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Print Glossary

The terms in our glossary will help you better understand the print industry.

Print Terms Glossary
Web Glossary


Printing Terms


Blueline Proof - A blue colored photoprint made to proof type, image position and pagination. Also called a blueprint.

Camera-ready - Text or artwork which is black and white and ready to be photographed by a process camera, typically for a newspaper. Digital files have largely replaced this method.

CMYK - The four process colors used in offset lithography printing. They are cyan, magenta, yellow and black (the key color). When these Full-Colors are printed with halftone screens of various angles in this subtractive print method, they create oranges, reds, violets, and so on. The color gamut of CMYK is fairly limited, causing loss of color when a continuous tone photograph is reproduced using only Full-Colors.

Color Gamut - Gamut is the term used to describe the range of colors which can be seen by the human eye, reproduced on a monitor, or printed on paper using various output devices. The gamut of our eyes is huge and represents everything we see. Early computer monitors only reproduced 256 colors, but today's monitors can display thousands or even millions of colors using an additive red, green, blue (RGB) color model. A Full-Color offset print job is printed in cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). The subtractive process of printing combines these colors to create other colors such as orange, green or red. This process produces a fairly limited color gamut. To make matters more difficult, some colors which can be printed can not be displayed on the monitor and vice versa. Recent print technology aims to enlarge the color gamut by printing additional colors along with CMYK. Pantone has developed "Hexachrome", a 6 color offset print process which comes close to the RGB gamut. Newer large format printers such as the DisplayMaker print with up to 8 print color heads for greatly improved midtones. Color photographic images have a wider range of color than offset printing and richer tones than a monitor can display. There is a loss of color data when a photograph is scanned and converted to CMYK or Hexachrome for offset printing.

Color Separations - Separating a multicolor image (digital file) into individual monochrome halftone sheets of film. A CMYK print job requires 4 sheets of film. The separate film sheets are used to make a matchprint proof and printing plates. Separations are processed by an imagesetter.

Continuous Tone Photograph - This is traditional photography in either black and white or in color. This process creates superior images with a tremendous range of tonal values and color saturation. When these same images are converted into halftone screens for offset lithography printing it results in loss of color data.

Die - A stamping tool used for embossing or die-cutting.

Direct-to-plate - This is the newest trend in 4 or more color printing. The digital file is imaged and separated directly to the printing plate. This skips the processing of color separated film and the making of a matchprint. Proofing is done using a high quality and accurate inkjet print. The plates are ready immediately for the printing press.

Duotone - A duotone begins as a black and white photograph. Duotones are created by generating two halftones of the same image. This will make two separate printing plates for a Two-Color print job. The two plates are printed together and the resulting printed image is rich in tonal values. Duotones are often printed with black and a spot color, but any Two-Colors can be combined. Unusual color combinations will require a press check.

Font - In early printing the ink was applied to rows of either wooden or metal letters and the letters were pressed against the paper. The wood or metal letters are called fonts. After printing the fonts were wiped clean and stored away in drawers. Fonts might be large individual letters (wood), or words or groups of words in metal type. In the computer age fonts are the required file to display and print any given typeface. Most commercial printers require Postscript Type 1 fonts, though TrueType scalable fonts are becoming more common. Fonts files must be supplied with every print job.

Halftone - Method of converting a continuous-tone photograph into a grid of larger and smaller dots. This pattern makes it possible to make film and/or printing plates. A halftone screen is the actual grid pattern. In offset printing, each of the CMYK color screens has a different screen angle so the printed dots will create a perfect rosette, which the human eye merges into a continuous tone. Misaligned screens create a moire pattern. It is the halftone screen pattern which makes it difficult to scan a previously printed image.

Hexachrome - Pantone has developed hexachrome printing as a solution to the color color gamut limitations of CMYK process printing. Hexachrome printing comes closer to the RGB gamut.

Imposition - The arrangement of individual pages onto a larger sheet, front and back, so that when the printed sheet is folded the pages will be front and back and paginated properly. This printed sheet is called a signature. Books, catalogs and magazines are made of a series of folded signatures which are all bound together. Printers use special software for the imposition of digital files from a page layout program.

Lap - The slight overlapping of printed colors, usually the result of trapping. Trapping is a method used to allow for slight faults in color registration.

Line Art - Artwork that is black and white, without middle gray tones. Logos are often line art.

Makeready - The steps it takes to prepare a printing press and/or binding equipment for the next project. This is actually one of the more expensive parts of a print job. Use of specialty papers or metallic inks can increase the cost of makeready.

Matchprint Proof - Also called a Rainbow, this is a high quality color proof made from the actual film separations which will be used to make the printing plates. This is the final proof prior to color printing. The printing press operator will use the client approved matchprint for quality control during printing.

Moire Pattern - This is an undesirable result of misaligned screen angles in CMYK printing. Proper alignment of common halftone screens should create a perfect rosette.

Monitor Colors (RGB)
- Monitors display color using an additive process combining red, green and blue. These colors create orange, blue, violet and so on. The Windows platform displays a slightly different gamut of colors than Macintosh computer. The base for both systems is 216 colors. Windows monitors display colors darker and with less saturation than Macintosh systems. Due to these limitations you should expect some color shift as you view images or Web pages on different monitors. Monitors are also not a reliable indicator of what colors will actually be printed on paper. Even expensive calibrated monitors using the newest software can only approximate your final print. A color proof produced by a print shop is the only true indicator of what any finished print job will look like.

Offset Lithography Printing - Printing that uses an intermediary surface, a rubber blanket, to transfer the image from the inked plate surface onto the paper. An offset press can print from 1 to 6 colors, depending on the number of print heads.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)® - The registered trade name of a brand of color matching system commonly used in commercial printing. PantOne-Colors can be specified for ink, papers, plastics, and fabrics. Pantone chips are available for solid spot colors and for process ink mixes. Specifying PantOne-Colors is the only accurate and predictable way to know that the color in the imaging application is the color that will be printed (your monitor is NOT a predictable indication of printed colors).

Press Proof or Press Check - This is an actual printed proof from the press itself before the entire print run is completed. A good press operator always does a press proof and matches the print output with the client approved color proof. Press check usually refers to the client and designer going to the print shop at printing time and approving the press proof. This is seldom done because of the added costs involved.

Raster Image - Digital scanners and digital cameras produce raster images. A raster image can also be created new with a raster based application such as Photoshop® or Painter® or Canvas®. Raster images are pixel resolution dependent and can not be greatly increased in size without loosing picture quality. These are typically large files and are more demanding of RAM and processor speed. See also Vector Graphics.

Ream - Five hundred sheets of paper.

Register - The correct alignment of colors on paper during printing.

Saddle-stitching - A type of book binding that uses several metal staples along the spine to gather and bind pages for a booklet. This is the least expensive method of quality binding.

Self-cover - Using the same paper for the cover as that used on the inside pages of a booklet. Higher quality booklets will use a cover weight paper on the outside.

Sheet-fed Press - A offset printing press which prints individual sheets of paper. In contrast, a web-fed press runs paper through on a continuous strip off a roll, like at a newspaper. Interestingly, newer digital presses of all sizes run paper on rolls.

Spot Color - This is a mixed ink of a specific color. Spot colors are used most commonly in logo design or to print a specific color which standard CMYK offset printing can not produce. Depending on your goals and your budget, you could specify 1 or more spot colors by themselves, or in combination with the regular CMYK colors. Anvil Graphics specifies spot colors from the Pantone Matching System, though there are other selections world wide.

Spread - a pair of facing pages. Sometimes called a two-page spread or double-truck.

Stock Photography - There are two kinds of stock photography. The most common is "royalty free". Royalty free photos are available in a wide range of prices depending on the source. Royalty free photos are still licensed, but the end user can typically use the pictures for a wide variety of editorial and promotional uses at anytime. "Rights Protected" photos are handled by traditional photo stock agencies and are licensed to a specific client for a particular project for a predetermined time. Rights protected pictures often cost several hundred dollars for the license (not ownership). High quality rights protected photos may be delivered as a transparency and will need to be scanned professionally. All these pictures should carry a photo credit and are copyrighted.

Thermography - The use of a special powder on top of wet ink, then fusing with a heat treatment. The result is an embossed effect which does not add greatly to the cost of the print job. This is commonly done on business cards and letterheads of one or Two-Colors.

Typeface - A typeface is the style and shape of letterforms. Typographers specialize in designing typeface families such as Roman, italic, bold, demi, etc. Typefaces are broadly grouped into two main categories, serif and sans-serif. The serif is the little flourish on a letter such as with Times, sans-serif is a plain letter style such as Arial. Your choice of typefaces is described to your computer software by the font file.

Vector Graphics - Created from illustration programs such as Freehand or Adobe Illustrator , vector graphics are defined by points on the canvas and complex mathematical computations. Simple or complex shapes are created which can be overlapped, combined, aligned, etc. The shapes can be filled with color or gradients. Vector graphics have the advantage of creating small files and the artwork is always scalable to any size with out lose of picture quality. Programs such as Illustrator also allow the placement of raster images on the canvas. In fact, the most recent versions of Photoshop and Illustrator really blur the line between the two programs.




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410-656-9727 in Maryland
970-405-2160 in Colorado

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Anvil Graphics is now based in Maryland, but continues to serve clients nationwide.

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