Commonly Used Printing Terms

If you’ve had a conversation with your printing rep lately, you may have felt a little lost in the terminology.  We spend a lot of time having these conversations for our clients, so these terminology tips may be useful for your next print job.

We have compiled a quick list of some of the most commonly used print terms to aid in your next communication with your print rep.

QUANTITY: The number of finished pieces you want printed.  It is a good idea to ask your rep for 3 quantities during the quoting process, so you can compare unit pricing for a few different quantities (unit pricing gets much .

NUMBER OF PAGES: This is different from how many sheets of paper are printing. A single piece of paper has two sides and therefore is two pages.

TRIM SIZE FOLDED: The size of the item that you are printing once folded. (Example: if you fold a letter to fit an envelope, the folded size is the “trim size” folded, or 3 2/3 x 8 1/2″ from the 8.5 x 11″ original size. This type of fold is also called a “Tri-fold”.)

FLAT/SPREAD SIZE: This is the flat and final trimmed size before folding. (Example: an 8 1/2 x 11″ 4-page brochure spread out as a 2-page “spread” would be 17 x 11″.)  Printers require the width as the first dimension given.

TEXT STOCK: Is the lighter weight paper stock. If there were not a separate cover, then this would be the only paper used (i.e. a “self cover”) or if there is a separate heavier cover used in the printing then this would refer to the inside paper.

COVER STOCK: Heavier card type stock and also used for the printing of the outside 4 pages of your printed item, should it be different from the text when printing. If it is not, then your printed item is a “self cover”.

COVER OR TEXT INK: Ink that is used for the printing of the inner pages OR the cover. This is described by the number of printing inks you require and the two numbers used are separated by a slash sign /.

4/1: If the front of your piece has 4 colors and the back has 1, then your piece would be described as 4/1 or “four over one”.

4/4: If the front of your piece has 4 colors and the back has 4, then your piece would be described as 4/4 or “four over four”.

CMYK: Refers to Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black used for process printing, such as color photos. (Note: always count on a slight variation of color from paper to paper and press to press.)

PANTONE / SPOT COLOR / PMS: Refers to the Pantone Matching System. (Note: always count on a slight variation of color from paper to paper and press to press.)

COVER INK: Ink that is used for the printing of the cover.

COVERAGE %: The amount of ink covering the printed page. Always let the printing company know if large solid areas of 100% ink exist on the page.

BLEEDS: The ink prints to the very edge of the paper. When using “bleeds” you must allow for the art to extend 1/8″ beyond the page border when printing.

OUTPUT READY DISK: A complete disk not requiring further production other than to “rip” to film or plate if on a digital printing press. It should also contain folders for all of your images fonts used.

DIE SCORE OR CUT: A “steel rule” die is manufactured, which is composed of thin pieces of steel that will be used to stamp a line or rule on the printed material. To die cut is to cut the printed piece almost like a cookie cutter. An example of this is a “pocket folder”.

FOLD TYPE: The type of fold used to complete your printing job. A letter fold is a paper folded in thirds (also called a “tri-fold”). A “z” fold differs in that the parts do not overlap but form a Z at the end. A parallel fold is a half fold, double parallel folds in half and then half again vs. a right angle where the second fold is done on a 90 degree angle from the first. Accordion fold is just more panels than the Z and similar. A gate fold is where the two end panels meet in the center with the center panel being the width equal to both end panels and a double gate folds in half towards the center after the initial gate fold.

SADDLE STITCH: Two staples added to the center of the piece on the fold line. This is a typical magazine printing bind.

PERFECT BIND: A squared off edge and glued pages define this bindery type. An example is your typical “pocket” book printing.

PERFORATE: Creation of holes either by die or a bindery rolling process for tear outs or coupons.

HOLES: Punching or die cutting holes to allow for binder or other use. Typical is 3 holes, automotive style is 5 holes.

FOIL: To stamp with a metal die a material onto the paper. If the foil touches ink on the piece or is raised by embossing, it is called “registering”.

EMBOSS: To die stamp the paper from the rear in order to create a raised effect. The opposite is to de-emboss and stamp from the front of the paper in order to create a lowered effect.

You can find more printing information at

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