Printing terms demystified

Did you hear about the printer who received an e-mail asking for a PDF ASAP about MIS, CTP and UV? He visited a URL where he downloaded an RGB TIFF, but really needed a CMYK EPS. Don’t you just love printing acronyms? Below are some printing and printing-related terms that you may not be that familiar with if you’re new to this industry or work in related sectors. We’ll be running them occasionally. Hope they help you. And beware of mixing social media acronyms with printing jargon. I recently e-mailed a photo of myself to a non-printer explaining that in our industry it was called a PDF. The recipient thought I meant “Pretty Damn Funny!” Ouch!


Acid Resist
An acid-proof protective coating applied to metal plates prior to etching.

Additive Colour
Colour produced by light falling onto a surface, as compared to subtractive colour. The additive primary colours are red, green and blue.

Anodized Plate
An offset printing plate having a treated surface in order to reduce wear for extended use.

Anti-Offset Powder
Fine powder lightly sprayed over the printed surface of coated paper as sheets leave a press. Also called Dust, Offset Powder, Powder and Spray Powder.

Antique Paper
Roughest finish offered on offset paper.

Category of paperboard ranging in thickness from 15 to 48 points.

Blind Image
Image debossed, embossed or stamped, but not printed with ink or foil.

Sticking together of printed sheets, causing damage when the surfaces are separated.

A repeating registration problem in the printing stage of production. Or, a customer unhappy with the results of a printing project who refuses to accept it.

The effect produced by dusting wet ink after printing and using a metallic powder.

Burst Perfect Bind
To bind by forcing glue into notches along the spines of gathered signatures before affixing a cover. Also called Burst Bind, Notch Bind and Slotted Bind.

Butt Register
Register where ink colours meet precisely without overlapping or allowing space between, as compared to lap register. Also called Butt Fit and Kiss Register.

To make the surface of paper smooth by pressing it between rollers during manufacturing.

Thickness of paper or other substrate expressed in thousandths of an inch (mils or points), pages per inch (ppi), thousandths of a millimetre (microns) or pages per centimetre (ppc). Or, a device on a sheetfed press that detects double sheets or on a binding machine that detects missing signatures or inserts.

Selling unit of paper that may weigh anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 pounds depending on which mill or merchant uses the term.

Case Bind
To bind using glue to hold signatures to a case made of binder board covered with fabric, plastic or leather. Also called Cloth Bind, Edition Bind, Hard Bind and most popular, Hard Cover.

Cast-Coated Paper
High-gloss coated paper made by pressing the paper against a polished hot metal drum while the coating is still wet.

Chain Dot
An alternate term for Elliptical Dot, so called because midtone dots touch at two points, so they look like links in a chain. A generic term for any midtone dots whose corners touch.

Deterioration of a printed image caused by ink that absorbs into paper too fast or has long exposure to the sun and wind, making printed images look dusty. Also called Crocking.

Technique of slightly reducing the size of an image to create a hairline trap or to outline. Also called Shrink and Skinny.

Strength of a colour as compared to how close it seems to neutral gray. Also called Depth, Intensity, Purity and Saturation.

Coated Paper
Paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity and ink holdout. Mills produce coated paper in four major categories – cast, gloss, dull and matte.

Colour Blanks
Press sheets printed with photos or illustrations, but without type. Also called Shells.

Colour Gamut
The entire range of hues possible to reproduce using a specific device – such as a computer screen or system (such as four-colour process printing).

To keep paper in the pressroom for a few hours or days before printing so that its moisture level and temperature equal that of the pressroom. Also called Cure, Mature and Season.

Coarse cloth embedded in the glue along the spine of a book to increase strength of binding. Also called Gauze, Mull and Scrim.

Phenomenon of middle pages of a folded signature extending slightly beyond outside pages. Also called Feathering, Outpush, Pushout and Thrust.


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.