Design terminology: Printing

Accordion folding

This elementary form of binding constitutes two or more parallel folds, which make the profile of the paper the shape of the letter Z.

Against the grain

Most paper will tear in a specific direction (according to paper fibres). If you tear against the grain, it’s at right angles to the grain direction. Also known as cross grain.


Printing on the reverse side of a sheet of paper which has already been printed.


To fasten pages together using glue, wire, thread, plastic comb or wire comb.


Printing which deliberately extends off the edge of the page (and is trimmed off).

Blind embossing

Plain embossing of a shape or image which makes paper raised (doesn’t utilise ink or foil).


Reducing the size of a graphic or image (generally using stroke or thin line) so that the colour overlaps with the adjoining colour.


Abbreviation for four colour process colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, black.


To put individual pages or separate documents in a specified order.

Colour bar

A range of different colour boxes which are used to test colour consistency.

Colour separations

The separation of colours for printing purposes (could be four colour and/or spot colours).

Comb binding

A disgusting form of plastic binding which holds together multiple pages. Most designers with any sense will advise you to consider wiro binding instead.


All colours printed on one surface (as opposed to separations).

Cover stock

The paper used to cover a document (if thicker than the paper inside the document). Otherwise it’s known as self-cover.

Crop (image)

Cropping an image refers to trimming the outer edges of an image (generally done to improve page composition or image composition).

Crop (paper)

This is where the page is trimmed after printing. Also known as trim.

Crop marks

Printed lines which dictate where a page is to be trimmed. Also known as trim marks.


A metal block or bent metal (die) is used to cut paper into special shapes.

Digital printing

Unlike traditional printing (offset), digital printing transfers the image directly onto the substrate (paper, cardboard, plastic etc) without the use of rollers and plates.

Dots per inch (DPI)

The number of dots vertically and horizontally in one inch.


Paper is raised (relief) in certain areas with ink, foil or without (blind embossing).

Finished size

The size of a document after it has been trimmed and folded.


The surface characteristics of paper stock.


A metallic or plastic coating which is stamped or embossed onto a page.

Four colour process

Printing technique using cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Also known as process colour or full colour.

French folding

Paper is folded in two places at right angles.

Full colour

Also known as process colour or four colour process (see above).


Two parallel folds in a sheet of paper which cause three overlapping sections.

Gloss finish

A shiny paper finish.


The fibre of most paper is directional (and will tear in a specific direction).


A printed imperfection caused by a mark on the printing press.


The page order in which pages are printed, in order to ensure the correct order when folded and bound.


Gloss or matte film or paper which is adhered to another surface.


The space between rows of type.

Lines per inch

The number of rows or columns per inch. So 300 lpi is 300 lines for every inch.

Matte finish

Dull (non-shiny) paper or dull varnish.


The amount of printing on a printed sheet which can be seen on the other side of the page. Related to show-through.


Additional copies in excess of the amount ordered. Also known as over-run.

Page count

The total number of all pages in a document (including front and back of every page).

Perfect binding

Notches are made in the spine side of sheets of paper and then glued to the cover spine. Also known as burst binding.

PMS colour

The Pantone colour matching system is used to specify a particular spot colour. Also known as Pantone colour.

Process colour

Also known as full colour process or four colour process.


Printed sheet provided to test for errors.


500 sheets of paper.


To co-align multiple colours when printed (to ensure print consistency/accuracy).

Saddle stitch

Folding a document at the spine, and then stapling in the seam.


Pressing a seam or crease to help a page fold in the correct place.

Screen printing

A squeegee is used to press ink through a screen onto the substrate (common for printing onto fabric such as shirts). Also known as silk screening.


Same weight paper is used for the cover as the inside of a document.


Printing on a page can be seen on the other side of the page.


Binding edge of a document.

Spot colour

Is a specific colour used in printing, which is created from mixing ink or using pure ink.

Spread (facing pages)

Pages which face each other in a document.

Spread (ink)

Increasing the size of a graphic so that the colour overlaps with the adjoining colour.


The paper, cardboard, plastic or other material being used.


Printing an ink, varnish or coating on top of another ink.

Trim size

The size of a document after it has been trimmed. Also known as crop size.

UV coating

A film or liquid spot coating which adheres to the stock. Can be gloss or matte finish.


A transparent liquid used to:

  • give a gloss or matte finish
  • seal the print (especially when heavy or solid coverage)
  • reduce scuffing

Ask your designer if it’s worth having wet-trapped or dry-trapped varnish for your project.