Printing Terminology

Actual Weight: The true weight of any volume of paper. The actual weight of paper is used to determine both purchase price and shipping costs.

(see also basic size, basis weight, weight)

No Coating is a water based coating applied after printing, either while the paper is still on press ("in line"), or after it's off the press. An No Coating usually gives a gloss, dull, or matte finish, and helps prevent the underlying ink from rubbing off. This is a water-soluble plate coating, which is less toxic and less polluting.
(see also coated stock, finishing, UV coating, varnish)

Binding fastening papers together for easy reading, transport, and protection. Papers may be bound together with a variety of materials, like wire, thread, glue, and plastic combs. For definitions on types of binding see also finishing, folding, imposition, scoring.


Bleed is any copy, art illustration, photo, color, etc. that extends past the edge of the printed page. Bleeds are created by trimming the page after printing.

4/0 Paper that is printed front side only - no back.

4/4 Paper that is printed both sided.

Case Binding is a book bound using the hard board, or case, covers.

CMYK Abbreviation for the four process color inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

Coated Stock is any paper that has a mineral coating applied after the paper is made, giving the paper a smoother finish. (see also cast-coating, clay, dot gain, dull coated, four-color process gloss, halftone, ink holdout, matte coated, off-machine coating)

Color Key A printer's proof usually used for viewing the individual layers of CMYK, four sheets of colored acetate, for examining the quality of process color separations.

Color Separation is the processes of separating the primary color components for printing.

Contrast is the degree of tonal separation or gradation in the range from black to white.  Extreme lights and darks give an image high contrast. An image with a wide tonal range has lower contrast.

Cover Paper heavier, generally stiffer paper commonly used for book covers, folders, greeting cards, business cards, and brochures. Uncoated cover papers generally match the color and finish of corresponding text papers. The basic size of cover stock is 20" x 26".

Digital Imaging The process of creating a digital output of an illustration, photographic image, computer file or other computer generated materials. Output media can be film, paper, transparencies, vinyl and other materials.

Digital Printing A type of printing which uses digital imaging process that transfers the image directly onto plain paper immediately, without traditional offset rollers and plates.

Embossing/Raise is 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.

Fifth Color This little phrase means that you have already filled the four drums of a printer with process colors, C, M, Y and K (CMYK) and are planning an additional, fifth spot color, like a metallic ink. The "fifth color" is an expensive leap to a larger press with extra drums, so plan accordingly.

Finish is the surface quality of paper.

Finishing is preparing the printed pages for use. Most printed jobs require one or more finishing steps, such as trimming, folding, or binding. (see also binding, folding, trimming)

Foils papers that have a surface resembling metal.

Folding is doubling up a sheet of paper so that one part lies on top of another. Folding stresses the paper fibers. To create a smooth, straight fold on heavy papers, (like cover stocks and bristols), it needs to be scored before folded. Multiple fold strength is important in printed pieces like books, maps, and pamphlets. It's far less important in one-fold operations like greeting cards or envelops, where fold cracking is the vital consideration. Folding strength is negatively affected by the drying heat of various printing and finishing operations. (see also binding, finishing, gatefold, imposition, scoring)

Gloss the property that's responsible for coated paper's shiny or lustrous appearance; also the measure of a sheet's surface reflectivity. Gloss is often associated with quality: higher quality coated papers exhibit high gloss. (see also coated paper)

UV Coating a very slick, glossy coating applied to the printed paper surface and dried on press with ultraviolet (UV) light. The slick surface of UV coating makes it eye catching, and therefore very popular for printing the covers of paperback novels. Because UV coating can cause slight variations in match colors, consulting with an ink manufacturer or printer will yield best results.

Matte Coated a non-glossy coating on paper, a coated paper finish that goes through minimal calendaring.

Stock Paper 
or other material that will be printed. To a paper mill, a "stock item" is a manufactured item that is inventoried, as opposed to a "manufacturing order," which is custom made.


Four-color Process is a method that uses dots of magenta, cyan, yellow and black to simulate the continuous tones and variety of colors in a color image. Reproducing a four-color image begins with separating the image into four different halftones by using color filters of the opposite (or negative) color. For instance, a red filter is used to capture the cyan halftone, a blue filter is used to capture the yellow halftone, and a green filter is used to capture the magenta halftone. Because a printing press can't change the tone intensity of ink, four-color process relies on a trick of the eye to mimic light and dark areas. Each halftone separation is printed with its process color (magenta, cyan, yellow, and black). When we look at the final result, our eyes blend the dots to recreate the continuous tones and variety of colors we see in a color photograph, painting, or drawing. (see also color separation, dots per inch, halftone)

Screen Printing a printing process also called silk screening, where ink is transferred through a porous screen, such as nylon, onto the surface to be decorated. An emulsion or stencil is used to block out the negative, or non-printing areas of the screen. A squeegee forces ink through the open areas of the screen and onto the paper, plastic, cardboard, wood, fabric, glass, or other material.


Spot Color Single colors applied to printing when process color is not necessary (i.e. one, two and three color printing), or when process colors need to be augmented (i.e. a fluorescent pink headline or a metallic tint).


Will my printed piece look exactly like it does on my computer monitor? 

There are some small differences. Scanners and digital cameras create images using combinations of just three colors: Red, Green and Blue (called "RGB"). These are the colors that computers use to display images on your screen. But printing presses print full color pictures using a different set of colors: Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black (called "CMYK"). So at some stage your RGB file must be translated to CMYK in order to print it on a printing press. This is easily done using an image editing program like PhotoShop, PhotoDeluxe, or Corel PhotoPaint.
Caution: It's Best If You do the RGB-to-CMYK Conversion of Your Images!

You will have more control over the appearance of your printed piece if you convert all of the images from RGB to CMYK before sending them to us. When we receive RGB images, we do a standard-value conversion to CMYK, which may not be perfectly to your liking. We want you to be happy, so please, take the time to prepare your file properly. We cannot be responsible for sub-par results if you furnish low-res images or RGB images.

Be aware that it is possible to make colors in RGB that you can't make with CMYK. They are said to be "out of the CMYK color gamut". What happens is that the translator just gets as close as possible to the appearance of the original and that's as good as it can be. It's something that everyone in the industry puts up with. So it's best to select any colors you use for fonts or other design elements in your layout using CMYK definitions instead of RGB.

Can I use colored text?

It's best not to colorize small text. What happens is that all printing presses have a little bit of variance in the consistency of the position of the different color plates. This is called mis-registration. The cyan, magenta, yellow and black portions of the text characters don't line up exactly. So the result is little colored halos around the characters. It's ok to use colored text on large, headline type, or smaller sizes down to about 14 point size, but much smaller than that will be too noticeable and you won't like it. The same thing holds true for white (knock-out) text on a dark or colored background. You can do it but don't use point sizes smaller than about 14 point. Otherwise the words may be hard to read and it will look unprofessional.

Can I put text over an image?

Be careful about using photographs for backgrounds. If you put text (any color) on top it can be very hard to read. So the secret is to lighten the photograph a lot--more than you may think is necessary. Use a photo editing program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PhotoDeluxe.