Jargon buster

Posted on 18th November 2014 at 3:57 pm

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If you don’t know your Widows from Orphans, GSM from your Gutters, or DPI from your Drop Caps, then here is a handy jargon buster to help decipher some everyday terms of the design and print industry.


Artwork: Final materials or images prepared for printing.

A sizes: An international ISO range of paper sizes. See paper sizes.


B sizes: An international ISO range of paper sizes for larger items such as posters. Sizes fall between A sizes. See paper sizes.

Base line: The invisible horizontal lines on which page text appears to sit. The base line grid maintains consistent text alignment across columns.

Bleed: Print which runs off the edge of a page. A 3mm bleed area is usually allowed on all edges of the page layout, this is then trimmed off for a clean edge.

Bond: A range of heavier substance printing papers with a quality yet uncoated feel. Traditionally used for stationery.


Case-bound: A book with a solid hard back cover. Often covered with cloth or leather.

Coated paper: Paper with a smooth matt, silk or gloss finish applied.

Collate: To gather book sections or pages together in the correct sequence.

Colour bars: Strips of colour blocks on litho print proofs for checking ink consistency and characteristics.

CMS: Colour Matching System. A set of standard colour swatches. For example Pantone.

CMYK: The four process ink colours which make up stand process printing. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black).

Contact sheet: A sheet of photograph thumbnails. Originally from camera film in direct contact with photographic paper. Now more likely a PDF document.

CRC: Camera ready copy. An old printer term for pasted up page layouts ready for photographing and printing.

Copy: Content to be laid out, usually refers to text.

Cromalin: An old system for creating 4-colour proofs, now more commonly replaced with laser proofs.


Descender: The part of a character which descends below the baseline or ‘x height’, e.g. y or p.

Die stamping: a printing process using a steel ‘die’ to impress a relief surface in the paper.

Dot gain: The inevitable spread of fine printed dots during lithographic or other mechanical printing.

Dpi: The most common measurement of resolution as Dots Per Inch. The standard requirement for printing high quality images is 300dpi. Whereas on-screen images may be 72dpi.

Drilling: Perforating a pile of sheets or documents for binding, i.e. Drilling two holes for fitting pages in a ring binder.

Drop caps: Drop capital. Increasing the size of the first letter of a paragraph to be two or more lines deep.

Dummy: Mock-up of a publication to indicate specifications and page layout.


En: Unit of measurement based on the width of the average type character.

En rule: (-) Small dash, used as a standard hyphen.

Em rule: (–) A wider dash, used either side of a section of text as standard parenthesis.


Family: A full set of font variations under the banner of one typeface, i.e. Helvetica – Thin, Roman, Bold, Heavy etc.

Flat plan: A diagram indicating pagination for a publication, for page content advertising positions and colour availability.

Float: Centring a piece of artwork in the centre of of an area too big for it, i.e. incorrect advert sizing in a newspaper may be floated in the space.

Foil stamping: Application of thin metallic film to an area of a book cover or printed item.

Folio: Traditional term for one sheet of paper, or the page number of a document.

Fore-egde: The outer edge of a book, opposite the binding edge.

Font: A complete set of the same typeface.


Gate fold: Folding two sides of a leaflet so they meet in the middle of the front.

Ghosting: An unintended faint print image due to poor inking on the press.

Gloss art: Shiny coated art paper.

Grammage: Weight of paper expressed as grammes per square meter (gsm).

Gsm: Weight of paper expressed as grammes per square meter.

Gutter: The space between columns of text on a printed page.


Half-tone: Illustration created by patterns of various dot sizes to give an impression of continuous tone.

H&J: Abbreviation for hyphenation and justification.

Hanging indent: Typesetting style where the first line of a paragraph sits out and the rest are indented.

Hickey: Unwanted spot on a printed page, caused by dust or ink problems.

Highlights: The lightest part of an image where ink levels are 0-30%.

Hyphenation: The automated splitting of words at the end of lines to fit a paragraph. Mostly undesirable.


Imposition: Arrangement of pages in a sequence which may not read consecutively until the pages are folded for printing.

Imprint: Publisher/printer information included in a publication.


Justification: The spacing of words to fit page alignment margins.


Kerning: Adjustment of the letter spacing in words to improve uniformity.

Keyline: A thin line to indicate position of artwork.

Knocking up: Physically lining up the edges of a pile of paper.


Lamination: Addition of a matt or gloss layer over the printed page to enhance the look and feel.

Landscape: A page or image which is position sideways. Wider than it is deep.

Leading: The uniform spacing between lines of type.

Leaf: A single sheet of paper, comprising two pages.

Litho: Lithography. The most common commercial printing method. For each colour, ink and water are applied to chemical treated plates for a precise ink application.


Machine finished: Smooth paper, calendared on the paper machine.

Macro: A keyboard shortcut used for a common process.

Make-ready: Setting up a print machine ready for a job.

Mask: An opaque overlay to hide unwanted parts of an image, often used in Photoshop to separate an image from the background.

Metallic inks: Specialist inks containing metallic powders to achieve gold or silver printed effects.

Mid tones: Middle tonal ranges on an image that are between highlights and shadows.

Moiré: An unwanted pattern caused by incorrect angles of dot screens. Can appear when scanning or photocopying printed items.


OCR: Optical Character Recognition. Automated conversion of scanned type into on-screen text.

Offset: Printing which uses an intermediate roller to transfer ink, i.e. Offset Lithography. Offset is also a brand of printing paper.

Old-style figures: Numbers which don’t align to the baseline but have ascenders or descenders.

Opacity: The measure of opaqueness of an image as a percentage. 100% is a solid image.

Orphan: The first line of a paragraph of text or heading which appears at the foot of a page column. Considered undesirable.

Overprinting: Reprinting over a page or template which has already been through the printing process.


Pantone: PMS. A brandname for a standard Colour Matching System of ink swatches.

PDF: Portable Document Format. A standard Adobe file type for sharing and transferring files securely.

Perfect binding: Adhesive binding to give a book or magazine a spine.

Perfecting: A printing process which prints both sides of a page at the same time.

Pica: A unit of typographic measurement equal to 12 points.

Pixelation: An image of poor resolution which begins to deteriorate beyond a certain scale.

PMS: Pantone Matching System. See Pantone.

Portrait: A page or image which is positioned vertically. Deeper than it is wide.

PP: Abbreviation for printed pages. i.e. 48pp.

Pre-flight: Preparing a file for print by checking colours, resolutions, layouts and fonts are suitable for printing.

Print-ready: A file which has been preflighted and prepared to the correct specifications for the print process.


Ream: 500 sheets of paper.

Recto: Old school printer language for the right hand page of a spread.

Registration: The alignment of individual colours to create the composite image. Usual the four process colours one on top of the other.

Repro: Traditional pre-press photography and film origination. Processes now simplified by computers.

Resolution: The measurement of image fineness. Usually as dots per inch, see DPI.


Saddle stitching: Binding magazines and books with wire staples through the middle fold.

San serif: A typeface with no serifs. See serif.

Screens: Patterns of lines and dots that create the tones in halftone.

Separation: Splitting an image into the process colours for creating printing plates.

Set-off: The accidental transfer of still wet ink from one page to the next following printing.

Show-through: Lack of opacity in a sheet causing printed ink to be visible on the reverse side.

Subscript: Small lowered characters such as a small ‘2’ in H20.

Superscript: Small raised characters such as a small ‘th’ in 10th.

Swatch: A colour example for exact colour matching.


Trim marks: Printers marks to indicate where the page is trimmed to size by guillotine.

Typography: The design of printed matter.


Uncoated paper: Paper with no coating and an slight unfinished feel.

Undercolour removal: The process of adjusting the ink balance to reduce the overall amount of ink in dark areas, but maintaining image quality.


Varnish: Thin transparent coating added to the page for gloss or protection as part of the printing process.

Verso: Old school printer language for the left hand page of a spread.


Web: A continuous roll of paper fed into a printer. As opposed to sheets.

Web offset: Reel-fed offset litho.

Widow: A short last line of a paragraph appearing at the top of a column or page. Considered undesirable.