Glossary of Printing Terms

Printing professionals, use terminology which you may not be familiar with. We’re always happy to explain the various definitions and meanings but we thought it’d be useful to provide a glossary of some of the most common printing terms and phrases.

A Paper Sizes

These are the industry standard of paper sizes. Most countries follow this system so most paper sizes (A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7) are universal. Folding a larger A size in half along it’s longest edge will result in the next A size down.


To accommodate any slight movement in paper during printing, it is standard to add 3mm around the edge of an artwork. This means that solid colours or photographs don’t show a white edge if the print moves fractionally.


Branding is a term which encompasses a wide range of elements which have been designed to promote a company or product. They come together to form a ‘feel’ or aesthetic which is desired to convey.

Branding includes, but isn’t limited to: logos, fonts, colours, illustrational style, photograph style, graphics and copywriting elements (terms and phrases which convey a ‘tone of voice’).


To reduce the risk of ink smudging after printing, a special liquid coating can be applied to the paper..


Refers to the moving or shift that happens to the margins in a document when pages are folded during the finishing process of a booklet. The higher the number of pages being printed, the larger the amount of creep will be.

Crop Marks

Lines put onto the pages to show where the document or print will be trimmed. Also known as ‘Tick Marks’.


A die refers to a precise, steel blade that allows multiple pieces of the same shape to be cut in a uniform manner.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a fast printing method using lasers. It is commonly used in offices and at home. It’s ideal for faster, small-scale jobs that would be uneconomical using lithographic methods.


Rather than putting colour onto the stock, dye-sublimation changes the colour of the material instead.


he process of creating raised relief images on paper and other materials. The design will bulge out of the paper.


This is the typographic process of adjusting the visual spacing between characters to achieve a more aesthetically uniform result.


A transparent, plastic sheet applied to stock to provide a glossy protective layer against liquid and heavy use.

Lithographic Printing

The image is placed on the lithography plate, inked and then printed onto the paper. It’s more expensive and time-consuming than digital print, but the quality of the result is extremely high.


A personalised graphic, produced specifically for a company or product. A logo is a single part of a company’s branding.


The quality of the paper defines the opaqueness of it. If it isn’t opaque enough, your design might show through to the other side.


A universal colour language that designers, printing companies and brand owners use. This helps the right colour to be achieved again and again.


Pixels per (square) inch.

Process Colours

The process colours are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black (or Key). The printer combines these base colours to create different colours.


Proofing refers to ‘checking’ the proofs you receive to ensure the design, copy and colour has no errors. Also called ‘proof reading’.

Screen Printing

A fine mesh is used to transfer an image onto another material. It’s commonly used when printing logos onto clothes and printing fabric banners.

Spot Colour

This is achieved by actually mixing ink into the desired colour you want in your print project, as opposed to using the CMYK process to achieve it.


This is what’s receiving your printed images and content. It can be paper, card, foil or whatever. It can also massively alter the impact of printed pieces.


The process of adding the colour white to another colour. So, when printed, the colour is lighter and more white shines through.


This refers to images or text that aren’t completely opaque. Just make sure to flatten your transparency and spot colour to CMYK to avoid issues when printing. 


This is the line cut to produce the finished size. The trim cuts through the bleed area to ensure a continuous and sharp edge around a design. 


A spelling mistake in text. 


Everything related to the text on the printed product. Your printer will want to know the layout of your text, along with colour and style.

UV Varnish

A thin coating which is applied to a printed sheet for protection and appearance which is dried by UV light.