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As an expert in print and design, we know all the jargon. But because we are an expert, you don’t need to be. It does help, however, if you know some of the basics.

To help you get the lowdown on the lingo, or even just as a reference when you need it, here is our Design & Print Jargon Buster:

Artwork – Files created on a computer, using design software, that tell the printing machines how to produce your job. We use Adobe Creative Suite as this is the industry standard. Homemade files have all sorts of issues so Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Publisher etc. just won’t work, I’m afraid.

Bleed – An extension of the design or background colour that will be cut off the final product. This will prevent print and cutting tolerances causing your project to have white, uneven edges or lost words.

Copywriting – The process of writing text or words for a brochure, website or other documents.

bc pic

Crop marks – Printed lines to show the cutting machine where the edge of your document is, so it knows where to cut. Crop lines are within the bleed, but are cut off and won’t be seen on your final printed piece.

CMYK – This is a colour production method that allows us to create almost any colour using 4 inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These colours are not as specific as Pantone colours, but when you think how many colours make up an image, it works out much more cost effective.

Digital printing – This is a more recent technology that has made small and fast print runs possible. Instead of using ink and plates like Lithographic Printing, we use Toner Powder of the CMYK colours. There are no plates required for this process so the cost for short run is cheaper than Lithographic printing, however, long runs are not.

DPI – (dots per inch) or often referred to as Resolution. In short, it refers to the quality of the image or file. The higher the resolution, the more sharp the image. Even the best printing machines in the world cannot print a low resolution image in good quality. 300dpi is recommended for print, to achieve the best results from your files.

Gloss Laminate – A shiny coating/finish that will enhance colours printed on or under it.

Graphics – photographs, illustrations, drawings, or computer created images.

GSM – A paper industry standard measurement used to determine the density of a paper. It stands for Grams per Square Metre. Photocopier paper is between 70 and 90gsm, meaning that a square meter sheet would weigh between 70 and 90grams. A business card is much denser, so would be 350 – 400gsm. Although GSM is linked to thickness, do not think of it as thickness of a sheet. Different papers will weigh different amounts, whilst being the same thickness, depending on the methods used to produce them. Ask for a sample to get a true representation of your chosen paper stock.

Laminate – A plastic like film, similar to static food wrap. It adds thickness and durability to your print, whilst reducing the chance of offset (ink smudging/rubbing off!). Available in Gloss, Silk and Matt finishes, this can also have an effect on the colours of your documents, or even the feel of the paper and its perceived thickness.

Lithographic printing – This is the traditional method of printing. Print is created by using a plate or stamp to transfer ink of a specific colour to the page. CMYK print uses 4 plates and 4 inks.

Pantone – A specific recipe to produce a specific colour ink. Pantones are available for almost every colour conceivable, including metallic effect, neon effect and even pastel colours. Although far more specific than a CMYK colour, these are more costly to produce and do not offer the flexibility of a CMYK colour. Materials, finishes and even the temperature can make a difference to these colours so best to ask your printer / designer before setting out on this route. They do, however, offer a more exact colour replication than CMYK.

Pantone colour chart

Perfect bound – a type of binding that glues the edge of sheets to a cover like a telephone book, or glossy magazine.

pp (printed pages) – How many printed pages form a document. A single sided letterhead is 1pp, a double sided leaflet is 2pp, a 50 page brochure is 50pp, etc. Folded documents differ slightly so always describe the document when asking for a quote, to make sure that you get this right.

Print run – the quantity of printed items. A printer will always run more, to allow for waste and errors on some sheets.

Proof – A visual representation of the final printed product, used to check and sign off a job for production. Adobe PDF proofs are usually used, as they are inexpensive, and show text and images well. Do not rely on them for colour, however, as your screen will be different to the final printed colours. Digital proofs are the next available option, and show colours more accurately than a PDF, but still not exact. Most large print companies can match press digital proof colours to 98% accuracy to the finished colour. The master of proofs is the Wet proof. These are printed using the actual inks, plates, machines and materials as the final print job, so colours should be spot on, but these are expensive. Due to the cost,
Wet proofs are only used for large jobs like brochures or catalogues, and even then, often for just the covers.

RGB – The print method of CMYK to produce any colour can be replicated in screens and monitors, except when mixing light, not ink, we use Red, Green and Blue to create all the colours of the rainbow. No good for printing, but your website and email campaigns can’t be created without them. Most colours, either Pantone or CMYK can be recreated using RGB, but will not be an exact match.

Saddle stitch – binding a brochure with staples in the seam where it folds.

Spot colour – a colour produced using only one ink. Pantone colours are often referred to as Spot Colours.

Spot UV varnish – A varnish coating to a set area of a document. Often a gloss finish, this process adds a luxury effect to a document. Used on photographs to enhance them off a matt page, or to highlight text, this adds another dimension to the flat print of a page.

Stock – the material to be printed. Can be paper, card, metal, wood, fabric etc. the list is almost endless.

Tints – A lighter version of a colour, produced by placing less of the colour on the page.