When working with professional printers, there may be some terms that are not widely known outside of the industry. Do you need help deciphering all the terms used in commercial printing? Then look no further, as we have the perfect resource for you!  

Gateway supplies you with an extensive glossary of terms related to both offset and digital printing. With this glossary, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to make sure you and your Gateway Printing representative are speaking the same language.  

Gateway offers both Offset Printing and Digital Printing. Not sure of the difference? No worries! Keep reading to find out how to best communicate your needs.  


Accordion fold – two or more parallel folds that open like an accordion

Aquous Coating – a water-based coating applied to protect printed piece – gloss or matte  

Artwork – photographs, drawings, paintings, hand lettering  to illustrate printed matter 

Alteration – change in copy or specifications made after production has begun 

Banding – method of packaging printed pieces using rubber bands 

Bar code – a pattern of vertical bars and spaces representing characters that is readable with a scanner  

Barrel fold – folding a sheet two or more times in same direction  

Binding – various methods of securing sections together and/or fastening them to a cover

Bleed – an extra amount of printed image that extends beyond the trim edge of a sheet

Blind Embossing – a raised impression made without using ink of foil  

Bond paper – strong durable paper grade used of letterheads and forms   

Bristol – type of board paper used for post cards, business cards, and other heavy-use products

Brochure – A single or multi-page folded paper used to advertise a company’s products or services

CF – coated front  

CB – coated back  

CFB – coated front and back  

Caliper – thickness of paper, expressed in thousandths of an inch

Camera ready – the state in printing when a document is ready to print without any edits or adjustments needed

C1S – paper stock coated on one side

C2S – paper stock coated on both sides

Carbonless – paper that is coated with chemicals to produce copies without carbon in-between the sheets (also referred to as NCR paper)  

Card Stock – a stiff rigid paper used for postcards, manual covers or table tents  

Chipboard – inexpensive, single-ply cardboard, usually brown or gray 

Coated Paper – paper with a layer of coating applied to one or both sides, such as gloss, dull and matte finish 

Collate – a finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order   

Color separations – the separation of color artwork or transparencies on to separate sheet for each color.  The  division of a multi-color original into the primary process colors of yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.  

Cotton fiber paper (rag content or cotton content)– paper that contains 25% or more cellulose fibers derived from lint cotton, cotton linters and cotton or line cloth cuttings

Copyright – An exclusive right that has been granted by law to a particular creative product. The right of copyright gives protection to the originator of material to prevent use without express permission or acknowledgement of the originator.  

Composition – the process of setting type and arranging it on the page  

Consecutive Numbering – method of numbering manufactured business forms or tickets  

Cover stock – a heavy printing paper used to cover books  

Crash numbering – numbering carbonless paper by pressing an image on the first sheet which is transferred to all parts of a printed set 

Cut Sheet – paper cut into standard sizes ready for use with a copier or press

Cutting Die – sharp edged devise usually made of steel rule, to cut paper, cardboard, etc. on printing press

Die – a metal rule or imaged block used to cut or place an image on paper in the finishing process

Diecut – The use of a sharp, formed piece of metal (cutting die) to cut out specific shapes in a piece of paper

Digital Printing – Printing without plates where files are imaged by digital data from prepress systems.  Toner-to-paper printing. 

Drill – to bore holes in paper so sheets fit over posts of loose-leaf binders

Dull finish – characteristic of paper that reflects relatively little light


Embossing – a process performed after printing to stamp a raised or depressed image into the surface of paper using engraved metal embossing dies, extreme pressure and heat 

Enamel paper – a coated sheet or the coating on a sheet  

Estimate – a price provided to a customer, based on the specifications outlined on the estimate form; it is normally set prior to the entry of an order and prices may change if the order specifications are not the same as the estimate specifications  

File Submission – The process of emailing artwork to the printer.  For larger files, third party websites such as Dropbox.com or Box.com are recommended

Finish – surface characteristic of paper

Finishing – the bindery process performed after the document has been copied or printed

Finish size – size of printed product after production is complete

Flyer – an inexpensively produced printed sheet used for promotional distribution

Foil emboss – to foil stamp and emboss an image on paper with a die  

Foil stamp – a letterpress process using foil and dies.  Foil is transferred from its backing to the paper when stamped with a heated die.   

Four-Color Process – printing in full color using four color separations of ink (yellow, magenta, cyan and black) which reproduce full-color photographs of art (color pictures)  

Gather – to assemble or collect sections into the proper sequence for binding

Gloss – characteristic of paper, ink or varnish that reflects relatively large amounts of light

Graphic design – the use of graphic elements and text to communicate an idea or concept

Gusset – expandable portion of bag, file folder or envelope

Head–to–head – printing on both sides of a sheet where the top of each page is placed at the same end

Head–to–foot – printing on both sides of a sheet where the top of each page is placed at the opposite ends

Hard copy – a printed paper copy of output in readable form  

Imposition – the process of arranging the pages of copy so that when the sheets are printed and folded for binding the pages will be in the proper order  

Impression – the image produced in a single operation on a printer, copier or press

Inserts – extra printed pages inserted loosely into printed pieces

Index paper – light weight board paper for writing and easy erasure  

JPEG – The JPEG file type is one of the world’s most widely used image file formats.  It is able to compress impressive detail into a shareable file size. 

Kraft paper – strong paper, usually brown  

Kromekote – a premium high-gloss, cast-coated paper

Laminate – a thin transparent plastic coating applied to paper or board to provide protection and give it a glossy finish

Lithography – method of printing using a chemically-coated plate whose image areas attract ink and whose non-image areas repel ink


Make Ready – all activities required to set up the press for a pressrun, including running test sheets of paper

Magnetic ink – a magnetized ink that can be read by electronic machines – used in check printing

Marginal wording – call outs for directions on various parts of a business form (Example: White – Office Copy, Yellow – Customer Copy)

Matte finish – dull finish paper  

Micrometer – instrument used to measure thickness of paper  

Mike – to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper using a micrometer  

Mock-up – a rough visual of a publication or design 

Mylar – polyester film, often used to reinforce tabs

Numbering – putting a sequential number on each copy

Offset paper – uncoated book paper  

Offset printing – method of lithographic printing that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket, then from the blanket to paper

Opacity – characteristic of paper that helps prevent printing on one side from showing on the other

Over Run – the number of pieces that were printed in excess of the quantity specified. PMS color – pantone matching system – an international system used to mix inks to standard colors used by printers

Pad – to bind by applying glue along one edge of a stack of sheets

Page count – total number of pages, including blanks and printed pages without numbers  

Pagination – the numbering of pages in a book

Parallel fold – folds that are parallel to each other – a letter is parallel fold  

PDF (Portable Document File) – A universal file format that can be viewed, navigated and printed from any computer regardless of fonts or software programs used to create the original

Perfect Binding – a binding process whereby single sheets are stacked together, the binding edge is ground to create a rough surface and adhesive is applied.  A cover is then wrapped around the pages

Perforating – punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper or cardboard to  facilitate tearing along a desired line

Plastic Combs – material used in binding a publication that allows it to lay flat when open

Prepress – the processes performed on a printing order prior to production (examples: typesetting, layout, scanning, etc.)  

Pressure-sensitive paper – paper material with self sticking adhesive covered by a backing sheet

Press Proof – Actual press sheets to show image, tone values and colors as well as imposition of frame or press-plate

Proof – a method of checking for errors prior to printing an order

Ream – five hundred sheets of paper  

Registration Marks – Crosses or other targets applied prior to platemaking.  Used for positioning and register of two or more colors in process printing. 

Resolution – Measured in dpi (dots per inch).  We use the standard of 300 dpi.  The greater the dpi, the better the image clarity. 


Saddle Stitch – the binding of sheets of paper to form a book which works by stapling in seam where sheets are folded

Score – to mechanically crease or press a channel into paper along a line so it will fold more easily

Self-cover – using the same paper for inside pages and the cover for multiple page publications

Self-mailer – printed piece designed to be mailed without an envelope

Shrink wrap – a tight fitting plastic wrap used to protect a publication from handling or storage problems

Side stitch – to bind by stapling through sheets along one edge

Signature – a section of a book made by folding a printed sheet so that the pages follow in correct order (standard signatures are 8, 16 & 32)  

Slip Sheet – blank sheet placed between newly-made printed products to prevent setoff or scuffing during handling and shipping

Slit – to cut paper using a disk or wheel  

Specifications – complete and precise descriptions of paper, ink, binding, quantity and other features of a printing job

Spine – the binding edge of a book  

Spiral binding – a method of binding which secures pre-trimmed sheets by the insertion of wire or plastic through holes drilled or punched in the binding edge

Stock – paper used for a printing job  

Tag – board grade paper used for products such as tags and file folders

Text weight paper – lighter than cover stock, suitable for forms and publication pages

Thermography – a finishing technique applied after printing that raises the ink and gives the effect of ink raised off the page

Trapping – in prepress, refers to the overlap of colors to eliminate white lines between colors in printing

Trim – the cutting of the finished product to the correct size

Transparency – a color or black and white photographically produced image on transparent film

Turnaround time – amount of time needed to complete a job   

Two-up – printing two up or three up means printing the same image twice or three times on the same sheet of paper in one impression  

Uncoated paper – smooth sheet with no glossy finish or coating

Underrun – production run of fewer copies that the amount specified

UV coating – liquid laminate applied to a sheet that is bonded and cured with ultraviolet light  

Varnishing – a finishing process whereby a transparent varnish is applied over the printed sheet to produce a protective finish

Vellum finish – relatively rough finish on uncoated paper  

Watermark – distinctive design created in paper during manufacture  

Web Printing – printing on rolls of printing paper 

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