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Printing Glossary

Printing Glossary

All the jargon used in the printing world can be confusing. So here’s a breakdown of the most common terms you’ll need an appreciation of whether you’re a designer just starting out or a marketeer providing your agency with a job spec.

‘A Series’ Paper

The standard system for paper sizes (A5, A4, A3 etc), using these measurements always ensures that paper is cut proportionately and to industry standards.


The colours you have on your design literally bleed over an extra 3-10mm around your design layout to allow for cutting. This also makes sure no part of the design sits too dangerously close to the edges.  If you want a colour, or an image going right to the edge of your design, you use a bleed area so those elements ‘bleed off the page’.  If you don’t use a bleed area, you risk a thin white stripe running down an edge if the printer hasn’t quite lined up his cut accurately.  The bleed area is quite literally a margin for error!


Refers to the 4 basic colours used in colour printing; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). Mixing CMY inks results in black but sometimes doesn’t result in true black, so K is added.

Foil Finish

Adds a metallic finish to a specified area of your finished work to help make your logo or design stand out.


There are many ways to fold your designs and these all have to be thought about before going to print. Go for a standard half fold or three fold where the paper is folded to sit on top of each other when closed. Or opt for the Z fold, which allows your document stand upright thanks to its ‘Z’ shape (like a menu). Remember – print area guides are needed for folds too.

Gloss Laminated Finish

A very shiny finish that can be added single or double sided.

Gloss Spot UV Finish

This option allows you to add shiny gloss to specific areas of your work like photos or logos.


Is the most commonly used file format for sending pictures. This option is ideal for saving pictures, as it creates the smallest file size for an image but it is known for being ‘lossy’, because it looses some of the original image information in this process.


Is the process in typography of adjusting the spacing between characters, so the spaces look even and closer together. In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have a visually similar area.


Leading or ‘line spacing’ refers to the distance between sentences on a page. You can keep text quite close together or give it a little more space to allow for easier reading.

Lithographic (or Offset) Print

Sometimes abbreviated to ‘litho print’, this is the largescale printing press method ideal for high print quantities. The word comes from the lithographic limestone that was  originally used to print on by the Greeks.  Litho printing also enables you to use specific pantone colours (see below) and utilise gloss or matt finishes for added texture.

Matt Laminate

This finish adds a matte-like feel to your printed work to give that extra feel of quality.

Matt Spot UV

A matt finish card with selected areas highlighted with an additional UV gloss. This gloss look against the matt finish catches the eye and adds that little something extra to your design. It is applied using UV light, which seals the varnish into the card.


A system for matching colours, used in specifying printing inks. Always use a Pantone reference when specifying colours to your printer to prevent wrong ones being selected.


Pixels Per Inch. This is the resolution of your Pixel based image. A computer displays images at 72 pixels per inch but a printer requires much more to produce a high quality image, so printer settings are always higher.

Print area guide

When setting up your document you need to set a print area margin so that nothing is cut off & consistency remains strong. The standard margins are: A4 = 10mm from all sides, A5 = 8mm and A6 = 6mm.  That said, for jobs up to A3 in size, 5mm is generally fine.


The colours used on computer screens (Red, Green and Blue). This is why colours often look different on computers than what they do on paper (as paper uses CMYK). Bear this in mind when choosing colour palettes for your work.

Serif & Sans Serif

Sounds like something from another language but Sans Serif actually refers to fonts, which have little flicks (or extensions) at the end of each letter (like Times New Roman). Serif refers to fonts without that feature, just rounded off letters (like Arial).


A tiff allows you to save larger files without losing image information. You do still have the option to reduce size via LZW compression, which protects the image quality of your work.

Type Point

Type is measured in points (8, 9, 10 etc) the point is measured by the height of the capital ‘H’ letter.

Vector Format

Vector formatting is ideal for printing this is because it always retains the same crisp quality no matter how much it is resized.

Widows and Orphans

Avoid having these in your work. A widow is a paragraph ending line in your document that falls at the beginning of the following page or column. An Orphan is a word or a very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph.


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