The Ultimate Print & Design Dictionary

HotCards.com is proud to present the most detailed, in-depth print & design industry resource available on the Internet. Check in weekly for new, dazzlingly informative, thought-provoking entries.

A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z

Letters A-C

Accordion Fold: Printers can fold documents like brochures in several ways. The accordion fold involves creating two or more parallel folds in a piece of printing to create a zig-zag, as opposed to a gateway, shape. Common accordion folds are found in six-panel, or tri-fold brochure printing. However, eight or ten panel accordion folds are becoming increasingly popular, as well.

Additive Color: Basically, projected color, produced by light. Imagine you have three spotlights, a red, a blue and a yellow. Move the spotlights around so they overlap in as many different ways as you like - presto, a whole bunch of new colors result! The additive color system is a way of reproducing color images with light sources. The additive color system is used by all image capture devices to reproduce a color image: televisions, computer monitors, cameras, scanners, you name it. The precise colors in this gamut cannot be reproduced on paper, which is why the colors on your computer screen never come out quite the same when printed.

Aqueous Coating: An inexpensive, highly effective alternative to varnish when it comes to printing materials with glossy, well-protected finishes. Aqueous coating is cheap because it’s fast-drying and can be applied through the press, which makes the job quick and easy for the printer. It also produces a glossier effect than varnish, which makes it perfect for jobs like postcards, brochures, posters, and just about anything else that needs to look slick and be durable over the long-term.

Basis Weight: This refers to the pound weight of paper. Technically, in the printing industry, “Basis” is the weight in pounds of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to a standard size for that paper’s grade. Every grade and size of paper has its basis weight. Lighter basis weights describe text stocks and heavier basis weights describe cover stocks, with the heaviest weights describing board papers. Some confusion can be caused when the sheets in a ream are cut to a different size to suit a specific print project. For this reason, printers sometimes prefer to measure their stock by thickness in “points.”

Blanket: Offset printers use a rubber blanket as an intermediary between plates and paper in order to achieve a cleaner, more high-quality printed image. The rubber blanket goes between the plate cylinder and the impression cylinder on what is known as the “offset cylinder.” The rubber blanket’s marvelous results are due to its ability to conform to the substrate material far more effectively than does the rigid metal plate.

Brightness: In printing, paper brightness is measured by a light meter reading of the percentage of light reflected back from a sheet of paper. 100% of the light can be reflected for the brightest, most vivid color reproduction. That’s what you want for your posters, signs and business or palm cards because it offers the eye-catching contrasts your clients can’t ignore. But you won’t want your annual report printed on paper with that much brightness because your readers will suffer from eyestrain and fatigue. Paper brightness for reproduction of reading materials should read at about 60% on the light meter.

Call to Action: In advertising, this refers to the portion of ad copy that encourages consumers to actively engage in the purchase of a product or service. All effective sales copy should include a snappy call to action featured prominently at a central position in the web or print advertisement. Add bolding or different coloring to the call to action to pull consumers helplessly into the seductive realm of your influence.

Card stock (or Card Paper): A medium weight classification of paper, usually cut into 20” x 26” sheets and used for greeting cards, business cards and event tickets.

CASS Certification: CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System. The CASS certification process reviews address-matching software to make sure that it is accurate to the standards expected by USPS. The address quality of direct mailings affects the postal service’s ability to deliver, and hence, the overall cost of your direct mailing campaign. CASS certification ensures the highest address accuracy and quality standards available to bulk mailers.

Coated/Uncoated Paper: When paper is made, it is sometimes coated during finishing with an enamel-like substance that increases the gloss, smoothness, brightness, and ink holdout of the paper. In offset printing, a glossy, coated paper absorbs and holds ink best, which accounts for the brilliant colors of high-quality offset printing. A matte coating can also be applied for a duller, glare-free finish.

Color Management: Depending on whether you’re looking at a monitor, a piece of paper, or even through a camera lens, color changes. While computers use a RGB color system, printers use a CMYK color system, and often, translation between the two is difficult. Color management involves making an effort to color-match as colors are transferred through every phase of the production process, from image creation to printing. Some jobs, such as those where precise coloring is very important, require ‘critical color’ matching.’ Others, where color plays second fiddle to content or concept, may only require ‘acceptable color’ matching to achieve a close match.

Color Wheel: A circular diagram which shows the relationship between different colors. There are many kinds of color wheels, but the CMYK wheel is used most effectively by expert color printers such as Hotcards. That’s because the huge gamut of colors resulting from combinations of cyan, magenta, and yellow organized on the wheel provides the ideal guide to duplicating any color that is printed with amazing precision. Color wheels are helpful to the artist, designer and printer in selecting effective and accurate color combinations.

Complementary Colors: Colors which, when mixed together, cancel each other's hue to produce an achromatic (white, gray or black) mixture. They are usually found on opposite sides of the color wheel. Side by side, they are considered to offer the most striking contrasts, but mixed, they produce a neutral, gray or black mixture. Yellow and purple are an example of complementary colors.

Cover Stock (or Cover Paper): Imagine you have a sheet of cover stock paper in your hand. Flip a corner with your finger. It will bend only with difficulty and will snap back quickly. This is a stiff, heavyweight paper used when durability is a concern. In point measurement, a minimum of 7 pts. is considered cover stock. At Hotcards, the highest quality, most durable heavy card stock of 12 pts is used for maximum durability; this is a must when signs or displays will be used outdoors or for roughly handled items such as presentation pocket folders.

C1S: Short for "Coated one Side,” this refers to printed materials which are only coated on one side for specific uses, such as label paper.

C2S: Short for "Coated two Sides," this refers to printed materials which have the same finish on both sides - usually for use in text publication, or for commercial printing in which both sides of the paper are printed.

Terms D-F

DPI (Dots per inch): A count of the number of dots of ink found in one square inch of a given piece of print. The more dots per square inch, the better the clarity and resolution of an image. Hot Cards recommends that images have at least 300 dpi in order to guarantee quality. Dpi is sometimes confused with ppi (pixels per inch) in the world of digital imagining, which causes no end of scandal and misunderstanding in industries involving digital photography and the sale of computer monitors.

Die-cutting: Once a project has been printed, a potential stage of finishing involves cutting the edges of a piece of printing into styled angles or shapes. This is done with dies – tools that are made with very precise blades in order to consistently create a desired result. Dies can cut printed materials at an angle, round corners, or carve shapes directly into a piece of printing.

Drop Date: This is the date upon which a direct mail campaign is set for launch. It’s called the “drop” date because it indicates the day that the bulk mailing will be delivered to, or dropped off with USPS. This term distinguishes from the delivery date, which indicates the day that consumers will begin to receive the direct mailers.

Finish: the texture of paper resulting from the treatment of the surface in manufacturing. This varies from grade to grade and is described in terms of smoothness or roughness. The choice of finishes affects the printability of paper, its ability to receive and absorb or reflect ink colors. A rough finish will provide a matte, or dull, appearance, whereas a smooth finish will provide a shiny or glossy appearance.

Terms G-I

Gamut: the entire range of colors available through the mixing of basic colors in a color system. Modern printers can only dream of a device which might reproduce the complete range of colors visible to the human eye. Nevertheless, thanks to such advanced color-mixing models as the impressive CMYK four-color model used by Hotcards, a huge number of colors can be reproduced for brilliant results - as close as is humanly possible to achieving “the whole gamut” in spectacular color reproduction!

Gang-run Printing: Offset printing uses large, uniformly-sized sheets of paper that move extremely quickly through the printer. Of course, not everyone wants a whole sheet’s worth of printing. Gang-run printing is an inexpensive solution for individuals and businesses that need small printing jobs done. It works by ‘ganging’ several printing jobs together on to one sheet so that no space is wasted, and several customers share the cost of the print run.

Gloss: Essentially, the shininess of paper produced when the surface is treated with varnish, aqueous or even plastic coatings. High gloss finishes enhance color brightness and increase durability. Modern printers often prefer aqueous coatings to provide brilliantly glossy finishes to print products, especially for posters, signs, business cards and brochures. Compared to varnishes, aqueous coatings do not crack or scuff easily, provide better clarity and are more environmentally friendly than other glossy finishes, because they are water-based.

Grade: Papers are classified according to similarities in manufacturing history, such as pulp and treatments used in the process, in appearance, weight, quality, and end use. The resulting types of paper are called grades. Some of the most common grades are bond, book, Bristol, cover and newsprint. Choosing just the right grade of paper for your printing job is an important role of professional printers such as Hotcards.

Green Printing: A movement in the printing industry to reduce our eco-footprint, embrace our role as environmental stewards, and develop sustainable solutions for the future of printing and print advertising. Choosing low-VOC inks, using recycled or tree-farmed paper, working with local suppliers, and reducing the use of chemical products in platemaking are all part of this effort.

Greenwashing: A recent trend amongst print ad-watchers is to accuse businesses of falsely advertising their ‘green’ efforts. Double-speak, empty promises, and outright lies are said to be employed in print advertising in order to capitalize on the current wave of environmentally-friendly consumer thinking.

Halftoning: Printed images are made up of millions of tiny dots. Before an image can be printed, it needs to be ‘halftoned,’ or broken down into dots based on the different colors being used in the image. Grayscale halftoning involves creating variously dense patterns of black on a white background in order to create a black, white, and grey image. Color halftoning involves producing several different patterns based on a color set (i.e. CMYK). Combining these patterns in the printing process creates the color blends required to accurately reproduce any image.

Hue: One of the three properties that define all colors (value and saturation are the other two). Hue can simply be said to be another word for “color”. In the English language, there are eleven basic color names, or hues: black, gray, white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and brown. Hues are varied by changing their “value”, making them lighter or darker (in printing, with the addition of white or black), or by changing their brightness, simply by adding gray. The resulting hues are described as variables of the basic hues: bright red, pastel pink, charcoal gray, etc. or may be given entirely new names, such as maroon, ochre or peach.

Indicia: Latin for “signs,” this term refers to printed markings on direct mailing that replaces a stamp in indicating postage. Instead of licking stamps, direct mail professionals purchase the cost of bulk mailing postage online and label items of direct mail with indicia. Specialized indicia can be created to represent the unique nature of your mailer, or you can use a very plain design.

Terms J-L

Kerning: This refers to a typesetting process wherein the distances between characters are adjusted in order to ensure that the layout of characters on a page is well-balanced and uniform. Kerning is a major consideration in the creation of fonts and logo design. You might think that letters on a page are all the same distance apart, but this actually looks very strange. Each letter and symbol must relate to the ones around it in a unique way.

Key Code: When running a print advertising campaign, a great way to monitor the response rates of various types of direct response print ads is by using key codes. A unique key code can be applied to each different type of ad so that when responses come in, you know which ads are performing the best. Even if you’re only working with one type of ad, such as direct mailing, you can key code the different demographics or areas being targeted by your direct mailing campaign, and use the resulting responses to optimize future campaigns.

Kiss Impression: By applying a minimal and precise amount of pressure to a substrate with the print blanket, the printer endeavors to create the lightest impression of an image possible while maintaining the clarity of the image. Creating the perfect kiss impression is a delicate process that requires Zen-like focus and precision.

List Cleaning: This process involves confirming the accuracy of names and addresses on a direct mailing list. Incorrect addresses are removed or updated. Regular list cleansing is essential to the efficiency of a direct mail campaign. Old lists should be cleansed at the beginning of every new campaign. Even a list that is fresh to you might be worth cleaning out, depending on the quality of the list source.

Low-VOC Inks: Vegetable and soy-based printing inks are low in VOCs or volatile organic compounds. VOCs are substances that evaporate into the air, creating toxic air pollution that’s bad for the environment and bad for workers. Low-VOC inks are replacing poisonous petroleum-based inks in the green printing industry.

Terms M-O

Merge/Purge: In direct mailing, this refers to combining (or merging) two or more mailing lists, and then eliminating (or purging) duplicate addresses, addresses that are no longer relevant, and addresses that fail to meet your target demographics. The merge/purge process is valuable for those who want to save money by purchasing low-cost lists, but want to maintain high response rates with quality lists.

Nth Name: Major direct mailing campaigns may often begin with a test campaign in which a random sampling of the mailing list receives the mailer to provide market research as to its effectiveness. Nth name refers to a method of pulling out a random sample of the mailing list by choosing a variable (i.e. every 7th name, or every 30th name) based on the size of the test campaign. For example, if you wanted to run a test campaign on 5000 addresses out of a 20, 000 address list, you would pull every 4th name.

Off-Register: When printing plates are not perfectly aligned in a press, off-register printing can occur. This involves layers of color being slightly out-of-sync, and it leads to a blurred effect. Sometimes this effect is hardly noticeable, while at other time it’s quite dramatic and potentially disastrous. However, designers will, on occasion, deliberately use off-register printing in order to product a particular effect. Or at least, they claim to have done it on purpose.

Opacity: Try viewing a sheet of printed paper from the unprinted side. Can you see the printing or design through it? If you can’t see any sign of printing, the paper is said to have at least 98% “opacity.” This means that 98% of light cannot pass through the paper. This is especially important in full color printing when printing both sides of a document, as low opacity will cause ghosting of images through to the other side.

Overprint: To intentionally print one color over top of another. Overprinting with black or a very dark color is often done to avoid gaps or compensate for misregistration of colors during the printing process.

Terms P-R

Paper Stock: There are as many different types of paper out there as there are fonts and colors to choose from. And you thought your troubles were over! Paper stock is determined by factors like weight, thickness (or point size), color, texture, and coating. Heavier paper is more expensive, but better for making a good impression with business cards or stationary. Coated paper is glossier and more durable, which makes it ideal for posters and direct mail campaigns, while uncoated paper is easier to read, which makes it better for reports and other documents that are designed to be read at length.

Perfect-binding: A style of binding, or attaching the pages of a magazine or booklet together. When a magazine project is being finished, the pages are glued together at the spine so that the spine lies flat once the glue dries. This is generally an investment made by more heavily-paged, high-end publications than those which employ saddle-stitching.

Platemaking: In offset printing, plates made of either aluminum or plastic are etched with the image to be printed and placed in the printer for reproduction. For each printing job, four plates are made to represent each color being used – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Point (pt.): Although paper stock is often described by weight, it is common in the paper and printing industries to describe it in thickness. This is a measurement made with specialized paper calipers in units called “points”, which are thousandths of an inch. One point is expressed as .00l. Generally, paper which measures .012 or 12 points is considered very heavy cover stock. Lighter weight papers, such as text stocks have the lowest point measurements.

Prepress: This is the process of preparing a print job for the actual printing process. Although the term can be used to refer to everything from photography and graphic design to copyediting and typesetting, it is generally used to refer to the things that need to happen to get the job into the press. This includes platemaking, color management, separation, and trapping.

Presorting: This essential stage in the direct mailing process involves sorting mailers by triggers such as zip code and carrier route. Since the efficiency of the postal service depends on this type of organization, bulk mail is subject to reduced rates depending on how well-sorted it is. Of course, that also means that small errors can cost you big time – such is the circle of life.

Printing Plate: A plate can be made out of a variety of materials including paper, metal, or plastic. Plates are engraved with the various designs prepared for the printing process. A unique plate is required for each color, therefore a four-color printer will require four plates to create a full-color image. Once attached to the printing press, ink is applied to the plate, and the image on the plate gets transferred directly to the substrate, or to a rubber blanket in the case of offset printing.

Proof: The final copy of an image or document that illustrates exactly how it will look when it comes out of the printing press. A Press Proof is done using the plates and ink that will be used in the print run. If a print job is not perfect at this stage, it can be costly to correct. A Contract Proof is not necessarily a Press Proof, however, it does represent a contract between printer and customer indicating exactly what the final prints should look like.

Pulp: Cellulose fiber material used to manufacture paper. The fibrous material can be made from a number of sources, including wood, cotton, straw, jute, bamboo, hemp and reeds. Depending on the method used to separate fibers from their original sources – chemical or mechanical – and the nature of the source, the paper is destined for various uses. Although mechanically produced wood pulps provide excellent printing paper with high opacity, it lacks strength and has an unfortunate tendency to discolor when exposed to light. It really takes a chemically manufactured wood pulp to provide the best grades of paper for printing.

The Purkinje Effect: In the nineteenth-century, Bohemian physiologist, Johannes Purkinje, discovered that the cone receptors in your eyes, which work gangbusters in bright light and allow you to see oranges and reds, are superceded in dim lighting by your rod receptors, which allow you to see blues and greens luminously in dim light. That means that colors on the red wavelength appear dull and gray at night, so that right red lettering might not be such a good idea on unlit outdoor signs!

Readability: There are two sides to readability: typography and visual design. Typography refers to things like letter, word, and line spacing, as well as a reader’s ability to easily recognize familiar characters. The easier something is to read, the more likely a consumer is to read through the whole thing and absorb the message. However, no one is going to fall in love with reading your copy if it doesn’t hit them right away with powerful visual appeal. Hence, the visual design of the text on the page is the second key to readability. Employing pleasing color variation, compelling headlines, and smooth textual variations can all contribute to the readability of your web and print material.

Response Tracking: Direct mail is a print marketer’s favorite form of advertising because it is easy to track the response rate of direct mailers, thereby determining their success rate and a business’s ROI. Tracking response rates can be done in a number of ways – from having a promotion that consumers can directly respond to, to including a unique contact number or promotional code, or including a web address accessible only to those with access to the mailer. This is one of the most effective and inexpensive forms of market research.

Runnability: An assessment of how well a paper will run on a printing press. Factors which determine a paper’s runnability include its weight or thickness, surface texture, coatings and how consistently and uniformly it holds ink.

Terms S-U

Saddle-stitching: A style of binding, or attaching the pages of a magazine or booklet together. In this style of binding, the pages are inserted one inside the other, then stapled together. This is the most effective method of binding slim publications.

Sans-Serif Fonts: These are type fonts that don’t have the little strokes and flourishes that make serif fonts so darn adorable. While the sans-serifs played second fiddle to serif fonts throughout much of print history, they’re back in the spotlight thanks to the advent of computer screens. Sans-serifs are much more readable than serif fonts when it comes to computer monitors, therefore, online and wherever else it counts, sans-serifs serve as body text, while serifs are only considered usable in the big bold header section of your snazzy LCD monitor.

Saturated Colors: Simply put, a color is said to be “saturated” if it is as bright or intense as it can possibly be. Technically, that means it would have no gray mixed into it. Primary colors are saturated colors. Other colors have varying degrees of saturation as gray is mixed in to make them more muted, such as pastels, which are barely saturated and grays, which are unsaturated colors.

Saturation: Refers to the intensity or brightness of a hue. This is determined by the amount of gray mixed into a color. Sometimes referred to as “purity”, the more saturated a color is (the less gray is mixed in), the more pure, intense and bright the color is. A very bright red is highly saturated. Pastel colors are very low in saturation because a lot of gray is mixed in to achieve muted shades. A gray blue is an example of a hue with very low saturation. Black and white and shades of gray have no saturation at all. Shade: A color made darker by adding black.

Screen printing: Also know as silkscreening – this printing technique involves applying a stencil to a silk or polyester screen to create a kind of plate, then applying paint to the screen that transfers to the medium only within the stenciled area. Multiple stencil shapes can be used to duplicate the effect of CMYK printing. Screen-printing is most commonly used in apparel printing.

Serif Fonts: These are type fonts that having finishing strokes or flourishes on the ends and edges of each symbol. These fonts are used for body text in print materials because they are considered easier to read on paper than sans-serif fonts. However, on computer screens, serif fonts are less readable, and are reserved for use in titles and other short text.

Sizing: In manufacturing paper for high quality printing, a substance is added to coat the paper fiber, forming a film which makes the paper water-repellant. This is essential in making paper which will keep water-based inks from penetrating it in the printing process.

Spam: Direct mailing’s best friend. For years the stigma of junk mail has plague the direct mailing industry, but today, with spam reaching never-before-seen levels of annoying, direct mail has practically disappeared from the junk marketing spotlight. Not only has spam shifted negative focus away from direct mailing, it has actually made consumers more appreciative of the value of direct mailers, and all thanks to the extreme and almost bizarre low quality of spam.

Stock: Classification of paper according to weight (or thickness), size, and intended use. In Europe, paper is measured in only one way: as grams per square meter. However, in the United States, paper stock weight is based on 500 sheets cut to a specified size for particular uses. The three stocks most highly recommended by Hotcards, carefully selected for optimum function, are text stock (light, for brochures and non-adhesive labels), card stock (business cards and event tickets), and cover stock (presentation pocket folders and DVD covers).

Stock Photos: Existing images that can be purchased and licensed for commercial use. Huge databases of stock photography can be searched online and images easily downloaded. The benefit to designers of stock photos is that they are much less expensive than hiring photographers and producing original images. On the flipside, many of these images cannot be purchased exclusively, and they are often used to within an inch of its commercial lifespan. Choosing to use stock photography is easy on a budget, but it may force you to compromise the originality of your designs.

Substrate: This refers to the material used in a given print run. Varying grades of paper are used depending on the nature of the project (thick, textured stock for business cards, thin paper for newsprint). Fabric, plastic, metal, wood, or anything else that can hold an image may be used.

Subtractive Color: Basically, printed color. If a green tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it, is it really green? Believe it or not, the answer is…NO! Objects actually have no real color of their own. Colors are sensory experiences, perceived because objects reflect and absorb (or subtract) varying wavelengths of white light, which only get to be colors when the reflected ones hit the human eye. Print materials are reflective substances on which we can create images by using color inks that act as filters to subtract, or absorb portions of the white light striking the image on paper to produce other colors. All color printing processes use the subtractive process to reproduce color.

Text Stock (or Text Paper): A light weight classification of paper, usually cut to 25” X 38” and used in color printing for such items as brochures and non-adhesive product labels. What is it like? Imagine holding a sheet of text stock and flipping a corner with your finger. It will bend easily and doesn’t snap back fast. The bond paper you use in your home printer is a text stock.

Tint: In color theory, the color wheel is based on "pure" colors called hues. Adding white usually produces lighter versions of each hue. The resulting new colors are called tints. They are commonly referred to as pale or light colors and include pastels and tans.

Trapping: Often, a printing job will be run through the press several times in order to properly apply all the layers of color. This is different from an inkjet printer, which prints all colors at once, so the process may be unfamiliar to those accustomed to desktop publishing. Tiny shifts in plates or paper can leave noticeable gaps between colors. Printing another layer of wet ink over layers of previously printed ink that have not lined up perfectly is known as trapping.

Typesetting: Closely related to the printing process, typesetting entails arranging all the text on a given piece of print material in order to achieve the best possible results in terms of stylistics, clarity, and readability. Typesetters ensure not only that the prepared image is properly composed, but that the printing process will not compromise image quality in any way.

Unsaturated/Dull Colors: Colors that have a high degree of gray mixed in. These range from pure colorless hues - black, white and gray - to less neutral, but distinctly “dull” colors, such as browns, tans, and pastels. You’ve got to watch these babies in your color printing, because they have a tendency to change when they have primary or intense colors near them. That nice soft gray background is great, and so is that standout red lettering, but beware! In print, that gray will appear green to the eye because of its proximity to the brilliant red. Yuck!

Terms V-Z

Value: refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. Colors with light values have more white mixed into them. Colors with dark values have more black.

Vehicle Wrapping: This is a form of print advertising wherein a vehicle is completely covered in full-color images. This has long been done with paint on large vehicles like buses and delivery trucks, but is now an accessible form of advertising to any business with small vehicle access. Today, vehicle wrapping is done using large sheets of printed vinyl that can be easily applied and removed from all vehicle surfaces. Full-color vehicle wrapping is a great way to advertise your small business.