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If you’re not familiar with printing terms, hearing them for the first time can be confusing. As printing professionals, printing terminology is like a second language to us. We’re always happy to explain the various definitions and meanings but we thought it’d be useful to provide a glossary of printing terms and phrases.

You can access this glossary anytime and soon enough you’ll be a natural in printing terms too.

  1. 4C – Printing in cmyk or commonly known as full colour printing. There is no retriction on number of colour printed.
  2. 4C (Front) – Full colour printing on the front side
  3. 4C (Both) – Full colour printing on front and back side
  4. Artwork – The original physical materials, including photos, graphic images, text and other components needed to produce a printed piece. Can also now refer to the electronic or digital components needed for preparing a printed piece for production on a press or copier.
  5. Printing File – The softcopy of the artwork that can be used for printing. Example *.pdf, *.ai, *.psd, *.jpg, *.tiff, *.png
  6. gsm – In short, GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter. There are thousands of varieties of paper and board which have a wide range of properties. The use of the term GSM is a good way for paper manufacturers and printers to identify them. The higher the GSM number, the heavier the paper. Example 120gsm Art Paper
  7. Binding – It is the term for the finish that printers use to hold the pages of a book, brochure, or notepad together. Example Saddle Stitch, Perfect Bind, Wire-O, Plastic Comb
  8. Bleed / Bleeding – This may sound like what happens to your brain when you try to get your head around the complexities of print terminology, but “bleed” actually refers to the ink coverage on your page. The image to be printed extends beyond the crop marks on the page, simplifying trimming and allowing the image to run (bleed) right to the edge of the page.
  9. Colour – The general rule in full-colour printing (versus black-and-white) is that anything web-related should be designed in RGB (red, green, blue), and physically printed material should be in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). This is because traditional (lithographic) printing presses create colours with individual plates for each of those four colours. Printing presses still work on the same principle, although offset printers can use a “spot” or Pantone® colour to create a specific colour swatch. Modern digital printers facilitate printing in RGB, but the standard remains the same. If you print with Pantone®colours and then want to print in CMYK, the particular Pantone® may not have an exact CMYK equivalent.
  10. Laminate – Laminating adds a thin layer of reinforcing layer of plastic to your print job for added durability. Lamination can be matt or gloss, or can provide an extra tactile element to your print, like soft touch laminate, which is almost velvet-like. Lamination is also recommended for jobs with high ink coverage as it prevents set-off (where ink from one sheet rubs against the next). Lamination also prevents “chipping.” This occurs when the edges of thicker boards can appeared slightly ragged after cutting and can be especially noticeable where darker colours run to the edge of the sheet. Lamination provides a protective layer which stops this happening.
  11. Proofing – Proofing is the best way to avoid expensive mistakes in printing, so you should pay close attention to the proofs you receive from your printer to ensure the job is without error. Essentially, you will receive a visual copy of the finished product, using either a soft or a hard copy. Hard-copy proofing can involve ink-jet printing – usually for layout rather than colour accuracy.
  12. Email Proofing – Also known as soft proofing. It is by far the most common approach. It usually involves proofing a PDF / image on your computer. Be aware though, that the settings on your monitor mean that the colours you see on screen are unlikely to be 100% accurate when compared to the printed product.
  13. Offset Printing – Offset printing technology uses plates, usually made from aluminum, which are used to transfer an image onto a rubber “blanket”, and then rolling that image onto a sheet of paper. It’s called offset because the ink is not transferred directly onto the paper. Because offset presses run so efficiently once they are set up, offset printing is the best choice when larger quantities are needed, and provides accurate color reproduction, and crisp, clean professional looking printing.
  14. Digital Printing – “Digital printing doesn’t use plates the way offset does, but instead uses options such as toner (like in laser printers) or larger printers that do use liquid ink. Digital printing shines when lower quantities are needed; think of a run of 20 greeting cards or 100 flyers. Another benefit of digital printing is it’s variable data capability. When each piece needs a unique code, name or address, digital is the only way to go. Offset printing cannot accommodate this need.
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