Any artwork files in RGB format should be converted to CMYK before delivery to print vendors.
  • Saddle Stitch
    Saddle stitching, also called pamphlet stitching, saddle wiring and stitch binding, is binding sheets by stapling them together to fold at the spine, instead of side stitch.
  • Score
    Scoring, also called creasing, is flattening or compressing paper along a straight line so it folds easier.
  • Signature
    A signature is a printed sheet folded at least once and possibly many times which becomes part of a publication such as a book or magazine.
  • Substrate
    The base material onto which a design will be printed. Base materials may include: plastic films or foils, release liner, textiles, plastic containers, any variety of paper (lightweight, heavyweight, coated, uncoated, paperboard, cardboard, etc.), or parchment.
  • Trim Area
    Also called trim size, this is the final, finished dimensions of the printed material: 8.5 x 11, 18 x 24, etc.
  • Up
    2-Up, 3-Up, etc. are printed pages with artwork laid out in multiple consecutive instances, so that when printing plates are created, the press can apply more than one image to the paper at the same time. 2-Up displays two images per impression, 3-Up displays three, and so on.
  • UV Coating
    A UV coating is a liquid applied to a printed sheet, which is then bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.
  • Vector
    Vector art is line- and curve-based digital imagery, composed of mathematic equations and geometric points or shapes. Vector images can be enlarged or reduced infinitely and cleanly, without losing quality. File types include .ai, .eps, .ps, .indd, .pdf, and .cdr.
  • Watermark
    A watermark is a translucent logo appearing in paper, created during manufacturing by slight embossing while paper is about 90% water.